Center for Behavioral Sciences

Center for Behavioral Sciences

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Helpful Holiday TipsStressed about the Holidays?

3 ways to reduce your stress and enjoy yourself.

The holidays are filled with excitement and joy. With it comes the attendance to multiple holiday functions. While you may be excited, you also may be feeling the stress. The stress comes from the unknown. Several questions may run through your mind… Will my child have a behavior problem? Will I get to enjoy myself? Or, will I spend the entire time worrying about the potential behavior problem that may occur?

I’m offering you a few simple strategies that may help you get through the holiday function and maybe even enjoy it a little.

  1. Set your expectations. Set your expectations for your child and for yourself. How long do you want to be at the party? How long can your child really be there? All kids have limits regardless of a disability and expecting any child to stay longer and behave then they really can, will only lead to anxiety and stress on your part. If it helps call the host prior to the party and state your attendance but that it will only be for XX amount of time. This way if and when you have to abruptly leave, they will know and understand. Thereby, reducing your anxiety and stress.
  2. Prevention. Prevention is key. I firmly believe in not waiting for a problem to happen but trying to prevent it from happening. For me, it is easier to prevent then to react in the heat of the moment. There are several things you can do to prepare you, your child, and your family for the party.
    1. Bring your reinforcers (i.e., items that your child is motivated for, such as their favorite snacks or toys). If your child is on a token system, bring your token system. The purpose of the reinforers is mostly for you to remember to praise your child for good behavior. We often get distracted at parties and ignore the child while they are being “good”. You need to switch your thinking. If the child is going to continue to exhibit the good behaviors that to remain motivated to do so. By having reinforcers available and placed on a schedule you will find that you actually have more time to enjoy yourself when everyone is happy.
    2. Bring games and activities that your child can do independently. Often, we expect children to be good, but the party or the house may not necessarily be child friendly. Therefore, making it difficult for you and the child relax because neither of you know what to do. If your child enjoys coloring, puzzles, or a particular game, bring it with you. Set your child in an area where they have their own space to play with their toys or activity that they can do on their own. If you child only enjoys watching videos bring your mini-dvd player, iPad, etc. Give yourself the night to enjoy and just let you child be with the videoplayer if that is going to reduce your stress. Every once in awhile is ok.
  3. Reactive Strategies. My philosophy for everything is to plan for the worst. This means, you need to know before you go to this party what you are going to do if a behavior problem occurs. Knowing your reactions will reduce your stress level, even if it means leaving the party.

As I stated earlier, “plan for the worst”. It is better to be over-prepared then overwhelmed. While the preparation part may be stressful, you will feel relieved that when you are at the party knowing, “you have a plan”. You may even be able to enjoy yourself knowing your strategies are in place to buy you time to talk or have a glass of wine even if it’s only for a short while.

I hope that you’ll find these tips helpful during the holiday season.

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Junie, BCBA-D