Christmas is supposed to be a holiday. This year instead of getting too stressed out to enjoy it, follow our tips and make it merry.
Disabled people can ﬁnd Christmas an intense and difﬁcult period. Crowded streets and ﬂickering and ﬂashing decorations combine to produce sensory overload – whilst even the pressure from friends and family to achieve the ‘perfect Christmas’ can feel crushing – and physically exhausting.
We’ve collected 12 general tips – one for every day of Christmas…
Planning ahead will take some of the pressure off and hopefully help any ideas for Christmas day itself to run smoothly. It’s handy if you know what you’re doing for the holidays: whether you’ll be staying at home, inviting people over or going away. From here you can start to think about how to make it all work such as buying appropriately portable gifts to take with you, down to how many bags of Brussel sprouts you’ll need.
Discuss plans and design a rough schedule with guests etc. Keep in mind how you’ll travel, remembering that you might want one of those occasion glasses of wine. If you’re the host, make sure you have soft drinks available as an alternative for anyone thinking of driving home.
Make sure that you discuss how your routine works and let others do the same. This can incorporate the timing of your medicine and how long you need to leave before eating and so on. Routine can be particularly important for people with intellectual disabilities who can become anxious when faced with unexpected change.
Let it go
Forget perfection. Your best is good enough and anybody that disagrees surely doesn’t understand Christmas at all.
Again, a bit of preparation can really spare you the traditional Christmas Day stress. You could cut and chop the vegetables and even par boil them and freeze them, for example – or buy pre-prepared vegetables to make things easier. You could also organise for guests to prepare and bring something with them to take the pressure off.
Unless you’re very good at dropping precise hints or indeed, blatantly prescriptive, it’s entirely possible that you’ll both give and receive an unwanted present. Why not agree among friends and family a present budget or club together for a bottle of something extra special to accompany Christmas dinner?
Disabled children aren’t always fully able to comprehend disability. Although it’s quite normal for parents to roll out the ‘Santa won’t come if you’re naughty’ threat to excitable youngsters, it’s a risky strategy. Disabled children need to know that their disability is not their ‘fault’ and that they aren’t to blame because of how naughty they are. Parents might instead use the self fulﬁlling prophecy that ‘Santa always rewards good children’.
Wrapping paper can be difﬁcult to open for people with complex needs. Wrap things loosely and think about using bags and boxes where necessary.
Similarly, if you know that people have bought gifts requiring assembly, you might be best to unwrap them and build them before re-wrapping them – or face a Christmas Day surrounded by assembly leaﬂets.
Even if you do have quite a manageable gift list, you’ll still have to ﬁgure out how you’re going to get it all organised. Online shopping is a great starting point for things that don’t need to be examined as you purchase them such as books, for example. If you’re worried about being let down by online organisations you could still choose to do things the tried and tested way.
Best advice is to select quiet times to shop, such as weekday mornings and choose places that have suitable facilities such as large shopping malls. You’ll be able to park, shop and eat all in the same place. Going shopping with at least a rough idea of what you need to get is sensible – and if you’re really efﬁcient you might even decide in which order to visit shops so that you aren’t carrying around the heaviest gift for longer than you need to. (You could also check out the websites of the shops you intend to visit and either utilise click & collect services – or ring up to see if items are in stock and if you can reserve them.)
Christmas Day falls on a Monday this year so keep in mind that your doctor’s surgery and pharmacy are likely to be closed for at least three days in a row. You need to make sure that you organise your repeat prescription in good time. Remember that the days around New Year will also be very busy and subject to closure.
A decorated tree can be a superb centrepiece to the home over the festive period. If you’re impairment means that you’re unable to put up a tree on your own, don’t worry. Firstly, your local garden centre may be able to trim a tree to your designated size and deliver it. Once it’s arrived, you might be able to organise a drinks party where friends and family gather to enjoy decorating it (and other parts of the house).
It is worth noting that a Christmas tree might not be suitable for everyone. If for example you have allergies to dust, spores, mould or pollen you might consider purchasing a ‘fake’ tree. (If you are using a fake tree year-onyear, make sure that it is hosed down outside and dried since it too will have started to harbour dust and the like having lived in the garage or attic all year.)
Other tips include putting up the Christmas tree later than other people and removing it earlier and using an air puriﬁer to reduce the risk of contact with pathogens.
If you want a spectacular living tree – plant it in the garden and smother it with outdoor lights and decorations.
Christmas can be a challenging time for people with autistic spectrum disorders. It’s full of colour and noise and as previously mentioned, cherished routine can be difﬁcult to stick to. Try to be sensitive to this by having a place where people can escape to, where it’s nice and quiet and they’re able to relax when they need to.
Christmas means new toys and whilst this is usually great news, it can be a further distraction for people that ﬁnd comfort in familiarity. Make sure that old favourites are around whilst new toys are introduced.
Be sure to include people with dementia in your conversations. Christmas lends itself to nostalgia and people will love sharing old stories of good times together.
A bit of preparation can really spare you from the traditional Christmas Day stress.