Strategies for Successful Holidays

By Liz Mahaffey 
BFIS Whole School Support Team Leader

Here in the Whole School Department, we know that not all children approach the holidays the same way. As the holidays are approaching, here are some helpful strategies when it comes to preparing children for holiday gatherings, especially for kids who think or learn differently. This time of the year can bring about a plethora of feelings for everyone, and it can be tricky for children to navigate visiting family and friends.

Talk with your child about what to expect

One important aspect is to talk through the upcoming scene with the child. Discussing the number of people who will be there, who they are, and the layout of the house can help ease their anxiety and prepare them for what to expect. It’s also important to discuss physical boundaries that they may encounter. Some children may not feel comfortable with hugging, so it can be helpful to provide alternatives like waving, high fives, or fist bumps. As parents, it can also be helpful to explain to relatives or friends that the child prefers these alternatives and that we are respecting their boundaries.


In addition, brainstorming and role-playing conversations can help children feel more comfortable with small talk. This preparation allows them to be more confident in social interactions. It’s also a good idea to establish a code word that the child can use if they become overwhelmed. This gives them a sense of safety and allows parents to have an answer prepared if someone asks why the child needed a break.

Find some quiet activities

If the environment becomes too overwhelming for the child, it’s helpful to have some quiet activities that they can do by themselves. Bringing books, small toys, or puzzles that they can also share with others can provide a welcome distraction and give them a sense of comfort.

Elementary School Kid reading in bed

Prepare for transitions

Lastly, when it’s time to leave, giving the child a time frame and a countdown can help them prepare for the transition. Parents can also establish a signal or a special word to communicate expectations with the child.

By making these small preparations before attending gatherings, we can help both children and families have a more enjoyable holiday experience.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

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