So if many of you have been following our story over the last six months, you would know it has not been fun!
three months in the hospital for one child, tons of new food allergies, chronic pain for three of us, toxic mold, hyperactive spells, over 15 specialist with no great diagnosis, and many many sleepless nights. We have been prisoners in our house for the last 6 months, only leaving for doctors appointments, soccer, dance and we have attempted one birthday party.
Thanksgiving was upon us and it normally is a very stressful time for me and my husband, my husband comes from a divorced family and I come from a huge family. Every year we struggle with “who’s house” are we going to go to, and after the first two years of being a parent and trying to make everyone happy, we learned going to five houses in one day was insane! So we started having it at our house, yes it was stressful but there was some comfort to it strangely enough. If the kids got to tired, they went and took a nap in their bed, and no in and out of a car five times. As the years have progressed, though, we started loosing having holiday’s at our house…and the guilt trips began again for my husband, so we would see his mood change from thanksgiving till new years eve, and that would put stress on everyone.
I think as a mother it is different, I don’t care what anyone thinks about me (and I’m not saying this to be mean) but I really don’t. My kids are my first priority, and their emotional stress means more to me than any guilt trip my family would put on me. Also, my family knows they won’t get far with giving me a guilt trip. I am an all or nothing kind of gal, call it the ADHD personality in me, my husband is not, he will make himself miserable at the expenses of trying to make everyone else happy, and in the end the meaning of the holiday gets lost.
So because we had been going through so much lately, I kind of blocked out Thanksgiving, I figured if I ignored it we could skip over it. It didn’t work well, and actually backfired on me, as everyone ended up planning to go to other families houses or go out to eat, and we were stuck having thanksgiving by ourselves. Which again, I was fine with, but my husband and kids were not, so I had to make a choice, who’s house to go to! So after making that decision we made some adjustments to our normal routine that made a world of difference and actually we really enjoyed thanksgiving. It was stress-free, and this is why, I followed some simple rules I had learned along the way. So I figured I would share them with all of you before you battled your next holiday”Christmas”. They work great for anyone with behavioral issues, ADHD, Autism, and even food allergies.
Rule #1 – Make a Plan Together (With your spouse)
This was the hardest for us, we are very torn right now on our parenting styles, and our acceptance of the kids being sick. In 10 years of marriage, 8 years of being parent’s we for the first time EVER just have not flowed, and it showed in everything we did. So we made the decision after months of budding heads to agree to disagree. To support each other even if we didn’t necessarily agree with the other person’s style at that moment, and talk about it later when the kids were sleeping or not around. So a couple days before we choose whose house was the best for our current situation, “New food allergies, and possible outburst”. The lucky winner was my aunt, and mainly because my uncle had the same food allergies as me and my kids and would understand, and understanding can mean the world of difference. We planned everything from food, exit strategies, to what we both wanted for the holiday. I wanted to stick to the routine, my husband wanted to feel more “normal” and not be so strict with what the kids ate all day to the point they hated the holiday and it became work for us. So we had to each compromise…I let them eat chocolate and things that I had been restricting as long as it wasn’t something they had a definite food allergy too. He let me plan the day and be prepared, and we were both happy and it showed.
Rule # 2- BE PREPARED (Like when you were a girl scout)
Food (For kids on limited Diets)
The night before, I planned on what food I would bring (Just in case) I ran into issues with what was there. Let me tell you THANK GOD I DID! I brought cheese and crackers (nondairy cheese) and that held them over to dinner, they didn’t feel left out. We made a dessert that they could have, chocolate cake/pudding and whip cream layer dessert. 90% of my family who had no allergies ended up eating it because they had no clue it was free of everything (jokes on them) which helped my kid’s feel not so left out.
My kid’s have only three cousins, and unfortunately don’t get to see them as much as we would like. So unlike myself who grew up with a huge family and tons of cousins to play with at holiday’s, they really don’t have anyone who is their age at family events. So to be eight and five and hang out with a bunch of adults can be boring. So I last minute grabbed a bag of easy travel toys or things I know they like to do, or could do with my family and keep them entertained. Which was great because my son was bored instantly.
Rule # 3- Stay Calm and they will be calm
This means at your spouse or your kids, no matter how much they may not be listening, flare up or vary from the plan. Take a minute, step back and evaluate the situation. Kid’s usually are trying to tell you something by their actions. My son the minute we walked in Ran away to go hide. My first instinct was to say ” Seriously Garret you know everyone here!” But then I looked into the living room and realized everyone would look at whoever walked in the door, so all eyes were on him, everyone was loud and Italian and I used to that but for him it was a sensory nightmare. So I said ” Do you want me to carry you in, and you can hide your face, and sure enough it worked and he got used to everyone there and was fine. But I stayed calm and assessed the situation…I didn’t react!
Finally and the most important!
Rule #4- Stick to your plan
Just because everything is going great doesn’t mean it won’t go from zero to a hundred in 0.4 seconds flat. If you know two hours is their limit, and that was the plan you set, don’t push your luck .Give count down’s to make transitions effortless for everyone…and I mean everyone! My husband knows I’m horrible at getting out of events…and I loose track of time. So he was the time keeper, and would signal me and the kids, and we needed that. We truly offset the other person’s weaknesses. I am a planner and love to be prepared, but can’t keep track of time to save my life. My husband is good at keeping track of time, but he never thinks ahead on what he is going to need so we are meltdown free. So we pick up the slack for each other, and when we both think of it that way, the plan goes off without a hitch, and if we stick to the plan.
So it seems simple, but it’s exhausting… no part of having a child wild special needs or restrictions of any kind is easy, you feel like every simple task are work…and it is! But I find the minute we started just accepting this is our new “NORMAL” we didn’t fight, we enjoyed our well-behaved kids, and hell I even got a Christmas card picture out of it!
Hopefully, some of our helpful hints will work for you, and maybe not, but what’s the worse that could happen if you try?