Tips n’ Tricks to Prevent Holiday Meltdowns

The holidays are a magical time of year for children and their families. Sometimes all the fun and excitement can increase sensory overloads resulting in meltdowns. Here are some tips to help your family successfully navigate the holiday season!

Be aware of children’s limits:

A lot of holiday environments include loud sounds, different smells, bright lights, and can become crowded. This can be overwhelming for children with sensory difficulties. Bringing a sensory backpack of calming tools can be helpful. Depending on the event, try to leave early or arrive late to avoid the busiest time of day.

Trying to keep a consistent schedule if possible:

Keeping a routine and know what is expected. Try continuing normal sleeping schedules to keep them well rested. Creating a holiday schedule and discussing activities prior to the day. For younger children using visuals (pictures) to help with understanding the plan.

Try to provide proprioceptive input prior to leaving for activity/ event:

Some activities: wheelbarrow walks, resistance activities (pulling or pushing), trampoline, or crash pad or pillow crashes) there are endless choices. If the environment allows it, give your child a job (handing out treats, moving chairs, cleaning the table) etc.

Providing breaks and a calming space:

Breaks can be helpful for a child to “reset” before transitioning back into an over-stimulating environment. Taking space in a quiet area to participate in an activity such as (putty, coloring with weighted lap pad/blanket) etc. Taking a walk outside can be effective as well. Creating a calming space in the new environment is beneficial for your child to know where they can relocate when needing a break.

Familiarity is comforting:

When partaking in holiday events or visiting family/friends, bringing along toys or snacks that are familiar can help with new settings. Sometimes kids can become anxious when entering a new environment and have limited control of what they are familiar with. The holidays can be a great way to spend quality time with family and friends! However, it can be overwhelming with unfamiliar environments. I hope these tips help your child feel safe, comfortable, and regulated to help make the holiday season filled with joy!

Written by Vanessa Fiorelli, COTA/L