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Helping Families with Special Needs Survive the Holidays

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
11/22/16  3:35 PM PST
survive the holidays

Families of children with special needs can struggle with holiday stress just like everyone else, but the stresses we live with aren’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s. How we parents manage our special needs families may be confusing. The way the holiday implodes on us when we seemingly fail to manage our special needs families may also be confusing. We are just trying to survive the holidays.

There are plenty of articles with tips for parents of children with special needs to manage holiday stress, but if we really want to survive the holidays, we not only need to use those tips ourselves, we also need help from our loved ones.

How to Help Families with Special Needs Survive the Holidays

A compassionate approach to help our families navigate the holiday shuffle could be the best gift we get. Here are some suggestions to help your loved ones caring for children with special needs enjoy the holidays:

1. Ask.

My sister is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and she inspired this article. She has sent me several texts to ask specific questions about how to make the day easier, including the timing of the meal and offering to let me host, knowing that it’s often easier for me to have the kids at my house. By asking questions, she has transformed the holiday gathering from something I dread, to a day that I can look forward to.

Food allergies and preferences are important to consider and ask about as well.

2. Understand.

We might arrive late or leave early. We might have a meltdown or an urgent medical incident. If any day is likely to bring on an unlikely event, it’s a holiday, so please understand if something unexpected happens or we’re rattled.

3. Step in.

Sometimes I can get so busy minding my kids that I don’t get to socialize. I end up exhausted and wonder why I bothered leaving the house. If it’s one of those times, there’s nothing I would appreciate more than you stepping in and playing with or helping out with my child so I can have a chance to eat and socialize uninterrupted.

4. Make space for us.

If you can think ahead of a place in your house where we can go for privacy for medical or hygiene care, a meltdown, or even to prevent a meltdown, it will allow us to stay a bit longer than we could otherwise.

5. Don’t just leave us out.

We know we’re complicated, and we might not even be able to accept your invitation, but by all means keep asking us – we want to be included!


These suggestions might make you wonder if we think it’s all about us. Believe me, we know it isn’t. We grow weary of asking for special accommodations because we feel like we always need them. Your extra consideration is a blessing to us, an act of love. By relieving us of some of the weight of the special needs over the holiday, you are truly sharing goodwill toward your fellow humans. Like you, we are just trying to survive the holidays.

survive the holidays

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Follow her on Facebook.

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  1. di
    Posted November 24, 2016 at 5:59 pm PST

    This is such good advice to share with family and friends. Thank you from a grandma of a 10 year old special needs sweet grandson

  2. Posted November 28, 2016 at 8:04 am PST

    Thank you for your comment, we are so glad this was helpful to you!

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