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Boy with Down Syndrome playing

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year but it can also become a stressful time, especially for  families with special needs. Below, we compiled a few holiday tips for families with special needs, military families, and family caregivers.

Lower your expectations.

Often times we build up this idea in our head of the holidays. We create this fantasy about the perfect holiday, then work hard trying to create it. This tip is essential for families with special needs, however it is a good tip for everyone – lower your expectations. When we are trying to create the perfect holiday, party, reunion, etc. What we are really creating is a load of stress for ourselves which can quickly make the holidays less joyful. Things might work out better than you expected with your lowered expectations, or they might not. But, you will enjoy the time with your loved ones more when you are not trying to live up to high expectations.


Reflect on the season.

Remember that the holiday season is a time for reflection on the year, celebrating being together and a time of joy. Keep the joy in the holidays, by remaining focused on what they mean to you.


Pick two.

If you have a family member with special needs, it likely that you are already very busy with things to do for them and the rest of the family. Don’t intentionally add to the list trying to recreate your perfect holiday. Pick two traditions that are manageable to you and your family. Just focus on implementing or maintaining those two traditions, and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. Sometimes families try to do too much just to make the holidays perfect, when in reality being together and happy are what makes the holidays perfect.


Be OK with bowing out of events and saying no.

As with all things in life, you have to pick and choose what is best for you and your family. There might be holiday parties that would be more stressful to attend than is necessary. Politely bow out of the event and trust that your family and friends will understand. When preparing and planning for big parties or gatherings volunteer for what you know you are capable of and say no to the rest.


Ask for a break.

It is okay to ask for help and take a break. Use respite services if you qualify, ask for a night off rather than a gift. It is okay to take care of yourself, in fact it’s extremely important.



What other tips do you have for military families, caregivers, or families with special needs?


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 2, 2016.