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Why I Told My Family to Stay Away this Christmas


It was a tough email to write but my child needed me to write it.

Many of you are not going to like what I have to say in this post about surviving the holidays with a special needs child. The advice I offer does not come in the form of a top ten list of tactics to manage the insanity that is holidays with an SPD child.

In theory, joy and warmth fill a home during the holidays. My childhood memories remind me of these feelings. I can practically hear my grandmother’s laugh from the other room. I smell the turkey and hear the beaters getting all the lumps out from the mashed potatoes.

The “joyful holiday” was my reality growing up. The magical moments of writing a letter to Santa, leaving out carrots for reindeer, waking up on a frigid December morning, and hours with extended family eating turkey and stuffing. We laughed so hard, played games, and had snowball fights.

That scene, bustling with noise and activity, was full of happiness and fun. That is what I knew in my childhood.

Why I Canceled Christmas: What You Need to Know about Surviving Holidays

So when that joy didn’t fill my home with my children during the holiday season, I found myself devastated and resentful. I wanted to solve the “problem”. I wanted to break the barrier blocking my immediate family from complete euphoria during the holidays. I wanted a band-aid to make everything feel better.

I fought and fought for years. I struggled with family members offering advice on how to handle our SPD child & how to help him stay calm during the holidays. I looked at emotions of inadequacy and failure straight in the eye.  Sadness and anxiety suffocated me during the holidays.  I continued to push myself and my family into these uncomfortable, unhappy, and joyless family holiday gatherings. My child always challenged these days even though I knew and I embraced that if he could behave well, he would, that his greatest obstacle in life is also his greatest gift.

What You Need to Know about Surviving Holidays

I don’t have a top 10 list on how to survive the holidays with your SPD child.  I tried that approach. Here is what I have to offer you:

When I opened my laptop I felt the warm air on my toes coming from a floor vent. I took a deep breath, my eyes filled with tears, and I began to type:


T and I were discussing Christmas plans. We realize that it is the year of gathering at our home.  Alas, it isn’t a good time for us. As you well know W has been struggling for a variety of reasons for a while now. We have a plan in place that unfortunately does not include a large family gathering at the holidays.

It pains me to write this email and the decision did not come lightly.

We appreciate your understanding.

I closed my laptop. I canceled Christmas. I felt a wave of despair but that emotion rushed out of my body. My world suddenly felt lighter.  I could see clearly. Making the right decision is not always easy but when you do make it happen, you know it. The decision to cancel Christmas was 100% for my son and my immediate. The decision was not for anyone else; it couldn’t be.

 Click Here to Download Your Stress-Free Holiday Checklist

So, you see, I had to write the email not for me but for my son. Being the parent of a child with special needs is a challenge in many respects. Being on all the time, hardly taking your guard down in a desperate attempt to keep everything “normal”, or at least moving forward. However, I cannot project my childhood onto my children. They are different. We are different. Our memories will be joyful and warm but will come to us in a different form without the bustle.
Decide what you need to do for your child and have conviction about the action. You will find greater joy in embracing the facts of the matter. You will find greater warmth in embracing your child in silence and in calm on a beautiful holiday morning. Only then will the true magic of the holidays enter your world.
How to Survive the Holidays

Your Next Steps for Surviving Holidays >>

If you are in a similar position, come up with a plan that works best for your SPD family. Maybe no lights? Maybe no sugar? Added a bit of relaxing music? Come up with a list of ways to ease the anxiety.

Read More Posts Like this One

This post is part of the Parenting Children with Special Needs Series. If you’re interested in reading more surviving the holidays with special needs children, be sure to visit the links below.

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