Celebrate the Season and stay ‘SANE’!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, or simply just appreciate the winter wonderland here in Alberta, the holiday season is upon us!’

For many special needs families, the holidays have become more about survival instead of celebration. The winter ‘break’ from school and day programming can often cause disruption. Shopping, travel, visitors, and holiday activities frequently result in sensory overload and meltdowns.

However, when facing the holidays, it is important to remember that we do have a choice.

We can choose SIMPLICITY rather than over-scheduling. We can choose PEACE over chaos. We can choose JOY over just survival.


If you desire to CELEBRATE the holidays this year, here are a few tips that may help keep you ‘SANE’ while still enjoying the spirit of the season:
S – Schedule, Say “NO”, Sleep
  • Create a specific, yet flexible, visual, family holiday routine – be sure to build in time for breaks/rest for everyone! Keep it simple.
  • Give yourself permission to say, “No”. Remember that every time you say “Yes” to something, you are saying, “No” to something else.
  • Don’t skimp on sleep during the holiday season. Try to keep wake up and wind down times consistent for all.
A – Allow yourself to ‘let go’, Ask for help, Avoid stressing the details
  • Learn to ‘let go’ of high expectations and be ok with adjusting traditions to suit your family’s needs. The best memories are made when you least expect it 😊
  • Ask for help when you need it – it takes a village!
  • Avoid stressing about details – instead, keep the big picture in mind. The holidays are supposed to be about fun for all (in whatever form that needs to take)!
N – Notice blessings, Note sensory overload, Nothing beats presence
  • When things get crazy, sometimes it helps to take a step back and appreciate the small blessings.
  • Note the signs of sensory overload – whether it be for your child, or for yourself! Use relaxation, breathing, and calm down techniques along with your child – as they work for people of all ages and stages.
  • Understand that your presence is more powerful than any other present or gift you could give! Spend time during the holidays face-to-face with your kids – electronics and social media off.
E – Eat healthy, Exercise (and play), and Enjoy!
  • Have a few holiday treats but try to maintain your healthy eating patterns, avoiding food that triggers behavioural issues or physical discomfort.
  • We all know that exercise and fresh air reduce stress. Try to have fun outdoors, at a pool or playground, or at a community location of your choice during the holidays.
  • Trust your instincts. You know what your family can handle and what will make an enjoyable season for everyone. Time is a precious gift, so ENJOY the moments you have with your family this holiday season!

Despite your best efforts, you may still end up dealing with a few holiday meltdowns – maybe it’s your child – maybe it’s YOU! Here are some great resources to help everyone ‘calm down’, if needed (Courtesy of Dyan Robson, from her website, “And Next Comes L” at


CLICK HERE for 100 Calm Down Strategies Cheat Sheet

CLICK HERE for Calm Down Cards

CLICK HERE for What to Put in a Calm Down Box

CLICK HERE for Calm Down Tools for Older Kids


And – if all else fails – watch/listen to this hilarious Christmas video/song, “DOMINICK the DONKEY” and you and your kids will be calm and laughing in no time! CLICK HERE to enjoy.


Keep Calm and Carry On!

Give yourself the gifts that keep on giving this holiday season: be kind to yourself, practice self-care, and choose simplicity, peace, and joy!

May the holiday season find your homes full of laughter, your hearts full of love, and your lives full of joy!

The Children’s Link Team

Sandra Cicman, M.Ed.
Education Lead
The Children’s Link Society

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