To Celebrate or To Not Celebrate

That is a big question for those of us with children who come to us with trauma, baggage behavior issues and more.
When our girls were really little, with just 2 of them home, I actually considered not having a Christmas tree or having a big celebration because it seemed the “tree in the living room” was causing some real stressors with the girls and they were acting out.

I went to Mike and shared with him my thoughts, and he said, “You cannot escape Christmas, it is everywhere. Instead, we need to help them through it.”

Those were WISE WORDS!
While one of those original two daughters does not necessarily care for holidays that much, she still enjoys herself and visits with those who come over.
For her, she has permission to politely excuse herself to rest if she feels the need.
Yesterday she took advantage of that for about 1/2 hour and came out refreshed and ready to visit some more!

Some keys for getting through Holidays with our kids is not OVER DOING, and not STRESSING ourselves.
Get prepared, but be relaxed in that preparation.
Involve your children in the preparation.

We have a huge family.  Four of our children are married, and have children of their own.
Yesterday, we had 21 immediate family members over for Easter.
Nine of them were 7 and under.
2 of our grandsons have come from extreme trauma, and one of our grand daughters
has special needs.
With all of our girls, and grand kids together, we had a miraculously wonderful time.

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We kept the children busy.  And our girls were instrumental in helping them play.
We planned an egg hunt that would be challenging for older kids and easy enough for younger ones so nobody got frustrated.  There was plenty for all.

We had a buffet meal, where everybody could eat, but it was low key. Not super formal where manners would be noticed and scrutinized by others.

Everybody who wanted to was able to participate in the Egg hunt and age didn’t matter.
I think my sons enjoyed hiding all the eggs just as much as the kids enjoyed finding them. 🙂

We also had an alternate activity for all those little boys.
We had a Pirate Treasure Hunt.  This isn’t holiday related. Just for fun.
So whoever was obsessing about Easter Eggs could enjoy something else!

The girls, drew picture clues on scrolls and hid them in various parts of the yard.  Each clue led to a new scroll.
They divided the boys into teams and then they went on a pirate treasure hunt.  It led them to the Chicken coop and goat barn, the swing and the teeter totter before leading them to the  garden where there was a buried treasure 10 steps from the tree.

Oh the squeals of delight when they were able to dig in the dirt and find the treasure box!

I thought back to that time when I was ready to not celebrate holidays, and I’m glad we chose something different.
One of the keys is to prepare our children ahead of time for what is going to happen.
Include them in the planning so they feel a sense of appropriate control, (not IN control but not without voice) giving them voice so they can express what they are thinking or how they feel.

One of our girls really struggles with Easter, and all her memories go back to 4 Easters ago, her first in the U.S. when she was told she was too old to participate in an Easter Egg Hunt.
She has had one ever since, but she still can’t help going back to that memory.

I am hoping that we have finally broken through that this year, and rewritten on her heart a memory that will take over those other sad ones.
But if we didn’t try, that memory might remain there permanently.

It has been less and less each year, and I am praying that next year will be even better than this year.

Our celebrations are both Christ Focused and then just celebrations with fun.
We cannot ignore the obvious cultural celebrations, but learn how to manage them in a right perspective.

I wish I had understood letting our kids take a “people break” a long time ago for one of our girls.  She would get overwhelmed and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Since she has been able to take a break as needed, she doesn’t mind the holidays so much any more. 🙂

Starting our children out when they are not used to celebrations can be tricky, especially if you do not celebrate at home.  It might be a good idea, if you do not have celebrations at home, to start them.  That way, you can teach your children in the comfort of your home, what the celebrations are about, and what to expect.  That way, if you travel to family, they won’t be so overwhelmed with unknown expectations.
Also, be careful not to have too high of expectations when going to somebody else’s home.
Make sure your relatives know that your child may not be at their age level and you will do your best to help them, but they need to be prepared for plan B…. (exit stage left if needed) 🙂
Sometimes you can exit and then come back later, after things are settled and you have regulated your child.
We are fortunate to have most celebrations at home. This makes it much easier if somebody needs a sensory break.  If you don’t have that luxury, a sensory break can be taken in the car, or another part of the house prepared for that purpose, or just going for a walk.
When you are walking or relaxing, you can reassure your child that they are safe and that you love them.  And then talk to them about what will happen next.
“Next we are going to have dessert.  Would you like dessert?”  Or  “Next we are going to play a game! Would you like daddy to play a game with you? Or do you think you can play with your cousins?”
This gives them a voice to say how much they can handle.

It is a LONG process to work through.  And with holidays being special, they don’t come very often.  This can be a big benefit, because you can “Practice” before they come!
And then, when the holiday is here, they will know what to expect!

I’m so glad I listened to my husband and didn’t take down that tree!



Comments warmly welcomed!


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