So, this year, dare I say it, it almost feels calm!
None of my children have asked for very much this year and I think this has had a large part to play in alleviating the usual stresses! We are all very excited and have even agreed that we will put up our decorations a tad earlier than usual. Cannot wait til the weekend!
Dominik, of course, has had his main present already and given that he hasn't asked for anything else, the rest will be sure to be a pleasant surprise.
I should probably fill you in on life after surgery! Dominik had his casts removed last week after what felt the longest six weeks of our lives! He hated using the commode almost as much as I hated him using it to be honest! So glad that is behind us now.
The first day he was incredibly nervous...refusing to put his feet down and insisting on using the wheelchair after a week of not using it at all! We had booked to go and see Fantastic Beasts that night and I optimistically, didn't expect to be using the chair but we had to in the end!
The second day he hobbled around with his crutches mostly using them as weapons, which was a bit trying.
But, on the third day, he put them down and began to walk unaided! He is waddling (a little like a penguin) and refusing to bend his knees but the surgeon assured us that within three months he would be much more confident and competent. I guess the irony is that he is point blank refusing to stand up on his toes! He simply will not do it. Hope that's a good sign.
We saw the neurodevelopmental therapist after the casts were off too to check on the progress of his retained reflexes and that was also great news. His pupils are showing almost no stress response now and he was able to do the exercises far more easily than ever before. His back has now loosened up which makes every single movement easier and far less stressful for his entire body. We have been advised to seek a physiotherapist (not provided by the hospital, urgh) and a cranial osteopath so the pathway to wellness continues.
Back to Christmas!
Three years ago when I first began writing this blog, I wrote a long and detailed post about all the things I put into place around this time of year to make life less stressful and anxiety inducing for Dominik but here we are, three years on, and those measures, whilst still being on stand by, are no longer essential.
I am going to copy and paste some of my tips here from the original article in case they are of use to any new readers.
"For those of you with little ones who are at school, I imagine this time of year must be particularly challenging, not least because of the following;
- Carol services
- Timetable changes
- Nativity plays
- Staff absence
to name but a few of the school based changes.
But what about if we include;
- School holidays
- Visiting relatives
- Christmas trees and decorations
- Furniture being relocated
- Presents (and the accompanying anxiety)
- All predictability vanished
- Extra people everywhere
And perhaps even;
- Father Christmas himself
- Family events
- Photo ops
- Different foods
- Different clothes
- An abundance of chocolate/sweets and treats everywhere
- Anxiety at its maximum surrounding the idea of being 'good/well behaved/deserving'
It is my hope that they will help things to run more smoothly (and joyously), in your home too during this Christmas Season.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.
This cannot be said enough! Prepare to the nth degree!
Let your child create their own special visual timetable (in the form of an advent calendar?) so that they can anticipate all the events at school and at home. Let them talk to you about everything that they remember about the changes and how that makes them feel and what they feel they can and cannot cope with.
Enable them to choose, to as large an extent as possible, what they want to participate in and what they don't in the school calendar and respect their wishes. Be the best advocate for your child that you can be and ensure that they get the Christmas they want too. Struggling is not a nice way to live at any time but at Christmas, when everyone else is smiling and happy, it is even worse.
Bribery & Coercion
I think it is all too common that parents begin using Santa (and presents) as a 'carrot/stick' once Christmas time comes around. Children all over the western world are worrying themselves half to death about their behaviour and whether or not they have been 'good' enough to deserve presents.
It is my firm belief that children will do well if given the environment in which they can do well.
Our special children are already doing their best all the time to manage without breaking down, so at Christmas, when there is so much more at stake, perhaps we should avoid pairing their behaviour with the promise of presents?
A lady told my daughter only the other day that if she 'screamed like that' Santa would hear her and she wouldn't get any presents. Not only was this extremely distressing for my daughter but it was horrible for me too! I do not use this kind of carrot and stick system in my house as a rule (I'm not perfect) and I have to say that to hear it come from a complete stranger was horrifying.
My daughter had been having a difficult (and busy) day and she was getting to the end of her ability to cope (several different shops, in and out of the car, hungry and over-stimulated) and this lady simply made things 100% worse. Sigh.
So, yes, try your hardest to not equate their behaviour with good/bad....they are trying their best.
Please, please, please, unless you have absolutely no choice (or alternatively, they want to come along), let them stay at home! The world is a crappy place for those of us who shun noise, smells, lights, people, being touched and garishness right now! Unless your little one wants to plan a trip (and gets complete autonomy over what happens on that trip, including when to call it quits), don't make them come along. A trip such as this can take days to wind down from even if it goes well. If it goes badly the guilt and shame and self-reproach from us perfectionists is almost too much to bare.
Keep the number of visiting friends and relations to an minimum, or, at the very least, let your child hide out in their room (or in the room that is most comfortable for them) and do not force them to socialise if they don't want to.
As an Aspie adult I can tell you, being made to kiss, hug and chat to people who are basically a load of strangers, is traumatic and exhausting and certainly not 'fun'!
Please be an advocate for your child and warn any visitors, that if they are bringing presents, to expect them to be unwrapped on sight if they are seen by said children! If they do not wish for this to happen then should wait for the opportunity to 'sneak' them in unseen when they can be safely hidden and not add to the anticipation that our children are already feeling with regard to unopened presents, and the pressure to like them.
Also, tell these same visitors what treats/sweets/foods are acceptable in advance so you don't have repeated meltdowns over food.
If you can, decline any invitations that are non-essential. Visiting lots of different homes is stress-inducing due to the amount of unpredictability and frequent transitions.
If you do over-do it our little ones will soon unravel and will not have a chance to regroup and recover, and will therefore end up not enjoying the best bits that Christmas has to offer.
Allow your child/children to take whatever role they wish in decorating the house and tree (or not). If they are anxious about decorations perhaps put them up as late as you can in family areas and allow any other children to decorate their rooms so that they don't miss out."
I have added a few tips and tweaked this a little but it is basically the same as it was in 2014.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, fun and joyful Christmas.
Much Love, thanks for reading,