Expecting chaos can bring calm

Last post I wrote about the struggles we have around holidays. I started writing this post on boxing day to reflect on how Christmas went for our family. First off let me say that last year was a wake-up call for us. E was impatient, overwhelmed, and highly disregulated which led to tantrums and loud outbursts which was a big stress for us and our visiting family members. It was terrible for us. My husband and I vowed to make this year different. For the last few months we have been brainstorming ways to make it a calmer holiday. We consulted with our OT about strategies and decided what would work for our family. We pruned down our holiday calendar. We didn’t say yes to every party we were invited to. We didn’t do more than one activity a day. We didn’t go to events that would ask more of our kids than they have capacity for (i.e., we skipped church on Christmas Eve as these services tend to be more formal and require people to sit calmly – our kids are NOT the sit-calmly types). We prepped E for present opening by finding out how many presents each family member planned on giving him and letting him know when he would receive them. In my family everyone takes turns opening gifts, which was too hard for E last year. This year we came up with a plan to have E open half his gifts before everyone else started. We hoped he would then be distracted by his first gifts long enough to allow the rest of us to open ours. This worked better. He was still jumping around, shouting, and asking, “when do I get to open the rest?!” every minute, but it was an improvement. We also talked to E about the fact that he would feel excited, overwhelmed, and disappointed throughout the day and made a plan for him when that happened. Even though my husband had to force that plan a few times when E didn’t want to give in, it still helped. The plan was for him to take one of his presents into a quiet room to play and calm down. He probably had 4 meltdowns Christmas day, which is pretty good considering all the excitement of the day (his record is 7 in a day). But the biggest difference this year was that we adjusted our expectations. We knew he would meltdown and were prepared for it. We also prepared the family members we were with for that inevitability. By having realistic expectations for the day, we weren’t left feeling like we’d been hit by a truck with every meltdown. At the end of the day we were tired but felt like it had gone pretty well. I am proud of us for planning and for having realistic expectations. I have hope for the future, if we continue in this way.

2 thoughts on “Expecting chaos can bring calm

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  1. Sounds like all the planning paid off! Everyone gets to see more of the best parts of E AND you because you’re less stressed. I Iove saying no to parties and doing one thing a day! Seriously, I’m a way better human being when I don’t over commit, have rested well, and can connect with people in meaningful ways.

    Liked by 2 people

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