Prepare yourself… the world is about to change!
December is a time of frantic shoppers, once-a-year social visits, flashing lights, bright decorations, loud and often incessant Christmas carols, and oh so many expectations (see below). These are often challenging for all of us, and are particularly overwhelming for people living with FASD. I wish there was some magic Christmas dust I could sprinkle that would create a “bubble” to shield us from all the stresses that come from the changes of this season. I know I can’t, but it helps me to imagine! Instead, I will share my strategies that are not solutions, but help me to reduce the impact of the changes in this world during the month of December for my child, for me and for my family.
- Pure management. Every day is completely ordered (as much as possible) and if we don’t need to attend an activity, we DON’T. Over many years of trying to make sure my child doesn’t miss out on the things other children get to experience and then suffering the aftermath of behavioural outbursts, I have FINALLY realised, it is not worth it. I will never receive an award for the most attended Christmas parties and functions, but I will enjoy quality time at home with my child.
- Enjoy being yourself and enjoy your child. This is not meant to be a warm and fuzzy statement, but instead a realistic goal. I don’t set high expectations of what we will achieve, but instead aim to enjoy the good things that happen each day, knowing that there will be many difficult moments and challenges. I work hard to build on the good moments and use the memory of them like a treasure chest, recalling and thinking of them during the not so good moments.
- Set up for success. Using management and strategies, I put extra emphasis on eliminating anything that could de-rail a positive outcome. If I can arrange for someone else to run errands for me, I do. I break down household chores into bite size pieces, so that I can constantly interact with my child, as he is unable to entertain himself for long on his own at any time, but at this time of year it is even less. The little things such as these, make a BIG difference.
- Constantly take deep breaths. The other night in bed, my husband said to me, “Wow…that was a big breath!” I had not even realised that it was….I had been holding on to it for so long, just taking short breaths whilst getting through my day. I realised that I REALLY need to purposely breathe throughout the day, which will help me to relax more and hopefully send some great relaxing vibes to my child!
This is a biggy!! There are SO MANY expectations about the BIG DAY for those living with FASD:
- What will we be doing?
- Who will be there?
- What food will there be?
- What presents will I get and can you write down this list of things I want please?
- What time (exactly) will we be leaving or will people be arriving?
- I want things to be exactly like they were when..(insert exact date, time and place)
Expectations from others:
- Let them eat whatever they want, because after all it’s Christmas.
- Let them do whatever they want, they’re only kids. (This is pre-meltdown of course)
- Behaviour needs to be acceptable and not embarrassing.
- Everyone “should be” excited and happy.
- Only appropriate language can be used and information shared must also be appropriate. Obviously bad language can be a problem, but often other topics are deemed “not appropriate” for the dinner table.
Imagine being a person living with FASD and being bombarded with all of the above. In some cases, this can be over and over again. It is hard enough living and surviving in our “jungle” of a world on an ordinary day, but all of the additional sensory overload from the lead up to Christmas and on the day, leads to behaviour escalation, which results in additional stress for the person living with FASD and those who care for them.
Creating our own moments of joy is the best way that, for our family, we can enjoy Christmas. I hope that you too are able to find your own joy this Christmas, in the way that suits your own family and life.
Wishing you the best Holiday season that is possible for your family’s circumstances.
Mama Maremma is a full-time carer for her child who is living with FASD. She likens herself to the Maremma breed of dog who are renowned as guardians and protectors.
Read Mama Maremma’s reflections on Santa… to be or not to be
Read more Preparing for Christmas strategies by NOFASD Australia
Read other Mama Maremma blogs