Question of the Day: The holidays are approaching. How can I prepare my child?
The holidays have a tendency to sneak up on us. September went by like nobody’s business....soon it will be Halloween…..then Thanksgiving will hit us like a ton of bricks……then before you know it, it’s Hanukah, Christmas and then New Year’s. Whew! For me, the holidays are typically a whirlwind of preparation and stress, but of course filled with wonderful traditions and fun time with family. If the holidays can be stressful for us, think how stressful they can be for our children.
There are so many wonderful ways you can prepare your child for the holiday season. Utilizing photos and video are not only extremely effective, but also a lot of fun for you AND your child! Here are just a few fun ideas to use video and photos to help get your child ready for the upcoming holidays:
Make a Family Book:
Your child’s family and close friends are some of the most important people in their lives. Let’s promote your child to socially interact with the people who mean the most! Take photos of your family members that your child will be spending time with during the holidays. You may already have digital or printed photos saved that you can crop and use. Depending on your child’s level, the book(s) can be very simple or very complex. These books can be used to help your child learn unfamiliar family member’s names, to help your child prepare in advance for seeing these people that they may not see on a regular basis (an unfamiliar routine), to promote Theory of Mind skills (cousin Bobby is a different person than I am and he likes different things than I do and has different thoughts and feelings than I do, etc.) and to help your child initiate socially with these family members. A very simple family book may just have the people’s photos and names: “This is my grandma. This is my grandpa. This is my aunt Suzy. This is my cousin Bobby.” You can make it more complex by adding some things the family members like to play with and language to help your child initiate interactions with them: “This is my grandma. Grandma likes to bake cookies. I can say, ‘Grandma, bake with me!’ This is my cousin Bobby. Bobby likes to play with toy cars and trucks. I can say, ‘Bobby, let’s play cars!’”, etc. Make sure to take pictures of your child interacting with their family members during the actual holiday. Then you can take these pictures and make a book explaining what your child did with that family member (Christmas Family Book). You can use this book to help your child talk about past events and/or to help your child prepare for the next time they will see that family member.
Get out photos from previous years:
Look at various photos from previous years with your child. This will be a great visual reminder of what your child can expect and also will help your child practice the language involved within the routines. If your child has a hard time initiating comments about the photos, try not to drill them with lots of questions. Drilling them with questions can increase their anxiety and can create a negative association with the topic of conversation. Instead, simply model the language for them. “Look! Last year, Cindy dressed up as ladybug for Halloween. This year, Cindy will dress up as Snow White. So much fun! I like Halloween!”
Make a How-To video
With a video camera, you can walk through the routines and steps involved with holiday events that are unfamiliar and don’t typically happen on a regular basis for your child (holiday baking, picnics, decorating the Christmas tree, carving pumpkins, watching fireworks, wrapping presents, passing out Valentines, Easter Egg hunt, trick or treating, Thanksgiving dinner, opening presents, special games, etc.). For instance, with the help of a few neighbors, you can walk your child through the trick-or-treating routine with a video camera and narrate what is going on. “Here is Jenny’s princess costume. Jenny will wear the princess costume and go trick-or-treating. Jenny will hold her trick-or-treating bag. Jenny will walk out the door and down the street. Hold Mommy’s hand. Jenny will walk up to a different house and knock on the door or ring the doorbell. A person will open the door. Jenny will say, ‘trick-or treat’! Jenny will get one treat in her bag. Jenny will walk to a different house”, etc. Your child may not be interested in trick-or-treating or costumes. Not all children are. You can still have your child be an active participant within the fun. Instead of trick-or-treating, your child may enjoy looking out the window and alerting mom or dad when people are coming or your child may like to answer the door or give the treats. You can use video to map out these routines to help practice and prepare.
Search online for videos that contain different holiday events. You will be amazed at what you can find on YouTube! We found SEVERAL videos that families posted of going to pumpkin patches, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating and of their child’s Halloween party at school. The possibilities are endless. You can even post your videos to help other families!
Each family is different and each family’s traditions are different. Videos and photos are a great way to get creative and tailor visual teaching tools to help your child participate within the traditions that are important to your family. With practicing in advance, visual supports and you verbally explaining all the fun, different things……your child will get the most out of the holiday season and building their relationships with family and friends.
Amanda and Laura