Overstimulation or a change in routines can make holidays tricky for the roughly 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. with learning and attention issues, such as dyslexia and ADHD. And if a child has only recently been diagnosed with one of these issues, parents may find it hard to communicate this to friends and family—especially during the holidays.
To ease some of the worry, Understood.org, a free nonprofit resource for parents, has helpful tips to navigate the holidays and communicate with loved ones about a child’s diagnosis.
1. Tailor how much information to share.
Talking about your child’s issues can help relatives understand the challenges you’re facing so they can help. But you might want to plan how much information to share with different family members. For example, someone who regularly sees your child might benefit from knowing how difficult it is for your child to transition from one holiday activity to the next, and why you use a timer to help your child.
2. Provide helpful details and strategies.
Give family members specifics that can smooth their interactions with your child. For example, there may be a lot of hugging and kissing during the holidays. If your child has a hard time being touched due to sensory issues, you can suggest other ways to show affection for your child. This way, they’ll be aware of your child’s boundaries and won’t take unfavorable reactions personally.
3. Identify your child’s strengths and challenges.
Make it clear that your child is making progress in trouble areas. Be sure to bring up some of your child’s strengths and qualities that relatives might have missed. For example, if your child loves chapter books, this may be a good gift idea or something to talk about during dinner.
4. Help relatives stay involved in your child’s success.
Support systems are critical. Talking to your family about your child’s issues can make it easier for you to ask for help. Maybe a cousin can help with carpooling or an uncle can offer to holiday shop with your child. This kind of support gives kids a strong sense of belonging—and will make it easier for the whole family to celebrate your child’s achievements.