Yes, the holidays are over, the Thanksgiving thing, the Christmas thing, and you survived. Well, kinda. You just want to block it all out of your mind and not think about it until you really have to again.
Remember the days, pre-trauma kids, when Christmas was fun? If you had non-trauma kids, you would wrap up presents under the tree, which of course you’d decorate together, even making your own decorations, afterwards you’d sit around drinking hot cocoa together and listening to Christmas carols on the radio? Back when Christmas was fun and something you looked forward to?
Maybe you can’t remember that anymore. Christmas – heck, any holiday, family gathering – has become a time of immense stress. Expectations placed on you by others – family, friends, whoever – that your children are nice and well-behaved, that you arrive on time to eat and everybody uses their inside voices and their table manners, that eating utensils must be used and no food must be thrown, and tantrums are only tolerated by those aged 2 and under? And here you are, with a trauma kid or more, who destroys everything in sight, who steals, lies, breaks… and yet, you want them to experience the fun of Christmas. You want them to be excited at the presents they get. You want to see the joy on their faces when Santa has come. You want to decorate the tree together, drink hot cocoa, and not have it thrown in your face in rage.
Here’s the reality: your dreams for your kids are great. They are awesome, heartfelt, and wonderful. However, your kid may not be there yet, may never be there. So forget the expectations of others – screw them. Forget your expectations of smiling happy faces in a Kodak commercial. It’s a nice dream, it’s a nice goal – but be real about where your kids are right here, right now. Work with what you got.
If your child hates surprises, if it totally dysregulates them – it’s ok to take them shopping WITH you for their Christmas presents, them wrap them and put them under the tree.
If getting and decorating a tree is too much stress for the whole family, or it all falls on you – it’s ok to not have a tree. Or a fake one. Or a picture of one. Or draw one. Whatever works for YOU and YOURS – that is what is ok.
If having lots of people around, coming and going, sets your kids off (which translates to, makes them feel unsafe), then change things. Don’t have an open house with people coming and going. Or have one, but have the kids at a friend’s house for the day, doing something that they do frequently. If traveling from house to house is hard on the kids – don’t take them.
Bottom line is – the holidays are stressful because we are trying to please everyone – our family plus everyone we’re in contact with – and look like we’ve got it all together. But you know what? If it causes you stress – then don’t do it. Downsize.
Bottom line: if the holidays are stressful – look at what you’re doing… and readjust. Look at your family, your kids, and do things differently. It’s ok. Make new traditions. Make new fun things. Keep things low key. Do your own thing. IT. IS. OK.
Remember this, next year…and try to enjoy it, eh?