Summer is here and schools are out, and every one is ready to have a summer holiday. At this time of the year, most people are ready to shut the door on the year that has been. All I have heard over the last few days (from myself as well!) is how people are just hanging in there, and that they are ready to leave the daily rat race in order to relax with family and to recharge their batteries for the coming year.
Planning a holiday can be both exciting and stressful. In South Africa, summer holidays are also Christmas holidays, which means that holidays are filled with loads of activities and dedicated to family gatherings. These gatherings are generally noisy, long, filled with loads of food and sugars, and generally with a large number of people. A quick recipe for a sensory melt-down!
So how do we consider the different sensory thresholds when planning our holidays?
- Pick and choose your holiday activities wisely and give family members a heads up regarding outings. Prepare them for new situations and talk them through what they could expect. The easiest way to surviving the holiday season is to keep everyone in the loop.
- Visit tourist attractions at quieter times and plan ahead with regards to food if possible.
- We don’t have to accept every invitation extended to us.
- Have clear house rules for every place that you go to – learn the rules of the places that you visit, especially if one is traveling overseas, and prepare your family
- Check in with your family members at events – before going to an event, decide on a sign or gesture that will indicate that all is not okay. This will help reassure your family that you will know when a break is needed and it also helps to keep behavior issues in check.
- Have an escape space – whenever you get to a place, find a spot that will allow for quiet time and a sensory break. Prepare your family for noisy situations, and have a strategy in place if you need to get away from very crowded places. (e.g. markets, beaches, shopping malls, Midnight mass)
- Keep a sensory toolbox with you – have a small bag of sensory tools that may help avoid a meltdown. Include headphones, sunglasses, healthy snacks, fiddle toys and comfortable clothing.
- Give small immediate rewards – don’t use gifts as bargaining tools. Instead, give small rewards for working together, doing chores, and for being a good sport.
- Praise children for good behavior, as this will mean a lot to the child with sensory, learning or attention difficulties.
- Give yourself a break and take time to relax. Sometimes it is just okay to stay at home or indoors when things get to hectic.
Family gatherings are the essence of Christmas, but sadly they can become very stressful. Remind everyone to Keep calm and breathe…
Annabella Sequeira is a Specialist Sensory Intelligence® Facilitator for Parents and Teachers.
She holds a BSc (Occupational Therapy) degree from the University of Cape Town, backed by 22 years’ experience in both the public and private sector. She has extensive practical experience in the area of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction in children and is passionate about empowering others to improve functionality and quality of life.