Thank you so much to Lola for sharing these words of wisdom on how to support autistic kids with their Christmas anxiety (especially around anticipation and managing presents). Lola has helped me and my son to navigate the stressful issue of presents in the past, and I'm sure her advice will be useful to many of you as well. Happy Christmas everyone!
Hi I’m Lola & I have autism. Since I was little I have loved Christmas, but I have always struggled with the uncertainty of knowing what I was getting, which caused a lot of stress through December. I eventually decided I also like surprises which made it more difficult, so I found a strategy which has helped me.
I would ask my mum what half of her budget was and I would find things online which I wanted that was within the budget, or maybe slightly over depending on what I wanted. This left me with confirmation that I could have what was on my list and mum could get me some bits and bobs that I had mentioned throughout the year - in my words “controlled surprises.”
This leads me onto the wait. I need to know I have everything on my list ordered in time, so we now make a list where mum can tick off when it’s ordered for me. I also need the items to be delivered to a place where I can’t have or see them as I, along with a lot of children on the spectrum, find it too exciting - impulse control is not my strong point!
For me on Christmas Day, I have a strict routine around opening presents, but as soon as that bit is done the expectation doesn’t have to linger. I know that if it feels too much or even if I want to play with presents, I can and I don’t feel as though anyone is making me do anything I don’t want to.
Other children may benefit from -
1. Knowing when something has been ordered and delivered.
2. It doesn’t have to be a surprise, sometimes knowing is calming.
3. Christmas doesn’t have to be the 25, if your child is struggling with excitement why not let them open one or two of the presents they can’t wait for.
4. Do what feels right - talk to your child about their expectations.
5. If your child needs to know they have a certain items, then letting your child see the presents can help the anxiety around it not being there on time.
6. Where possible let your child lead their own Christmas Day. It may be hard, but a lot of children know what will feel best for them. Whether that’s a strict routine or eating chicken nuggets for Christmas dinner, it doesn’t matter.
7. It’s ok to do it your way! We all have our quirks and it is whatever feels right to you. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas.