Therapy Thoughts--The Holidays

Because "the holidays' have the potential to be such a wonderful, special, and, to many, deeply spiritual time, they are also ripe with the possibility of disappointment. This phenomenon is completely normal for all people, with or without children, with or without therapy schedules. Mental health professionals are very busy this time of year.

Compassionate, others-focused people seek to love, encourage, and serve everyone around them at this time of year and every day. If you'd like to be especially helpful to a child with extra challenges or special issues, be one of those people!  It is not unusual for people of all ages and backgrounds to behave poorly, have outbursts over seemingly small things, or have other behavioral or emotional problems with disproportionate intensity during the holidays. Even typical children can only take so much of disrupted routines, long car rides, people they see twice a year trying to hug them, out of the ordinary foods, the promise of gifts with hours, days, or week long wait periods. It's quite the load of cumulative disruption.

If you'd like to make this time of year as pleasant as possible for those around you, consider the ideas below.

1--If you seldom see a child, remember to be the adult in the relationship. Some kids may run to you with open arms. Others may run away. Babies may cry in your face. This is all normal. This is no commentary on your innate value or worth as a person. Say, "Hi!" and offer a high five. Don't be upset if the parent does not require a child to hug you. There's a lot of danger in the world today, so many parents will not put upon their child to agree to physical contact with an adult if they don't want it. Save yourself time and energy and let the parent worry about the child.

2--If you seldom see a child, abstain from dispensing advice or making judgments about parenting techniques. You may be a professional early childhood parenting consultant, but this child's parent has not sought your services. If you leave a holiday event with real concerns, then think about the best way to address those concerns at another time.  I can assure you that unless the child is in immediate physical danger, the holiday dinner table is never the time to bring up concerns you have about someone else's child. There is tomorrow and the rest of your life to offer your thoughts about other peoples' children's issues.

3--Don't comment on "how well" a child is doing in any area in the presence of the child. A person is more than the sum of his or her abilities. A child should not grow up hearing others assigning grades to their personal achievements, especially at family gatherings. This is especially pertinent for "therapy" kids. Even at a young age, they've caught on to the fact that others are monitoring, nay, obsessed with what they can and can't say, understand, do, etc.  Give them a day off. What if the holidays was the time at which your most recent job review was delivered? Would that be a fun, relaxing time for you?

4--Tell the parent or parents what a great job they're doing loving their child well...or don't tell them anything at all. They too would prefer to skip a Christmas Day job review.

Yes, parents should keep their kids under control, ideally even at holiday gatherings.  Set an example of how a kind, self-controlled adult conducts him or herself at holiday gatherings. Children are paying more attention than you'd believe.