Helping children enjoy Christmas
It is important to understand how children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities perceive Christmas traditions. For some children this time of year can be very stressful and can led to them feeling very anxious.
Putting up a Christmas tree.
As we know many children can’t wait for the Christmas decorations to go up and to help decorate the Christmas tree, but for some children this whole experience can be daunting and they question why you would bring this tree into the house?. To help prepare children for this tradition why not share photographs of last year’s decorations and Christmas tree, by doing this it will help those children understand what is happening and why. Another way to help children feel less anxious is to create a visual timetable , if they are already using one them add the relevant Christmas pictures to show when the tree and decorations are arriving. Visual cues are great for all children not just children with Special Educational need and disabilities as all children can see what is going to happening next.
Decorating the Christmas tree.
Decorating the tree together is a family tradition that has been going for many years, and most children enjoy this experience. For some children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities this is not an enjoyable time as it can be frustrating for them as they are not able to put the delicate decorations on the tree. You may find that the Christmas tree becomes a fascination and children are pulling things off picking at things, this can get frustrating for adults. Decide on what the best option is to ensure the children are safe, if no harm is coming to the child when playing with the parts on the tree then why not let them carry on. Here are a few other traditions that you may need to do differently
- Presents/gifts – Seeing presents under the tree can cause anxiety as children with SEND want to know what is inside, therefore think about where to display them, out of sight out of mind may be an option.
- Father Christmas – This can be a worrying time for children with SEND as some children are wary of strangers, using stories and pictures can help children with this and eventually they may realise it is a story. Each child is different and may react in a different way.
For children who attend nursery or other early year’s settings there can be a mixture of emotions and behaviours displayed during the Christmas period. It is important that early years practitioners recognises these challenges and prepare children and families for the changes in the run up to Christmas. It may be advisable to keep it very simple and not start celebrations to early. Children may be less reluctant to join a Christmas concert or play, therefore why not just stick to something simple and enjoy some Christmas songs.
The most important thing to remember is to ensure the children are happy and to help them enjoy this time of year.