Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coping with the Holidays: Advice for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Over the years I’ve posted several articles about how individuals and families can cope with the holidays. And, of course, the same issues come up every year. Families travel, visit, have massive, loud get-togethers. Unwanted advice, comparisons, judgments are always there, maybe under the surface, maybe right in your face.

In view of that fact, I want to repeat the same thing I said last year. You know your child. Just because your child is acting up, or not matching the achievements of cousins, or won’t eat the special dinner Grandma made, does not mean that you’re not great parents. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a wonderful kid, with his own special gift and talents. Please take this holiday season to appreciate the child you have, and to trust yourself as a good parent.

And here’s last year’s article, in case you didn’t read it then.

The holidays are coming up and for a lot of people that means getting together with extended family and relatives you haven’t seen in a while. This can be a great chance to connect, feel supported, even show off a bit with all the progress your child has made.


But it can also mean unwanted advice. Your parents, your sister-in-law, your best friend from high school probably mean nothing but the best for you and your family. But they also may not have a special needs child and they may not understand what it is that your family is going through, or what your child needs.

So often I’ve heard the same story from clients. A well-meaning relative says something like, “If only you’d do _________, your kid wouldn’t do _______.” or “Trust me, your kid just needs more __________, and he wouldn’t be so _____________.” You can probably fill in the blanks, there’s a lot of advice out there.


The fact is, and I’ve said it before, some kids are just tougher to parent than others. Your nieces and nephews may just be incredibly easy-going children. It doesn’t mean that you are not also a good parent. Your child may just be wired differently, temperamentally more sensitive,  more strong-willed, or more emotional.


I’ve worked with so many different kids over the years. The truth is, some of them are so easy and low key, they practically parent themselves. Other kids are so difficult, it’s hard to manage them for just a brief while, much less an entire holiday vacation. Add in some travel time, late nights, too much stimulation, and it’s not surprising that things get out of hand.


So this holiday season, I’m asking you to trust yourself and the parenting skills you’ve developed by taking care of your child for all this time. Listen to the advice politely if you want to, but don’t think that any other parent is more capable than you are. Your child is lucky to have you as a parent.