Liz Stanley and Christine Armstrong recently facilitated a Check In and Chat Zoom session to help attendees think about and prepare for the summer holidays. As Liz said, love ‘em or loathe ‘em they are about to be here and a little bit of preparation in advance can help to ensure that the children and just as importantly you, have as good and manageable time as possible.
Some of the tips discussed included:
- Try not to put too much pressure on yourself! Many of our children benefit from spending time at home with plenty of time to generally chill out, decompress and not have to deal with the ‘outside’ world. Ignore what everyone else is doing on Facebook and don’t feel you need to be doing something everyday.
- Routine! Don’t be tempted to turn the holidays into school, they are meant to be a break. That said, giving each day a simple structure and keeping similar activities to bookend each day as they would have on a school day will provide some consistency and help keep anxiety at bay. You could for example think about getting up at the same time, having breakfast, getting dressed etc and also keeping bedtimes to around about the same time too.
- Try not to put too much pressure on yourself! Don’t worry if you don’t get to go to many places or only go to places your children are already comfortable and familiar with.
- Try not to let other people’s judgement get to you. Yes, if your child is struggling and having a hard time some people will put this down to bad behaviour and bad parenting. Ignore them! Know that you are doing what needs to be done to parent your child. If you are going for a day out think about getting a sunflower lanyard (available from most supermarkets amongst other places). If your child or young person won’t wear them you can wear it for them.
- Take full advantage of SEN specific sessions and activities. SPACE are running many activities throughout the holidays, many softplay and trampoline parks have SEN-specific sessions, there are often relaxed performances at cinemas and theatres, there are SEN specific swimming sessions at many local pools etc.
- If you are going abroad many airports have special arrangements for families with additional needs such as early/late boarding, a special lounge, concessions through security, Gatwick even has a sensory room and Virgin has plane experiences. Make sure you find out how to use all of these ahead of time. More airports abroad are also starting to recognise the sunflower lanyard and again it is always worth asking what they can do to accommodate your child. Do whatever it takes to keep your children as happy and occupied as possible whether that is the iPad or a bag full of lego or fidget toys!
- Also take full advantage of the many discounts and fast passes available to SEN families. You can apply for a HAND card which is accepted at many venues in Hertfordshire and beyond which identifies your child or young person as having additional needs. Many places will let the carer in free – it is always worth asking what concessions they have and among other things it can soften the financial blow if a day out needs to be cut short.
- Visual supports and planning. Depending on your child a daily or weekly planner may help reduce anxiety so they can see what is happening throughout the holidays. If going somewhere new it may help to look at photos on their website, You Tube clips and even google earth so they can visualise where they are going in advance. Many places such as the London Transport Museum now also have social stories that you can download from their websites too.
- Have we mentioned don’t put too much pressure on yourself?! Try and be realistic, focus on the good moments and remember to look after you.