It's the most wonderful time of the year-for some of us. For others, the holidays can be a stressful time. Many families travel or have out-of-town visitors, the kids are off school, bedtimes often shift, screen-time may increase, and the once comfortable daily routine is suddenly absent.
It's no wonder that some children have difficulty adjusting to a break from their "normal" routine. There are new sights, smells, sounds, foods, people, expectations, and conversations to navigate. Wow! With all that being said, I have a few tips to help you make it through the holiday season with your child.
1. Try to prepare your child for any major changes. Maybe you are flying across the country, or maybe you are having visitors stay at your house for a few days. You can help your child by discussing these upcoming events; show them pictures, read stories about airplanes or road trips. Talk about these things BEFORE they happen to help ease any anxiety.
2. Be patient. Routine changes are tough for everyone. Allow your child time to express their feelings, wants, and needs through the use their words or AAC system. It is a busy time of year, but sometimes children who struggle with speech and language need to be reminded that what they say MATTERS and that you are all ears!
3. You can't control how family and friends act, but you can be a positive model for your child. This one is tough. Chances are, if your child struggles with speech or language, it can be difficult being around others who may not understand your child's struggles. Luckily, you understand and can educate others, while being a great speech and language model for your child.
Here are a several ways you can help support your child:
1. Provide extra wait time for your child to communicate their ideas. Many children feel anxious or self-conscious if they are aware of their speech-language difficulties, so try to remove external pressure. Look at your child as they speak, without hurrying them along.
2. Model expanded utterances for children who have limited expressive language. Instead of putting pressure on the child by demanding "Say more cookies", if you child says "cookie", you can simply model "I want more cookies" or "Oh, give me more cookies" etc.
3. Recast phrases using correct speech sounds. If your child has speech sound errors, others may have difficulty understanding their speech. You can help your child by restating their words, using the correct sounds. For example, "I wove dees tooties". You can say, "Wow! I'm so glad you love the cookies".
4. If your child uses an AAC device, have that device accessible at all times. Your voice is accessible to you at all times, just as your child's should be! The dinner table is a great place for discussion, so please don't leave your child's voice in a corner.
5. Lastly, stop comparing your child to others. Comparison is truly the thief of all joy. Focus on all the amazing things your child CAN DO and don't you dare let yourself believe you have failed in some way if your child has speech or language difficulties. Everyone has their own struggles- some are just more visible than others.
You can be your child's calm in the middle of all the chaos and excitement that the holiday season brings.
Thank you for reading and as always feel free to contact me with any specific speech-language concerns. :)