–by Lorraine Fuller

So, you survived Christmas! Yay! I am happy for you. I don’t know how much chocolate, or bread, or caffeine, or alcohol it took, but you survived. Soon the kids will be back to school. So let’s take a moment, even if you don’t want to hear it, to talk about next year and how we can make it better.

I’ve been talking to a bunch of moms about how they handle the holidays and they all agreed on one thing: you have to do it the way that works best for your family. Every family is different, and some of us have very different families. Our kids don’t act like “normal” kids” and so may not be able to handle what others consider “normal” things.

Some moms don’t wrap gifts, because their kids cannot handle it. Others cannot put out any gifts until Christmas morning. Some need to give smaller gifts earlier. One family does one small gift a night, another does a sibling gift swap the week before. Some have to seriously limit the gifts. One family I know does not do any material gifts, but they do experiences instead: a trip, lessons, a museum membership. Many non-material gifts are excellent ideas, especially for children who tend to destroy property. Try sports or music or dance lessons, time at a batting cage, gymnastics classes, fees for youth league basketball, national park passes, trampoline parks, skating rinks, let your imagination run a little wild. I know a mom who took her kids to a hotel with an indoor waterpark. Another printed out pictures of the place they would go on vacation the following summer.

I personally like gift opening, and am blessed to have some kids who are more typical. For my child who destroys things, well, he also insists on having more gifts than anyone else, so I make that happen. He gets dollar store toys, for example, even as a teen. If he breaks those, it doesn’t hurt my feelings since I already expect them to break. I also save new things he needs, like clothes and school supplies, for Christmas. Favorite snacks I won’t normally buy make great gifts too. Then we also do family gifts, movies, board games, video games, etc. Another friend gives gifts, four to be exact, according to the rhyme “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” Another friend gives three gifts because three is the number mentioned in the Bible. Yet another gives only one. Then there are families who do only family gifts chosen by all members of the family: a new TV, a trampoline, a gaming system, new furniture. (Parents have the final say on these, of course!)


Then there are the non-gift Christmas traditions. I used to love going to Christmas Eve candlelight service, but my son and fire are not good together, so we no longer go. Another mom I know now skips the family’s big gathering because she knows her children cannot handle it. Families who do go to such events usually have an exit plan, a code word that allows them to say their good-byes quickly and escape. Or they might take two cars so that one parent can bail with the child headed down Meltdown Lane. One awesome grandmother I know sets up a room in the farthest corner of her home where parents can go with their overwhelmed kids. Some moms skip the last day of school and party at home instead, knowing that school events set their children off. (This works for food allergies and other health issues too!). Some years we’ve tag-teamed children’s programs, concerts, and recitals so that someone could stay with the child who couldn’t make it through.

Every family is different, and only you know what is different about yours. So take this time to sit down and look at what worked and what didn’t. What stressed out your child? What stressed you out? How could you change that next year? And then think of the positive too. What went well? What changes have you made to keep you and your family sane? Feel free to share in the comments below.