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The holidays a great time of year to spend time with loved ones, give thanks and exchange gifts. However, special needs families can have a challenging holiday season due to the lack of routine and school programs, and the increase of visitors, food, and noise. The following is a list of six tips that can help reduce stress during the holiday season for special need families.


Build Routine

Although this will be difficult, the most helpful tip to reduce stress is to build some holiday routine. Maintaining a consistent wake-up and bedtime over holiday breaks can help keep your regular schedule. Be sure to maintain a steady eating schedule and menu as well. Sure there is nothing wrong with eating a holiday dinner, however extra food, such as dessert, will break a routine.

Do Not Over Schedule

The holiday season is known for stressful family visits. Be sure to not-over schedule visits because attending too many events and involving too many activities will cause stress for your special needs family. If there is one important event that needs the best behavior from your family, make sure you allow plenty of non-stressful time prior to the event.

Avoid Crowds

The end of the year is notorious for crowds. Avoiding activities where there are huge crowds will prevent unwanted stress on your family. Try to online shop, or visit the mall at an unpopular time if you can.

It’s Ok to Say No

Doing what’s best for your special needs family should be your number one priority, which may mean you have to say no. Declining a holiday invitation, refusing extra food, or simply sticking to a bedtime is all ok. Figuring out what is best for your family and holding to it will create the best holiday season.

Keep Calm

The most important tip to improve your holiday season is to keep calm. While it may be instinct to overreact and stress about a situation, this never helps. Holidays are stressful enough for those with special needs that it is even more important for their support system to maintain their cool.

Count Your Blessings

Special needs families are hard work, but the holiday season is a significant time to remember how blessed you are. The holiday season is not just about giving gifts and eating great food; the more important lesson is to be thankful for all you have.


The holiday season is one of the best times of the year. However, it can also be one of the most stressful for special need families. By following these six steps, you can help bring joy to the holidays and keep your special needs family merry and bright!

Lisa Landman has a passion for helping others and has worked with special need adults throughout her career. Learn more about her professional work or check out her Twitter!