Associating the winter holidays with a degree of stress is unavoidable for many Americans. For parents and family members of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs), the holidays can be even more challenging. Fortunately, a little preparation can help your Thanksgiving meal go smoothly—for everyone on your guest list, including your loved one with IDDs.
How To Host a Stress-Free Thanksgiving With People Who Have IDDs
The first step to holiday meal success is, of course, finalizing general plans (the event location, day, time, and guest list) as far in advance as possible. The next step is to make some key preparations. Here are 5 tips for stress-free Thanksgiving planning:
1. Make introductions ahead of time. Introduce your child to the other guests well in advance, in person or through remote communications. Let friends and family know what to expect and what your child’s needs are. You may also want to include a resource for interacting with people who have IDDs.
2. Familiarize your child with the Thanksgiving Day schedule. Predictable schedules can be essential for helping individuals with IDDs to feel calm and in control. Make or find out detailed plans for the big day, then go over each step of the day’s activities with your family member so that they know what to expect. Include steps that are specific to their personal daily routines as well as those related to eating and visiting with guests.
3. Designate a quiet space for your family member. Be sure that your loved one with special needs will have a quiet space where they can regroup if they become overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Communicate with your child about this in advance and be sure that they know where the space is (if in someone else’s home) and activities they can plan to do there (nap, draw, listen to music, etc).
4. Anticipate awkward or inappropriate comments. Even well-meaning guests may make remarks to or about your child that are less than ideal. Decide how you will handle various types of comments, whether that means deflecting them, not engaging with them, or gently educating the speaker.
5. Bring or incorporate comfort items from home. Particularly if you and your child will be guests in someone else’s home for Thanksgiving, be sure to bring some of your family member’s favorite or comfort-oriented items. These can include familiar dishes, utensils, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and other cherished items.
Make Every Holiday a Success With Progressive Lifestyles
Progressive Lifestyles, Inc. is dedicated to providing innovative support services for people with disabilities. Our mission is to provide supportive and caring residential opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Oakland County, Michigan.
A primary focus of our organization is to interact with the individuals we support through the “Culture of Gentleness” model. We seek to create a positive environment to help them feel safe and valued while maximizing praise, limiting demands, maintaining consistent structure, and reducing stress during transitions.