The holidays (especially at Bithiah’s) are a time of celebration, gifts, surprises, and special memories. Until it isn’t.
For many children, the holidays can be a time of stress, triggers, and overall sadness. Bithiah’s is no exception. Trauma does not discriminate and it certainly doesn’t take a break for the holidays.
With the holidays quickly approaching, here are some steps we take to ensure the little ones feel safe and loved during the busy season. While this is in no way a fool proof list, it does help with regulating and coping when emotions run high.
1. Sleep Habits
At Bithiah’s we are careful to almost always stick to bedtime routines and schedules. When little ones are tired, meltdowns abound. We try to avoid this by ensuring that each one gets plenty of rest.
2. Staying Regulated
Since many of the kids have sensory issues, we are consistent in providing them with a sensory rich diet. This consists of our “crash and bump” time (where we clear the furniture, bring scooters, slides, and mattresses inside, and let the kids “crash” around. This not only gets their wiggles out, it gives them that proprioceptive input that their bodies need to feel regulated), games that involve using our bodies and a LOT of hands on activities using kinetic sand and playdough.
When things feel too overwhelming, the kids like to use noise cancelling headphones and weighted blankets. They are great for anxiety and help to calm their bodies.
3. Planning the Calendar Carefully
Our team is mindful to take into consideration the kids when planning outings and activities. Activities are typically scheduled in shifts (half of the kids go first, then the other half go). This allows more one on one attention to the children, while attempting to keep the chaos level down. Activities are also planned around nap time and bedtime to maintain their sleep schedule. We also give information about the activity to the kids before the activity starts. We never want the children to feel surprised or not prepared for the outing.
4. Keeping Consistent with Transitions
Transitions play a huge role in everyday life at Bithiah’s House. Since much of the kids’ lives are filled with unpredictability and uncertainty, we are intentional about transitions. We have special transition objects that each of the kids use for the way to and from visits with their parents, special books that are available for them as they transition out of their visits, special transition items used when a little one moves out of the house, and we even have very specific phrases we use to help the kids transition throughout the day. Predicability and routine help the children to feel less frantic and anxious.
5. Giving Loads of Grace
We understand that the chaos and busyness of the holidays can cause a lot of big feelings for the kids. We offer lots of grace. “Redos” for behaviors, cuddles, silly games and connecting with them is our way of showing them that it’s ok to have a bad day. They are loved and safe regardless of their behavior.
While these strategies are helpful, they don’t always work. Trauma and triggers are unpredictable and while we do the best we can to help the children, sometimes we are unsuccessful in our attempts. But that does not mean we stop trying. Each day is a new opportunity to love on and support these little ones as they walk through their past hurts and present feelings. The holidays can be hard but that doesn’t mean they can’t be special and memorable!