Handling the Holidays: Tips for Parents of Children with Sensory Processing Issues

The holidays are a special time of year – full of fun and family.  There are so many sights and sounds.  People are everywhere! Family members you haven’t seen in a while arrive and some family members may even crowd into the house and it feels like they’ve taken over!   Holidays can be fun and stressful for adults and children.  For children with sensory processing issues, the holidays can be overwhelming and overstimulating.   Here are a few simple tips to help you and your child make it through this holiday season.

1. Try to keep your child on a routine.  Most children thrive on routines and schedules.  They know what to expect and when to expect it.  Try to limit the number of changes in their schedule – this includes their sleep schedule.  If possible, put visiting family members in another room and let your child with sensory issues stay in their own room and bed.

2. Let your child take a break.  The sights, sounds and people can be overstimulating for children with auditory, tactile and visual sensory processing issues.  If you notice your child becoming agitated or shutting down, give them a break. Designate a space just for them that will provide the sensory break they need.

3. Talk to your family.  Well-meaning family members may have lots of suggestions for you and your child.  Tell them about your child’s sensory issues so they can fully understand what’s going on and not take it personally if your child refuses to give them a hug.  Help everyone understand and encourage them to be patient.  Talking to everyone in advance can save hurt feelings and over expectations later.

4. Prepare your child for what’s coming.  Talk to your child about the holidays and what to expect.  Talk through possible situations they may face and how they can handle these difficult situations.  For example, when grandparents come, you could tell them, “Grandma and grandpa are coming to visit.  We don’t see grandma and grandpa very often, but they love you so much.  When grandma gets here, she will want to give you a big hug.  If you don’t want a hug, you could blow her a kiss or give her a high five.  She would like that.”

Sensory processing can be a difficult diagnosis for family members to understand.  Talk to them about your child’s needs and reiterate that your child is not “acting out” or “anti-social.”  Leave handouts or books about sensory processing issues around the house and share information.  Some great resources include:


The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller


Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
Sensational Brain

Now It’s Your Turn:  What other suggestions do you have for handling the stress of the holidays?

Disclosure of Material Connection: The above links are for informational purposes only. Brightsong, LLC does not receive a commission on any of the products reviewed or listed. The Brightsong team only recommends products or services we personally use and believe will add value to the families we work with. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”