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Making your Christmas SEND friendly this year

Christmas is a feast for all our senses, so if your child has sensory sensitivities or SEND all those Christmas lights, new foods and socialising can just be too much leaving everyone sad, stressed and exhausted.


There’s often lots of pressure from well-meaning friends and family you might be familiar with some of these:

  • “Just try something new to eat – why are they so picky all the time, you spoil them you know”.
  • “The lights aren’t that bright, why do they have sunglasses on again?”
  • “Let’s go and see Santa at the shopping centre. The queue was only 40 minutes yesterday?”
  • “It’s Christmas jumper day – make sure your child wears something Christmassy!”
  • “It’s nursery Christmas party day – we’ll have music, games and a special Christmas lunch.”
  • “Why aren’t they eating with us – it’s a family occasion they should be sitting at the table”.
  • “Why aren’t they opening their presents?”


It can be easy to feel guilty and try and please everyone, but it often ends in tears – often yours and days of re-regulating your child’s regular routine. It can be difficult to enforce some boundaries for your family but once you do it can make a huge difference to how you and your family ENJOY Christmas.

Here’s some tips to help navigate your way through the festive season:

  • Choose your activities wisely, you don’t have to go to everything.
  • Do you or your child actually want to go? If not don’t – there’s usually lots of other people there and you won’t be missed.
  • Go at quiet times. Many shopping centres have quiet times.
  • Don’t try and manage things that you know in your heart always end in disaster.
  • Do what makes you and your child happy. This could be as simple as a pyjama and game day, making some Christmas crafts or watching a favourite movie.
  • If someone is pressuring you into something don’t give in if you know it’s going to cause lots of stress and upset. Try suggesting something that might work better for you.


For example:

  • “Hi Sarah, I think Tom would find queuing for Father Christmas a bit challenging, could we go for a walk and get a hot chocolate instead?”
  • “Hi Mum, I know you’d like all the grandchildren to come over at Christmas Eve, but Tom can find that a bit overwhelming can we come on the day before or in the morning before everyone gets there?”
  • “Dear Mrs Thompson, Sarah struggles with not wearing a uniform so she won’t be taking part in Christmas jumper day this year and will wear uniform as usual.”
  • Billy can find the school Christmas play really overwhelming so please don’t make him perform on stage. I am willing to come and collect him or he can sit with me in the audience and enjoy it in his own way”.
  • “Hi there, Edward can find choosing from a buffet of Christmas food really stressful so I have packed him his usual packed lunch. Don’t worry he’s not missing out; we have lots of his favourite Christmas treats at home.”
  • “Hi everyone, Ellie is really into ………………………… this year so if you could get anything related to this she would absolutely love it, she finds having present wrapped up a bit over stimulating and stressful so don’t worry about wrapping her present. Thank you”
  • “I know this seems different, but we don’t force …… to do/ eat/ wear anything that they don’t want to”.
  • “…… finds waiting for surprises really difficult so we don’t wrap his Christmas presents and he gets to open them whenever he’s ready. I’m sure that you don’t mind”.


How to politely excuse yourself:

  • “Thank you for inviting us but we’ve already got something planned that day. I hope you all have a great time”.
  • “Thank – you but that can be really difficult for us as a family so we’re going to do something a little less busy”.
  • “That sounds like lots of fun, but Lewis finds that quite stressful so we’ll be enjoying some quieter family traditions at home”.
  • “Thank you so much for inviting us, but we are trying to make sure that Chloe has a quiet run up to Christmas this year so we’re scaling back how many people we visit. We would love to spend some time with you at our house if you’re free. I hope you understand.”


For more tips read this article from Action for Children

Download these fantastic visual timetables for Christmas

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