Helping Jack overcome Anxiety

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My 5 year old son Jack struggles daily with Anxiety. He needs constant reassurance and needs routine and structure to help him feel more at ease, grounded. It has been a vast learning curve for me as a mother watching my happy toddler become an anxious, unsettled preschooler and now school age child.

One of our biggest struggles in the last few years, as Jack battled his anxiety, has been Christmas and Santa Claus. You can read more about Jack’s struggles HERE.

We worked super hard to help Jack be as relaxed and happy as we could in the run up to Christmas this year. Below I list some of the things we did this year that really helped him to enjoy the whole experience around Santa and presents.

  1. Social Stories: We used THIS social story about Santa and THIS Social Story about the Festive Period. I created both of these FREE Social Stories this year to help Jack overcome his anxieties and fears around Christmas.
  2. Countdown: I created two separate Countdowns to help Jack which we have been using. The first one I created was to help him count down the days until “Santa” arrived so he would have a concrete sense of when he would arrive. You can find that Countdown HERE. The second Countdown I created was to help him understand when he would be going back to school, and to understand that his “Christmas Holidays” would last a certain amount of time but that school would begin again. You can find that Countdown HERE.
  3. Christmas Movies: We have been watching various Movies that have been on TV or that we have on DVD here at home. He isn’t a fan of sitting through whole movies so we watch as much of them as he likes with no pressure to finish watching the whole film.
  4. Christmas Story Books: I read books to the Jack and his siblings every day, Jack calls it “Story Time”. So it was relatively easy to start to introduce the idea of Christmas early on in December by choosing to read some Christmas Books along with our regular book shelf favorites. Jack enjoys stories and will ask you to repeat certain parts of the stories he likes. 

The above activities, we did in the run to Christmas itself. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day, we purposely kept the day’s activities to a minimum. We went to visit Grandparents on Christmas Eve before lunch. We then remained at home over the next few days and kept Visitors to a minimum. We explained what we were trying to do with Jack, helping him overcome some of his anxieties around Christmas and change in routines.

5. Staying at home: We stayed at home Christmas Day for the full day and didn’t visit anyone. Over the years after our Christmas Dinner we would normally visit Grandparent’s houses but this year for the first time we did not. This seemed to really help Jack relax into the day as he understood from his Visual Schedule he wasn’t leaving the house that day and he could play with his toys. I would really recommend this to anyone who has a child that finds visiting hard. I took it for granted that Jack didn’t mind that part of our Christmas Tradition but having seen how relaxed he was this year at home, I plan to not visit anymore on Christmas Day as that is what is best for him.

6. Visitors: Usually over Christmas we would have a lot of visitors but this year many were ill with bugs and seasonal viruses. As a result we had only a handful and this really suited Jack, he could play in his room or elsewhere throughout the house without disruption from visitors.

7.Outdoors: When everything started to get too overwhelming for Jack my husband or myself would bring him out walking to work off some of his energy. When he had calmed down we would walk home again. We are lucky in that we live near a big football field so Jack had free reign over Christmas to run the length and breath of the field. He really worked off a lot of energy and this seemed to really help him self-regulate.

I would love to hear what you do to help your son or daughter over-come their anxieties in their everyday life and in the run up to big occasions such as the Holidays. Feel free to comment below or over on my FACEBOOK Page.

Thank you for reading.

Amanda

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