Here are a few tips with assisting surviving Thanksgiving with a child who has special needs.
1) Stand Your Ground
One of the single most stressful aspects of Thanksgiving is the pressures and demands extended family can place upon the holiday.
Your mother wants you to do Thanksgiving at her house, where your child's sensory challenges are exemplified.
Your twin sister wants you to host Thanksgiving at your house so she can bring all six of her children, husband and his parents over to avoid cooking - even though she offered to bring a pumpkin pie as a consolation prize.
Your husband's parents lay the biggest guilt trip on earth that they haven't seen you for Thanksgiving for the last three years even though it would require you flying out of State incurring financial debt for traveling and put your medically fragile child at risk for a host of germs.
The biggest and best advice is stand your ground and exercise the word "no." In fact, start practicing that simple phrase right now. The word, "no." It's so powerful.
It's life changing and will bring you so much internal peace. I know what you're thinking. If I say the word no, to any of it, the world is going to view you as a bad person.
Your mother might stop talking to you. Your husband's parents may permanently disown you - your sister may quit calling.... but rest assured if any of your family members are worth their weight in gold they absolutely will understand that you have to set some boundaries for your sanity and for the best interests of your child with special needs.
2) Be Selective
Maybe your child with special needs can't handle your huge family gathering of twenty plus people. Maybe you need to consider downsizing to just immediate family or grandparents.
Perhaps your husband's idea of putting up the Christmas Tree on Thanksgiving day is blowing your mind because you just can't handle multi-tasking so much in one day.
Be selective on how you need your Thanksgiving to look. It is going to look a little different for all families with special needs.
Select your priorities and make them easy ones. If all you can handle is getting a turkey on the table then that's all you need to focus on.
And make sure you remember to surround yourselves who are going to give you the space to be selective on how Thanksgiving is going to go.
It may even be paper plates and disposable silverware over the yearly fine china that takes hours to wash by hand.
It doesn't have to be fancy, the day only needs to be filled with peace, contentment, tenderness and love.
3) Know Your Battles
If you have a child that is only going to eat the center out of the pumpkin pie and won't even touch the crust, don't stress. Let the pie look like a monster ate it in the night.
If your child hates turkey and will only eat a cheeseburger from Wendy's, that's okay go fetch Wendy's and serve the rest of the family turkey.
Don't force something that is going to cause unnecessary stress. Perhaps turkey isn't even going to be on the menu, maybe your child demands ham. That's okay too.
Nothing about our lives are traditional and neither are our holidays. Know where your real battles are.
Remember the battle is never what is on the menu. It's making sure that our child with special needs is comfortable and well adjusted to the extra chaos that can come along with the holiday season.
Picking and choosing our battle is essential for maintaining the entire family's sanity.
4) Releasing Guilt
Do not feel guilty for standing your ground and telling everyone how you need Thanksgiving to be. Don't feel like you have let others dictate how your holiday should look or go.
Don't let your mother make you feel bad because she thinks you should be hosting Thanksgiving for the entire family. Don't let your husband's parents scare you into a long and unnecessary road trip.
Don't let your friends and family make you feel guilty that their Thanksgiving is easier than yours or that somehow they are better than you because they can put on a Thanksgiving dinner that looks like it came out of a Martha Stewart magazine.
Thanksgiving must be a guilt-free holiday. It's even a hall-pass to not to feel an ounce of guilt about all the calories that you'll be consuming.
5) Minimal Planning
The most simplistic plans and ones that require minimal effort are going to offer you the biggest peace of mind and deliver the biggest reward. Don't stress if you forgot the dinner rolls.
Don't make a list of all the things you think you should accomplish in a day. Don't fret about packing a suitcase and remembering all of your child's medically necessary needs for just one day of a turkey dinner.
Go with the flow. One of the most important things you can do is not overly plan. Go with the flow. If something isn't how you wished it to be, that's okay.
Don't plan on having dinner on the table by a certain hour. Perhaps it's going to take longer for you to peel potatoes and mash them because you had to cradle your child through a two-hour meltdown.
That is okay. Don't place unnecessary burdens and expectations upon yourself and surround yourself with guests who completely understand the unpredictability of every single day - even on Thanksgiving.
Most importantly - do Thanksgiving your way. It really doesn't matter what that looks like, if it resembles something traditional or something completely what others might consider crazy.
It's just a day - and you're going to get through it - your way.