Home for the Holidays

Not all families can go out during the holidays. Sometimes a family with special needs has to stay home and not even go to church. They may need to be home for the holidays whether they want to be or not. There are some situations that cannot accommodate the child/adult child with special needs. It becomes quite difficult to have to bow out of family gatherings and even church or church related functions because some things hinder the ability of the one with special needs to be able to be a part. Things like:

  • Sensitivity to loud noises like crowds

  • Sensitivity to unprepared loud noises like another child screaming

  • Sensitivity to loud music noises or sounds in a play

  • Too much commotion

  • Too much physical stimulation

  • Too much emotional stimulation

  • What would you add: ___________

Many of us parents agonize over inviting guests knowing our attention may turn to our child(ren) and away from guests when the special needs we daily care for kick into high gear because of so many new and different things happening around us, and put us into very awkward situations we find hard to explain to others. It’s often uncomfortable and embarrassing and others don’t always even try to understand, or if they do try to help do not really know how to help because they don’t daily deal with what we do.


The flip side to this coin is actually (and rarely) getting an invitation for the holiday (or anytime) because of the what if factor:

What if:

  • Their child starts screaming

  • Their child has a huge melt down in the middle of all the people

  • Their child breaks something

  • And the list goes on and on and on……

Thankfully, in our experience, family was pretty much the only people who invited us over in those early days with the young children. Generally holiday only was when we were invited and we felt we could be ourselves.  But recently, speaking to someone who’s just entering into the arena of special needs, we discussed some good direction for this young family to take to be proactive and positive in their planning. Planning for family times, for church related events, or even outings to work or other places can be a challenge. Here are some ideas we discussed that might help you, too, as you communicate with family and friends, church relationships, and even work friends should you receive a family invitation. Here are some responses you can consider:

  • “We hope we can stay the whole time, but because new and different things (you don’t need to give details as it might turn out the reason you need to leave wasnt’ on your list) for our little one, we might scoot out earlier than we’d want to. Don’t be offended if we need to or if we exit without a good bye. Sometimes things are happening so fast we just need to make decisions and move forward fast!”

  • “While we so appreciate getting the invitation, we’re going to have to decline. We have had some new situations and behaviors (your’e not obligated to give details) that we feel are too challenging right now to leave home. Please know we’d much rather be with you than home alone, but this year we must bow out.”

  • “Thanks for your kind invitation. We need to take a rain check for another time.”

Spreading our self too thin and not being able to relax is a very stressful part of the holidays, so taking a look at events and opportunities before we respond is so very helpful to each of us—host and guest alike! As a host, let’s think ahead to how we can welcome those in challenging situations and also how we might graciously accept and understand their decline if they need to. Holidays are challenging enough, but with grace and love toward each other, we can find that even being “home for the holidays” from time to time, is OK!

Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferriniwww.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/