Why the Holidays Can Be Difficult for Special Needs Families

A special needs parent finds reasons to feel grateful this holiday season -- and every day

By Carissa Garabedian, publisher of Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va. December 4, 2019

So many of us with special needs kids wonder how we will make it through the holidays. Many of us get lost in worry and anxiety with our kids and we forget about appreciating and finding happiness in the simple joy of the season. 

In some families, large gatherings may not be possible due to a child having difficulty with sensory issues or maybe even food allergies. This can lead to spending holidays alone as a small family unit, which can make you feel excluded from the extended celebration.

That, combined with the struggle of day-to-day care of a special needs child, means many parents feel burned out and unable to find any energy for holiday preparations. 

One way I've found to combat the holiday exhaustion is to find gratitude in what our special needs kids DO give us. Here is a list of six reasons I feel thankful for what my special needs child has offered me:

1. Our children have and continue to make us better people.

We are more patient, we are more sensitive, we are more aware. 

2. Our children teach us to forgive.

There is no perfect and we learn and grow every day.

3. Our children show us how to be strong.

We have learned to fight for what is right for them and to face our fears. For me, that means I have learned to speak publicly. Who would have thought that when I was in high school? Not my teachers! As parents of special needs children, we are also mentally and physically strong.

4. We have a "tribe."

Your tribe are the people who do get you, your family dynamics, and your kids. It may be a small tribe, but that is OK. There is such strength in knowing who we can turn to and trust in times of need.

5. We have the "power" to make someone's day.

As special needs parents we have this uncanny sense to see when another caregiver or parent is having a bad day and with a single look or smile we can let them know we understand.

6. Our children see things with more simplicity.

That ability helps us and all who know them see how to appreciate the little things.

That's my list. What is on yours?

If this holiday season you are feeling lonely and like you're not doing enough, please know that it will be OK. Just remember to make each moment matter. Make it a great holiday for those who will be with you. Remind yourself of your gratitude list and know that not a day goes by that you are not making a difference in a life that matters.

Know that you touch so many that never even tell you, just by watching you do what you do every day! Know that those who do know you admire you, and remember your child is the truest gift of what matters today -- and every day.

Cherish what you have and give yourself a hug. Know that I -- and all the other special needs parents out there -- are giving you one too.

Carissa Garabedian is the publisher of and mother to a special needs child. Carissa also publishes Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va.