PWS Blog

Navigating through the Holidays

Posted: Dec 12, 2014 by The Children's Institute

Holidays can be a stressful time of year for many people for a multitude of reasons. They are particularly stressful for individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome and their families. This time of year, there are many holiday parties and gatherings with family, at school, at work, and in the community. Most of these holiday festivities include food, are usually unstructured in nature and involve many people. All of these factors lead to increased anxiety for individuals with PWS, which may manifest itself in difficult behavior . The following are some behavioral and environmental guidelines to assist you with navigating through the holiday season.

• Make plans. If attending a holiday party with family, at school or in the community, always plan ahead with your child. Let your child know when the party will be, what activities your child will be participating in, and if your child will be eating prior to/after, or at the party. Identify exactly what your child will be eating.

• Review the plan with your child starting a couple of days before the party. Bring a copy of the plan to the party.

• Go over the “rules” for the party. Be specific about expected behaviors. Inform your child of who will be supervising them during the party.

• Host the party. You have much more control over food, structure, and managing the environment in your own home. You can be a model for the rest of your friends and family on how to throw a wonderful holiday party, without having the focus be on food.

• If going somewhere else for a holiday party, know the menu. Talk to the host and plan what food your child can have and what you will need to bring to the party for your child.

• Avoid family style meals. Plan to have the food prepared and served in the kitchen, separate from the dining area. Prepare the plate for your child with exactly what was planned on your child’s menu.

• You and your child may want a “special” place to eat, away from the majority of people who are eating heaping plates of holiday food.

• Once the meal is complete, engage your child in activities away from the dining area. (work from the plan you created and reviewed with your child prior to the party.)

• All food should be put away when the meal is complete so that it does not provide an additional source of temptation or anxiety for your child.

• If eating a meal during a holiday party is just too difficult for your child, you may want to join the party after the meal has been served and leftovers have been put away.

• The important aspect of the holiday season is to focus on the activities at the party and socialization with friends and family. Take the focus off of food!

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