This year may be quieter than previous holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect families across the country. This may mean that trip to the in-laws’ house is canceled this year, and it might bring a mix of emotions: relief (whew – no stressful traffic!), longing (aw shucks, I really did like auntie’s leftover casserole), and apprehension (now what?). We have read blog posts in the past on how to survive the holidays in a gifted or twice-exceptional household, but how will families navigate the “new-normal” holidays this year?
One of the biggest challenges this time of year for gifted and 2e children is how holiday activities and events shake up a typical family routine. As many typical events will not be taking place this year, families may find themselves with a non-existent holiday schedule or routine, which can be just as disruptive. Rather than filling your empty schedule with an alternate to-do list, we invite your gifted family to lean into the downtime that a quieter holiday might afford.
Structuring in some guilt-free downtime may be just want your family needed after the ups and downs of 2020. However, it will be important to consider how different members in your household recharge. Some may be happy for some one-on-one time while relaxing on the couch, some may feel anxious without the usual earmarks of the holiday, or some may be too young (or too teen-aged) to care. Try to hold a family meeting or bring up the topic around dinner to get a pulse on what people are happier leaving behind, what people might be missing, or how people want to spend their time in general during the holiday break.
Gifted and twice-exceptional children have characteristics that can make regular holidays difficult to navigate, and these same characteristics may also be at play during unstructured breaks. Within one household, you may be dealing with one or a mix of all the following: overexcitabilities, perfectionism, emotional intensities, existential thinking, asynchronous development, and an acute sense of injustice. To make the most of the downtime this holiday, we have provided the following tips to help you and your differently wired children take it easy as we wind down the year!
For the Perfectionist – Perfectionist children may tend to work on projects throughout the school break or have a hard time letting go of their high expectations. These children may need the most help scaffolding in downtime and letting go of the Hallmark-perfect holiday they had in their head. Scheduling in specific times for physically oriented activities like walking, sledding, or yoga may help them take a break from their internal monologue and ease into living in the moment and experiencing the season.
For the Anxious and Emotionally Aware – These children may pick up on other peoples’ stress or have emotional reactions to the news, which may be amplified by the heightened emotions the holidays can bring. They tend to attune themselves to others and are sincere people-pleasers or peace-makes. Why not help them by letting them help you? Delegate festive tasks and other holiday chores like holiday cards or hanging decorations. If they find themselves too overwhelmed by their emotions, a calming craft like frosting cookies may be a good option.
For the Extrovert with Overexcitabilities– This year may be especially hard for this personality type without the typical social and physical outlets. Boundless joy and energy may be difficult to positively channel when quarantining in tight quarters. Help them schedule times to video chat with all their friends and family members whom they can’t see in person this year, as these children like to recharge by being with others. Cooperative board games or role-playing games are activities that can also be implemented to help nurture a sense of connectivity between household members.
For the Existentialist – Winter tends to bring out self-reflection as the general pace of life slows down and the days become darker. Gifted children who have a propensity towards existential thinking may find it constructive to work through guided writing prompts that encourage them to reflect on the year and then set an affirmation, mantra, or manifesto for what they would like to happen in the coming year. If you believe they have gone too far down the rabbit hole, keep them company and practice mindfulness or breathing meditation to bring them back to the present moment.
For the Moral Crusader – Many gifted and 2e children have a strong sense of idealism or are passionate about social justice. When so much has gone wrong in 2020, these children may be feeling especially burnt out by the end of the year. Now is a good time to let them know how they have positively contributed to your and others’ well being this past year. Next, help them find an optimistic outlook for 2021 by identifying small, actionable steps you can do as a family to address the world issues they are most concerned about, such as reducing plastic use weekly, donating to the Foodbank, or planting a pollinator garden.
For the Parents – Any of the above characteristics may apply to you as well – we know the apple never really falls that far from the tree! Above all though, don’t let guilt stand in your way this holiday. You may feel like you are not doing enough or that you are not enough for your family but know that you are. You who have homeschooled while remote working and more – you have done your best to navigate an extraordinary and unprecedented year. It is time for your break this holiday as well, so be sure to indulge in whatever activities you find most enjoyable and toast yourself for a job well done!
While every person’s method for rest and relaxation may differ, we hope you and your family are able to lean into the absence of large gatherings and big events to find some respite at the end of the year.
Looking for additional tips and tricks for holiday stress? Try some of our community favorites for holiday-ing while gifted:
“Surviving the Holidays With a House Full of Gifted Folks” from Institute for Educational Advancement
“Parenting Gifted Children Through the Holidays” from SENG
“Managing Your Child’s Intensity During the Holidays” from Raising Lifelong Learners
“Holiday Stress: What parents of gifted children need to know” from Gifted Challenges
“Holiday Break Survival Plan Webinar” From TiLT Parenting
Hoagies’ Blog Hop: Surviving the Holidays from Hoagies Gifted Education Page