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EpisodesSeason 2 Holidays

Hard No for the Holidays: Showing Kindness to Families of Kids Who Struggle

Holiday Miniseries 2 | December 6, 2022

Showing Kindness to Families of Kids Who Struggle

Sarah Rintamaki and Karla Fitch, of Connecting For Kids, discuss the best ways to support families and children with other needs during the holiday season.


Welcome to “That’s a Hard No” – the podcast about saying no and setting boundaries so you can become the authentic and empowered you that this world needs.

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This holiday miniseries is meant to cover topics that can support us and help us create welcoming and safe holidays for all of our loved ones. In this episode we discuss alternative and thoughtful ways to show additional kindness to children who are currently struggling and their families.

It can really show a lot of empathy and understanding to just reach out and say: “Hey, what can I do to make things more comfortable for you and your child?” And can I say how infrequently that happens?

  • It’s the Thought that Counts
    • Reaching out and Asking
      • Many people forget to or are afraid to ask when they know that a family member or loved one has a child with different needs as a guest in their home what specifically can help.
      • The best support is making it know that you are on their mind and any circumstance for the event is understood.
    • What Questions to Ask
      • Each child is different, but you can ask families to clarify what we may need to think about.
        • Sensory, having a safe/quiet space
      • If we can provide certain items for additional support
        • I.e. places to eat, types of food, etc.
      • What behaviors we should potentially expect
      • If they even want to come, if it’s too much. Keep pressure low.
  • Season of Maybes
    • Understand that maybe could be the best answer you will have. Sometimes something minor can throw off the entire day and its a better option for family and child to stay home. Be understanding of those times.
    • Continue to invite and include them in hopes that someday/one day their maybe will turn into a yes.
    • Empathize with the fact that being unable to attend certain events due to their children’s needs may be very difficult for the rest of the family.
      • They may feel lonely and isolated, providing leftovers or the option for one-on-one gift opening or a visit afterwards could be comforting.

I think you give the grace for family to opt-out but then you also think, hopefully can acknowledge some way where they can feel as though they got those family connections and support that can happen during these holiday functions and work with them to make sure they’re not too isolated.

  • Social Skills
    • Expectations of children in the social arena are unfair.
    • Realize that most children, no matter the age or ability, have social struggles.
      • Don’t require a child to greet someone verbally or force them to hug.
  • Foods
    • This is an important ask for all guests attending events but especially for children. Be sure to have alternative options and/or at least appropriately mark foods with certain dietary restrictions or allergies mentioned by guests.
      • For a parent with children who have severe food allergies this can be an extremely stressful environment. Putting in the extra effort to ensure the parent does not have to worry about their child eating something dangerous is extremely helpful.
    • Letting the parent know what foods to expect – some children have feeding issues and may require additional foods from home or ways to eat.
  • Sensory Issues
    • Providing a safe/quiet space for children to be able to walk away and have the opportunity for a break from noise, people, and other stimulants.
  • We All Have Bad Days
    • If there happens to be a situation where the child is having some reactive behavior:
      • Make sure everyone is safe
      • Do not blame/shame the child or parent
      • Normalize that we all have bad days
      • Mouth quiet/smile on

 I think that is something that is really hard, especially in our culture, where behavior is seen as a reflection on parenting rather than a child who’s unable to handle the situation.

  • What Parents Can Do To Prepare
    • Don’t hold on to specific perfect plans/holiday moments
    • Give yourself grace
    • Don’t be afraid to advocate for you and your child
    • Tell the kids what to expect, add all details if necessary
  • Remember:
    • Kindness
    • Communication
    • Compassion
Where to Find Connecting for Kids
Credits and Thanks