Planning for Difficult Christmas Situations: A Blog Post by Andrew Whitehouse

The excitement of Christmas and routine changes can be very difficult for children. This post focuses on three challenging areas families face during Christmas: giving and receiving presents, managing overstimulation and excitement, and understanding routine changes.


1. Present Giving and Receiving

The excitement of getting presents can be overwhelming for children. Help them understand polite giving and receiving of gifts with these strategies.

  • Involve Children in Giving – Let children help choose and wrap presents. By participating in the gift giving process, children become interested in seeing other people’s reaction to the present. Even young children can choose between two presents, wrap it up and decide where it should go under the tree.
  • Practice Receiving – Role play receiving a present and thanking someone for it. Make writing thank you cards part of your family routine so that children understand how to thank people politely for presents.

2. Festive Energy

andrews-blogChristmas celebrations often mean sugary foods and late bedtimes. Use the strategies below to manage energy levels and make bedtime more successful.

  • Keep Children Active – Playing games outside or going for walks during the day can help children use their energy in a healthy and positive way. Keep children active during the day so they will be tired at night making bedtime easier.
  • Limit Sweets – Sugary foods and drinks are everywhere and plentiful during over Christmas and New Year. These foods are high not just in sugar, but also in caffeine. They cause children to be overly active and make falling asleep difficult. Set guidelines about how much and when these foods can be consumed and provide healthy alternatives.
  • Try to keep a sleep routine – Even when children are not at school, a consistent sleep schedule is important. Ensure that children wake up and go to bed at a regular time. Plan morning events such as shopping to motivate children to wake up and get ready for the day.

3. Christmas Break Routine Changes

Many children benefit from consistent routines and have difficulty with change. Make holiday routine changes less stressful with these simple tips.

  • Use Visual interventions – Have a Christmas wall chart that lists events in writing, drawing, or picture format depending on the child’s level of understanding and needs. Refer to the wall chart to prepare children for the day’s events and help them understand what is going on and when.
  • Involve Children – Let children add new events to the wall chart. If there are important events the family must attend, explain why attending is important. If there are events that are debatable, include children’s input in decisions about attending the event.


Andrew Whitehouse MSpEd CPSE (PGCert) BAHons QTS

Andrew Whitehouse

Andrew Whitehouse

Is a specialist in Neurological Disorders and provides training and interventions for: Attachment Disorders, ADHD, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome and related conditions. Andrew has a number of roles including training education professionals in schools and colleges, observing young people in the learning environment and providing intervention strategies, working directly with young people to help them achieve their potential.


As well as running networking day courses across the UK for SEN, Andrew provides short courses for Bishop Grosseteste University as well as holding a number of other UK contracts and outreach services including Norfolk, Harlow, Flintshire and Wakefield.


Andrew specialises in working closely with schools to raise standards, including most recently a mainstream school in Durham who had been graded as “requires improvement” by Ofsted.  Following 25 months of intensive interventions they achieved “outstanding”. In November 2016, Andrew chaired the panel Tackling Mental Health, Setting a Strategy at Educated Yorkshire.


Further afield he has provided hands on training events in Cork and Dublin and advised on a Special Schools project in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Andrew is currently working on two projects for the United Arab Emirates and is preparing to travel to Belgium to work with British Schools overseas to provide Autism and ADHD interventions.


Visit Andrew’s website at




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