It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the point of hearing Mariah Carey in every store, but the festive season is well and truly upon us!

Whatever your year has held, we hope this holiday season is a time of rest and joy with your family and loved ones. As we prepare to gather and celebrate, one of the most important things we can consider is how to get everyone involved in bringing festive preparations to life. Inclusivity is at the heart of our holiday celebrations – with some thoughtful adjustments, Christmas can become more meaningful to every member of the family.

Making Christmas personal

We’re served a certain version of Christmas in Hallmark films, but in reality, Christmas can look very different from family to family. This can also be a highly stressful or isolating time of year for some people, with increased pressures and expectations often inherent to the holiday season.

One of the most powerful choices you can make as a family is deciding what is most important about this holiday season to all of you. Before we take a look at inclusive opportunities for preparation, consider having a conversation across the family (or friend) unit about where you’d like to place your time, money and energy this Christmas.

Does a hot, elaborate Christmas Day lunch add stress and pressure to the week leading up to it? Skipping the cooking and ordering in could save everyone a world of frustration.

Are budgets under strain after a costly year? Perhaps each family member could prepare a gift for another member, rather than being responsible for multiple gifts.

Whatever Christmas looks like to you and your family, beginning with a clarified understanding of what truly brings joy and togetherness at this time of year can help to remove stress, anxiety and tension. We recommend having a group conversation about the rhythms and rituals that create connection, identifying those that can be changed or removed altogether.

Plan ahead of time

If your family is travelling to someone else’s home for a Christmas celebration, connecting with the host ahead of time can ensure necessary accessibility is in place for the event. This may mean a change of venue if the host’s home isn’t easily accessible.

Flexibility is a huge part of a successful communal experience, whether during the holiday season or throughout the year. Christmas can be a wonderful opportunity to communicate the needs of your loved one with your friends and family, ensuring an inclusive approach to group events and experiences year-round.

Consider the ‘small’ details

Accessibility isn’t solely about necessary wheelchair access – other considerations may include how loud the party will be, how visually stimulating the environment is, and whether there’s a quiet, private space that can be used for your loved one if they need a moment alone amid family activities.

While these details may seem small to hosts or family members not familiar with the nuances of your loved one’s needs, they can make a world of difference. Communicating around these areas ahead of time can help build an environment that’s more welcoming and inclusive for every member of the party.

Plan with your loved one

One of the biggest jobs of any festive season? Planning!

What to eat? Who’s bringing which dish? Which presents are most suited for each guest? Are you planning holidays or day trip adventures? Then there are the playlists, games and decorations to consider. It’s a long list, with plenty of preparation going into each festive event.

By planning ahead and in partnership with your loved one, you can create plenty of opportunities for ownership and shared responsibility.

Perhaps they’re not at all interested in the tablescape, but can’t wait to make the famed family Christmas trifle – assign them to menu planning. If they couldn’t care less about cooking, ask them to scour Pinterest for easy hacks to holiday decorations that suit your space and budget.

Ultimately, the best festive experiences are those that are shaped with love and thoughtfulness. By building planning rituals into shared family experiences, you can create a rich sense of ownership that makes a significant difference in the anticipation and enjoyment of the holiday season.

Prepare ahead of time

So many of the necessary parts of a Christmas experience can be brought to life by an individual living with disability. It’s all about adaptability and flexibility.

Instead of rushing to prepare a large festive meal, clean and decorate your home all on the same day, consider how these preparation activities can be broken up in the lead-up to the event.

Not only will this be helpful for every family member as they plan, but it can also create a beautiful sense of anticipation, counting down together during the prep work. In fact, sometimes the preparations can be more fun than the event itself!

Preparations that can take place as a family include:

  • A Christmas activity countdown. Routines and expectations can be a great help for loved ones living with disability, and with a festive season bringing many disruptions to routines, this can be a challenging experience. By preparing a countdown calendar of tasks together ahead of the busy holiday season, everyone can look at what’s coming up and get ready accordingly, rather than feeling bombarded by last-minute chores, errands or holiday events.
  • A decorating party! Set aside a day or an evening early in the festive season and enjoy the process of bringing your home to life for the holidays. Lighting the Christmas tree can be a beautiful moment of calm and quiet – consider how everyone can contribute to this ritual in a way that’s meaningful and enjoyable. This is also a great opportunity to make sure you’ve got the right kind of lights for every family member. Warm, soft static lights may be better than bright white lights or those that flash, while colourful lights may be either a useful or an overwhelming visual stimulus, depending on different needs and preferences. Consider the needs of your family members and opt for holiday lights that fit accordingly.
  • Holiday baking and cooking. Whether your loved one’s a wizard in the kitchen or learning the basics, there’s a wide range of holiday recipes that suit every skill level. Ask them to take ownership of a dish that suits their skills and interests, and watch as it evolves from year to year in a new tradition!

Remember what matters

Ultimately, festive seasons are less about postcard-perfect versions and more about togetherness. The more focus you can place on spending time with your loved one and building rituals that are meaningful and enjoyable, the more you’ll enjoy the season overall.

Take the pressure off, pour yourself your favourite drink and get dreaming – what does this holiday season mean for you and your family?

Our Lifestyle Attendants provide rich support for our customers throughout the holiday season. Get in touch to learn more about how we can support your loved one’s independence and autonomy year-round.