Caregiver tips for holidays

It can be tough to face the changes that holidays can bring when you are parenting tamariki and/or rangatahi who have a neurobehavioural disorder like FASD.

Others are looking forward to long days of reading, preparing kai, catching up with distant whanau and friends, travelling long distances and sleeping in. However, as caregivers and parents, we know that endless days with little structure or routine, and with the potential for multiple changes of plans can be super-triggering for our FASDlings young or old. And the symptoms of overwhelm can be alarming for whanau members and friends who do not understand this hidden brain-based physical disability, and may sometimes lay their judgement at our over-burdened feet.

Quick Tips

  • Try and communicate plans and FASD information with whanau/friends ahead of time.
  • Sometimes its easier to decline an invitation or to take turns if you are in a parenting partnership.
  • Create an exit plan ahead of time so if things become tense/stressed everyone knows what the plan is.
  • Stay in relationship i.e. keep a connection with your FASDling so they know you have their back. Keep your loyalties attuned to them, so they can trust you.

Brain-based Strategies

These are universally applicable no matter what behaviours you are seeing.

  • Use 'Pause Power' – refuse to engage in the argument, even if every ounce of your being says ‘ but they're so wrong’… ‘I need to show them’ – we need to resist the urge to win and stop fighting. Find the ‘pause’ – the gap between act and react, because this is what helps us get that space between our child's challenging behaviours and our knee-jerk, visceral reaction to them. It can also help us to de-personalise things, so we're not feeling so attacked by it, which I know is especially difficult when it's a verbal or physical assault. Remember, this takes practice, don't be hard on yourself! Let things cool down so that your thinking brain can come online and you can approach the situation in a softer, gentler way that does not clash with your child’s rigid thinking.

  • Stop talking! Many of our kids experience slow processing pace and what we know about our kids is that when things are heated, when they are emotionally dysregulated (and often we are too), no-one can process information very well. Talking can be aggravating to them and so talking as little as you can is beneficial. We can easily talk louder and faster when things are heightened without realising it as well, which will only add to their (and your) dysregulation.

  • Slow down - Remember these kids are ten-second kids in a one-second world! Slow down your speech, but also slow down your body movements, and stay in the moment. Give more time and then give more time and more time – we rarely give our kids enough time.

  • Think 'Brain not Blame' – try to stop and ask yourself ‘what if this is a brain thing?’ The symptom might be throwing a chair ... what’s behind this? Low frustration tolerance, poor memory, not understanding time, cognitive rigidity ... find a mantra so you can soften towards not away from them e.g. “She would do better if she could”. Try to accept that they have ‘on and off days’.

  • Think 'Stage not Age – Try to meet the child or rangatahi where they’re at in terms of psychological age. Think younger - what age does this behaviour remind you of? 

  • Accept the need to re-teach – we often think “I’ve taught this 100 times, they must have got it by now surely!” but it may need more. It’s difficult to accept the need to re-teach. It can raise issues for us of grief and loss, as well as of course complete exasperation! Try to accept graciously that re-teaching is a necessary accommodation.

  • Keep it simple – only one step at a time, even when it is routines or tasks that your child does every single day. Some days are better than others so be responsive and consider using visuals – some days they need fewer words.

  • Don’t take it personally – hard to do, I know! And keep regulated – their dysregulated nervous systems need your regulated nervous systems to recalibrate. ‘Be their green’ – a place of rest.

  • Be gentle with yourself – this is a hard job! Get your emotional cup re-filled if and when you can. Find glimmers (micro-moments of joy) to re-fuel and nourish your nervous system. Reach out to others who get it.

Don't forget to go back to your FASD Handbook: On page 13, 27, 34, 62, 72 are some lists and graphics of accommodations and strategies – they might be helpful to use with whānau members so they understand this is a ‘real thing’.

References used: Fascets NB Model, Brain First Parenting, Dr Mona Delahooke, Nate Sheets.

Summarised by Anna Gundesen, FASD Navigator, Tāmaki Makaurau.


General school holiday tips for FASDlings

When parents, caregivers, grandparents and whānau feel the weeks of school holidays stretching ahead, it can be daunting. Our friends at NOFASD in Australia have put together a great blog with some strategies around creating a routine, downtimes, exercise and ongoing creative play that may be helpful.

Click here to go to the blog. 


Special Christmas tips

Heading towards Christmas? There’s a great article here on managing overwhelm. And a couple from us at FASD-CAN: - 

  • NEVER put edible things on the tree – they’ll all be gone by morning!

  • ALWAYS ensure you have the tree very well anchored when FASDlings are about! Attempts to climb it are common…