Tips on Making Christmas a "Relaxed Performance", not just for those with Autism.

To me Christmas is cheesy festive music, mostly from the 70's and 80's, piles of turkey and all the trimmings, celebrating with our larger the average family and a chance to catch up with friends with yet more food and possibly the odd glass of something sparkly.

Christmas stockings in madmumof7's house

I even love hearing the old classic songs as a constant background while I'm shopping- it really does put me in the Christmas mood even if I have heard Little Drummer Boy four times in four shops in an hour.

My daughter and husband however work in retail and say if they hear Rocking Around The Christmas Tree one more time they might finally lose their minds and rampage screaming down the aisles of the supermarket they work in brandishing a French stick as a weapon.

It goes to show one person's meat is another person's poison.

In recent years we have had to think slightly differently about how we celebrate Christmas. For one we not have all our children at home any more and I have found it particularly difficult to accept that I cannot always have them all round my Christmas lunch table. And of course the older ones don't want to come to Carols On The Green with mummy any more. They want to go and party with their own friends.

UK Christmas

I think I may have just had the last year in church of persuading my younger children to join in with the crib service. Years ago I had to peg up the costumes so they didn't trip while walking. Now some of them are in secondary school and I am very lucky they still humour me and take part.

Our youngest has autism and finds much of the "traditional" stuff overwhelming. I used to try and bribe him to have at least some regular Christmas food on his plate but in the last few year I've accepted that he should be able to eat what he likes on that special day.

Last year celebrating at my son's flat in Southsea we allowed him to relax on the sofa as with lots of people he didn't really know there he would have found enforced table sitting far too stressful, even with a different meal to ours on offer.

The smells, chatting between 20 plus people and a not very familiar room made even less familiar by the need to put a blooming great long table in it would have been sheer hell for him. So we made him a nest.

(Lucky for me he doesn't seem to mind the endless Christmas music playing in our house and even makes requests every now and then for his favourite, All I Want for Christmas, Is You.)

This year it was just us at home so he was happy to sit at the table for most of the meal. I asked him what he would like to eat and he was keen for egg mayo sandwiches and an Iceland pizza with hotdog stuffed crust. The very thought of which makes me want to hurl but he loves them.

Boy with autism enjoying Iceland pizza on Christmas Day

Of course our nearest Iceland is miles away but a plea on Facebook resulted in one VERY kind friend volunteering to go and buy him one. (Thanks Tracy!)

We rounded the day off visiting lovely friends but left some of the children at home as they wanted to relax and enjoy Christmas in their own way. Namely gaming and eating chocolate. Yes, it would have been nice to go out as a family but we've come to terms with the fact that it's more fun for everyone if we sometimes accept they don't always want to be with us.

It was a slightly different Christmas to what might have been my ideal day in previous years.

Yes my eldest left before lunch to head to the In-Laws BUT we had a couple of really lovely days beforehand, he and his partner joined us for not one but three church services (he even acted as acolyte, assisting the minister during Midnight Mass with his sister) and was there for the excitement of seeing what Santa had brought.

acolytes at Midnight Mass

Yes my youngest refused to eat turkey with us and spent much of the day on one screen or another BUT he was relaxed and happy and we didn't have one single meltdown or shutdown which autism parents will tell you is a Christmas miracle.

Boy with light up snowman

Yes we finished the day with just two children accompanying us for a gorgeous tea at a friend's (BTW frozen grapes my new fave snack)  BUT it meant the whole family enjoyed the whole day with no moans about boredom or requests to go home!

Cheeseboard in candlelight

However you spent your Christmas I hope it was equally relaxed and happy - if not, maybe take some time and plan next year's event as a "relaxed performance"  even if you don't have anyone with ASD in the family.  Let go of expectation and think about what you really like doing and eating on your ideal day and make that your Christmas celebration.