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Surviving Easter

No doubt if you have entered a supermarket over the last month or two you may have noticed the smell of hot cross buns or seen the aisles decorated with eggs, rabbits and chicks, with bright shiny boxes and foil in the attempt to lure you into buying masses of chocolate eggs all in the name of Easter.

For many, Easter is an exciting time spent with family and friends, bonnet parades, egg hunts and lots of chocolate but for others it can be a stressful time bringing dysregulation, overwhelm and sugar infused meltdowns.

Too often we are led to believe what Easter should look like due to picture perfect images on social media and in films where families gather together for beautifully cooked meals, swop gifts, go for long peaceful walks in the countryside, have fun finding eggs in well planned Easter egg hunts and enjoying each other’s company filled with fun and laughter. Unfortunately, for many, these images are far from the truth and are scenes we can only dream of.

Whatever your plans, it is important to accept what is right for your family circumstance. Whether that is following family traditions and beliefs, meeting up with family and friends, going away for the weekend or just having a quiet day at home if it works for you that is all that matters.

Like all holidays it is a good idea to plan in advance what you are going to do. Easter is usually in the middle of a two-week school break, so already your normal daily routine will be different. Plan the week and use a daily timetable, so there is a visual reminder of the day. Often the unknown is scary for our children so knowing what is happening can reduce their anxieties and overwhelm. It is important to keep to your normal daily routine as much as possible for predictability, keeping meal and bedtimes the same.

You may wish to plan in some outdoor activities, like a trip to the park or a bike ride to burn off the excess energy, especially if lots of chocolate and sweet things have been eaten. If out and about you could look for large fallen branches which you can take home, stand in a pot and decorate with ribbons and paper decorations and have it as your ‘Easter tree.’ Also, plan in some quieter moments so you can all have some peace and quiet. A family movie or quiet activity can be a welcome down time even for the most active of children.

Find out what Easter means for your child. Often, we assume that our children automatically understand or know expectations of celebrations and events. For many, it can be scary and they will need help and support to navigate these times. They may not understand the meaning of Easter and why we celebrate. They may have heard the story of Jesus on the cross and have many questions or fears. Sometimes these fears or worries can come out of the blue and may take a while for you to understand where they came from. For example, last year we had a really tricky Good Friday. From the moment he woke up my son was on edge. He couldn’t settle and his behaviour throughout the day was unusually difficult. It wasn’t until the evening when it all came to a head, and he asked us if we can skip good Friday next year as he found it too difficult to behave, that we realised that he thought ‘Good Friday’ meant that he had to be ‘Good’ and had put so much pressure on himself to behave that he became too overwhelmed and dysregulated.  For others they can get carried away in the fantasy of the Easter bunny and chocolate and all the lovely things that they want to do, which may be completely different from you own ideas. So, it is important to address this and manage expectations to save disappointment on the day.

As chocolate is inevitably going to play a part in your Easter celebrations it is important to manage this appropriately for your child. Some children can munch away on chocolate and sweet things with out any consequence but for others who may have an addiction to sugar or issues with food it can be a different story. Did you know that sugar is reportedly 7-8 times more addictive that opioids such as cocaine?

Decide in advance on how you are going to manage this. If receiving large volumes of chocolate eggs will be tricky for your child, speak with family and friends and offer alternative suggestions, a book, colouring pad and pencils or small craft items are often good alternatives. You could swop chocolate eggs in your egg hunt for plastic eggs, each child having a different colour to collect. If you wish to you can fill each egg with a sticker or small prize. This will lower the amount of chocolate you will have to deal with. You will then have to decide if you are happy for your child to have control of their eggs and manage their own consumption or whether you will need to put the chocolate away and manage it for them. This can bring its own difficulties for your children; Will they get their chocolate back? Will someone else eat it? Are just a couple of worries that may arise. You could buy your child their own box to keep their chocolate eggs in which are then put in a safe place.

If you have an excess of chocolate, you can be creative in how it is consumed. You can add it to hot milk to make hot chocolate, make rice crispy cakes or even melt it down and make a chocolate fondue with strawberries and other fruits.

Whatever happens over this period, it is important not to be hard on yourself. Don’t get caught up in the commercial hype if it is not what your family can manage, enjoy the little things and take each day as it comes. If it gets too stressful you can always reward yourself with the excess chocolate to make yourself feel better.

 Written By Emma Edwards


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