Tips to surviving the Christmas Holiday Season + Gingerbread recipe

A joyful occasion that can feel overwhelming and daunting for parents and children with feeding challenges. 

When you think of the Christmas holiday season, what first springs to mind? Christmas morning opening presents, trips to the beach, family gatherings, end-of-year Christmas events, baking Christmas cookies? While these may all seem like loving, pleasant occasional, they all have a common theme, food is typically at the center of all holiday celebrations and traditions.

For children with feeding challenges, this can be an incredibly stressful time of year, firstly with food being the main component of many traditions, extended family members asking questions with little accommodating, not to mention the sensory overload that occurs with lights, music, smells, noise, etc. It is no wonder this can be a tricky time of year, for both children and caregivers. For caregivers of children with feeding challenges, this can also be a tough time of year, on top of the additional stress that is Christmas in general. 

It is important to acknowledge and identify what is most important to you and your whānau these holidays. Whether you have just begun your feeding therapy journey, are considering starting, or are simply seeking some survival tips. Here are some top tips for getting through the holiday season:

  • Educate and inform extended whānau of the skills you have been learning in therapy and discuss that food may be tricky this Christmas. Asking all members to not bring attention to your child’s food, what they are or are not eating is a crucial step to reducing their anxiety around food. 
  • We can find that some children will try new food when around cousins/other family members. However, it is important not to draw attention to this as doing so will reduce the likelihood of them ever trying that food again. 
  • Plan ahead – when attending Christmas and whānau gatherings, plan ahead by bringing a plate of food that has options for your child. This allows them to enjoy the gathering without worrying about what they might eat. 
  • Get creative in the kitchen: Christmas cookie decorating is a tradition in a lot of households. Below is an amazing and easy recipe for gingerbread biscuits. Firstly, there are many great sensory experiences involved here, and children feel a great sense of involvement and achievement when making something that is shared or given to others. 

Recipe: Gingerbread biscuits 

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup white whole wheat flour (half all-purpose, half whole wheat flour)
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp Allspice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Molasses
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • ¼ Cup Butter (softened room temperature)

Preheat oven to 180 Degrees

In a bowl combine all ingredients, using hands combine into a ball (add more milk if dough is too dry).

Option to refrigerate for 10 minutes in plastic wrap, although totally okay to skip this step.

In between two sheets of baking paper or on a floured bench, roll the dough out flat, to about ¼ inch thick.

Using preferred cookie cutters, cut out shapes in the dough and transfer to a baking tray.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.

Let completely cool before decorating, you have free creative power here.

Enjoy!

Christmas is about being with loved ones, friends, and whānau. Food is what brings us all together. I hope these tips help to reduce anxiety for children and caregivers, freeing up more time for love, laughter, and enjoying all the Christmas has to offer. 

Wishing you and your whānau and very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year x 

Rebecca Barnard

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