special needs family gathering
Crystal Covington

How to introduce your special needs child to relatives

It’s that time of year, the holidays are here! Time for food, family, & fun. The COVID pandemic has kept people apart for far too long. This month, families are traveling to spend quality time with loved ones. But how do you explain to relatives (whether they are traveling or you are traveling to them) the accommodations your child may need? Whether you have a young child or an adult child, the following tips are applicable for your special needs holiday gathering.

Here are 7 steps to get prepared before spending time with kinsfolk:

Have an honest & open conversation about the diagnosis

Have an open conversation with the family about special needs for your child. Talk about the difficulties & needs of your child, but don’t forget to talk about the positive aspects as well. You can also consider providing information on books, professional blogs, etc. regarding the disability of your child. Your family members can then approach you with informed questions about the disability.

Be matter of fact during the conversation

Talk about the science about the condition. Try to limit emotion and emotion. Stick to the facts about the disability.  Stating facts is the first step to getting family to accept a child with a disability

Set clear expectations & boundaries

Be honest and clear about the appropriate interaction with your child. You can use the science of the condition to support why you have these expectations in place. For example, if your child can’t eat any nuts, explain why this is the case & what would happen if the child ate a nut.

Don’t feel the need to apologize

Your child is fine & there is no need to apologize for the adaptations you have in place. An apology is a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure. Your child’s accommodations are not offenses or wrongdoing.

Be prepared for a response

People may make statements out of ignorance without realizing it. You can develop key responses that you can keep in the back of your mind. For example, if someone says “What’s wrong with your kid”, you can be prepared to respond in a positive way.  Here is a nice article that provides some great ideas to prepare.

Select an appropriate time to have a discussion

Pick a day/time in which you & your family members are not overwhelmed or bombarded with everyday life. This may be easier said than done, but it is important to be in a neutral state when talking about your child.

Consider virtual visits

If accommodations can not be made, there is no need to worry or fret. Virtual interactions are possible & there is nothing wrong with selecting this option.


I hope you find these tips helpful. If you need any other ideas for speaking with relatives for the holidays, feel free to set up a meeting with me.


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