Family traditions for families with special needs

tour special needs family

For families with disabled or special needs children, it is important that family activities and traditions include all members, regardless of their abilities. Finding creative ways to include both children with disabilities and their siblings in activities that everyone can enjoy is part of building a strong, cohesive family unit.

No One Left Behind

It is not only the disabled child that can feel left out of family activities. Siblings of disabled children often may feel that they are given less attention or focus due to their brother or sister's condition. Finding ways for the entire family to connect and enjoy activities together is important for creating those special bonds that will last a lifetime.


For all of us, holidays are often some of our fondest memories as children. Creating special family holiday memories that everyone can participate in is important. Instead of eliminating activities that would be difficult for the disabled child to participate in, find ways to incorporate them in the activity. For example, instead of a family tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree, you may have a tradition that the entire family picks out a new ornament for the tree each year.


Getting away together as a family is important. Finding destinations that are both fun and accessible for everyone may be a challenge but it can be done. Look for places that have a variety of options. Theme parks may be great for some families, as there are many different activities for everyone to enjoy. For those with severe disabilities, day trips may be the best options, possibly with two vehicles incase the day gets too long for the disabled or special needs child.

Special Events.

Weddings, birthdays and other family events can be fun and also challenging for specially blended families. While you want all your children to connect with extended family and friends, finding ways to attend with a child with disabilities can take some planning. Make sure you have any special foods and calming devices that you may need. Also make sure there is somewhere at the function that you can take your child to get away if they need some alone time.

Create Your Own Rules A special family often means you need your own special rules. Teach your children from an early age that being part of a family with members that have special needs means being flexible. When issues arise, as they are bound to do, that interfere with plans, these plans may need to be rescheduled. The important thing is to make sure that even if plans get delayed, that they do happen.

If Thanksgiving gets cancelled due to a hospital stay, it still happens a week or two down the road. Knowing that nothing is lost, just moved, can make difficult situations easier for the whole family.

By finding ways to create precious memories as a family, regardless of limitations, the bonds between siblings and parents can become even stronger. By adjusting your traditions to include all members of the family you can create your own happy memories that everyone can cherish.

Holidays have always been times that families join together to share in traditions.

Family traditions promote positive emotional development in children. They help children feel connectedness to others and develop a family's sense of identity. Traditions can build relationship and strengthen bonds to last a lifetime. Your family can be creative in accommodating special needs in your traditions.

Traditions can be as traditional or diverse as families themselves. Consider each family member's needs and values. Think about values you want to promote as part of your family's identity. When your family includes children or adults with special needs, it is important to choose activities that everyone can enjoy. It is also important not to feel as if you have to do things the way everyone else does if it would be stressful or difficult for your family. Doing what works for you can reduce stress and helps create memorable traditions that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Tips for Developing Traditions with Special Needs Children:

When planning a meal for a child with food allergies or other special diet needs, try to offer several choices of special foods if possible and serve the special foods in festive dishes so the food is seen as special too.

Share special family stories and memories, and be sure to include the special needs child as well as others.

If your child has difficulty sharing stories because of language issues, allow him to show pictures of happy events or times that were special for him.

Have each person share something they are thankful for, or share something they appreciate about the family.

Read stories about the holiday together. Choose books with illustrations and words that your special needs child can understand.

Be sure to take pictures of everyone, and display them for everyone to see. After the celebration, help family members place photos in scrapbooks.

Include your children in decorating for the holiday. Provide your child with some appropriate choices for decoration, and allow her to choose what to display and where. The holidays are such a special time, creating family memories and traditions which will stay with your special-needs children the rest of their lives.

Allow your child to participate in food preparation, setting the table, and clean up as her ability levels allow.

Include your child in making invitations and sending thank you notes. If your child has writing difficulty, allow him to use stamps, color designs or images, or decorate with embellishments that are appropriate for his age and developmental level.

Keep realistic behavior expectations, and plan alternative activities for your child when she needs a break from others. Know your child's limits, and ensure adequate nap time or time away from the noise and stimulation that sometimes comes at family gatherings.

Family traditions are things that families do together on a regular basis. These things can be patterns of behavior, enjoyable activities or a certain food that a family likes. It is important for families to observe their traditions even as their children get older.

Here are five reasons why family traditions are important:

1. Family traditions create good feelings and special moments to remember. Enjoying this time together as a family will create positive emotions in each member and these are the memories that will last a lifetime.

2. Family traditions give every member of the family a strong sense of belonging. Being a part of a family is more than living in the same home or having the same last name, it is about relationships and family bonds. Since family traditions are something you do together, they strengthen the bonds you have between each other.

3. Family traditions help with his/her identity. It helps to know that you ‘belong’ when you are trying to figure out who you are, which is a main job of the adolescent. A family that encourages a teen to be a part of it and its traditions provides a strong foundation for teens to stand on when they’re searching and defining their sense of self.

4. Family traditions help impart the family’s values to their children. Showing your teen what having the ability to love is about happens naturally when you spend quality time together – like during a traditional family activity. You will also find more opportunities to talk to your teen about serious issues as well as keep the conversations light when you observe a family traditions.

5. Family traditions offer your teen a sense a security. Everyday your teen faces some very difficult issues. Knowing that she is secure and has a family to turn to is a powerful tool to use against negative peer pressure.

A strong family has a commitment to one another and keeps increasing in strength because of the time we spend together participating in family traditions.

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