With the arrival of Advent, a new liturgical year has begun. While our thoughts are preoccupied with all the things we need to do before Christmas, it helps to stop and remind ourselves that Advent is a season of preparation for more than just gift giving. As special needs parents, we may even find Advent to be a season of panic before the craziness of Christmas throws our child, and our families for a loop. How will we manage dietary restrictions at parties? How will we get our children to sit through longer than usual Masses and special events? How will we visit family and friends who live in inaccessible homes? What extra steps will we need to take to keep our child calm, or properly fed, or monitored when we are in a new place and outside our normal routine?
But God doesn't want worry to be the focus of Advent. He doesn't want fear dictating our plans and actions. The only preparation that matters to Him, is to prepare our hearts and souls for the arrival of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we do nothing else by December 25th but welcome him with sincere joy and contrition, we will have succeeded.
But what can we do to better prepare? How can we avoid letting worldly concerns and the little every day annoyances stand in our way? There are many wonderful options like devotionals, bible studies, studying the Mass readings, completing a Jesse tree with your children, but for those of us with a vocation to raising special needs children, consider setting aside time to watch some talks from our 2019 conference. Access to all ten video talks is currently on sale for $15. Mary Lenaburg's talk 'Blessing over Burden: Choosing A Life Woven with Joy and Hope' can help you set the tone for your whole Advent. Follow up by reading her book 'Be Brave in the Scared', being sure to study the scripture and complete the questions at the end of each chapter.
My talk 'Peace in the Margins: How to Avoid Physical and Spiritual Burnout as a Special Needs Parent' can explain techniques you can use to strip away unnecessary stressors this month, carve out a few moments for spiritual growth, and find ways to outsource holiday tasks that can drain what precious energy you have to spare.
David Rizzo's talk 'Take This All of You, Catechesis for Children With Special Needs" offers practical advice you can use to figure out ways to help your child engage in Mass more during the holidays, along with discovering ways to create family traditions rooted in the Churches liturgical year for children of all abilities.
Commit to welcoming Jesus without unnecessary stress and worry this Christmas. Don't neglect your spiritual preparation, amidst the material.
How does your family prepare for Advent, and what, if any, special things do you do to accommodate your unique child? Recommend your favorite resources below!