Mental health experts explain how kids can overcome a non-traditional holiday this year

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The holidays won’t look the same this year and it’s disappointing for a lot of kids, but mental health experts say it’s even harder for those with autism spectrum disorders.

From a visit with Santa to big family gatherings, 2020 is showing us that holiday traditions will look a lot different the year.

“What I’m finding is that many students, in general, are struggling with these interrupted routines, diminished social lives and isolation, and students with additional needs are having even more challenges,” Dr. Rebecca Branstetter said.

Branstetter is a school psychologist and child mental health expert. She says children with ADHD, anxiety and autism spectrum disorders may have a difficult time understanding why things have changed this season.

However, she says there are ways for parents to explain it while even learning some life lessons.

“During this time when we have so many disappointments and things like that it’s actually an opportunity to teach things like flexible thinking, empathy because we have to be flexible," Branstetter said.

She says those open discussions could create a unique gift in a really unfortunate situation.

“When you lean in with empathy, it calms our kid’s nervous systems and it opens up more opportunities for coping … once you have empathized with your kids, there are opportunities to get creative with your family and figure out some new fun traditions that will carry you through the holiday season and maybe bring some joy when you reflect back on 2020," Branstetter said.