Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Buying Toys & Facing Holiday Grief

The frantic holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a tad of holiday stress. Are you feeling it yet? Here are two great resources to help reduce that anxiety, and heighten the joy and magic of this wondrous season.


When it comes to choosing a gift for kids with special needs, most people have no clue as to what's appropriate. That uncertainty contributes to additional familiy stress that leads to hurt feelings and major disappointments, especially for the child receiving gifts that are neither skill-level nor age appropriate (not to mention no fun). No matter how well intentioned, poor gift selection for a child with special needs hurts.

Key Tip: Reserve baby toys and baby talk for babies!

But thanks to retail toy giant Toys 'r Us, who has again produced its terrific annual Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids ('a toy selection guide 'for parents and friends of children with disabilities'), you're off the hook! They've done much of the special needs research required for gift-giving success for you.

By partnering with the National Lekotek Center ( in Chicago, (which includes a helpful 'Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys' on its website), the retail toy giant is again helping ensure that the holiday toy wishes of kids with special needs come true, too. The 2007 guide features spokesperson and First Lady of California Maria Shriver, on its cover. It is available now at Toys 'r Us stores nationwide and can be downloaded at:

As Maria Shriver states in her letter of guide introduction: "These toys help to empower differently-abled kids, encouraging them with a 'can-do' attitude in a world that too often assumes they cannot."

Amen, sister!

Kudos, and extra peppermint fudge, to Toys 'r Us and the National Lekotek Center for creating such a great gift for kids with special needs! Wish I could see all the satisfied grins on the faces of kids with special needs on Christmas morning. No more excuses for poor gift selections for these terrific kids, yea!

But I can't help you with grandma and grandpa...


Facing grief presents a much bigger holiday challenge than finding the perfect gift. For those mourning the passing of a loved one, this season can be especially brutal. Most of the messages at this time of year focus on warm fuzzies, sacred family traditions, noisy celebrations, sinful homemade treats, family movies, and perfectly adorned gifts.

For those endurring great loss, the promise of these often unattainable Hallmark moments can make the holidays excruciatingly painful.

Four years after my son's death, I still find the seasonal terrain a bit rocky to travel. But I've learned how to incorporate my huge loss into the festivities by being selective about how I spend my time, energy and money. Plus, I prioritize quiet time to honor my loss and reflect on my son's too-short life. I remember all too clearly that first holiday season after Eric's death. It went way beyond tough.

I feel fortunate to share a great resource with you that has helped me walk through the minefields of past holiday seasons. 'A Decembered Grief: Living with Loss While Others are Celebrating' by Harold Ivan Smith interweaves quotes and scripture to help others more successfully navigate this season of wonder amid loss. A companion journal allows readers to record their individual thoughts and memories, as they work toward reclaiming new lives. I'm sure I'll pull the book out again this year, too.

It is both comforting and healing to have an understanding friend along on such a difficult seasonal journey...

My hope is that both resources brighten your holidays.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

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