7 Holiday Celebration Tips for Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is full of delicious meals, annual traditions and loud celebrations. It’s a time of year that most families look forward to.
But with all the commotion, it’s easy for children who are deaf and hard of hearing to feel sidelined as they watch everyone around them take part in the festivities. Even with hearing assistive technologies technologies like hearing aids or cochlear implants, it’s incredibly hard to follow conversations when there’s too much ambient noise.
But with the 7 strategies below, you can help your child feel more fully integrated in this year’s holiday celebrations.
1. Involve Them in the Planning
The most important tip of all is to involve your child throughout the planning process. Even if you don’t adopt any of the other suggestions that follow, make sure to include your child at every single stage of the preparation (when it’s age-appropriate to do so).
Advanced planning can provide your kid with a sense of ownership in the outcome. They’ll be far more attentive throughout dinner – making sure that everyone else is enjoying the party that he or she helped create.
In effect, your child will become an active “host” instead of a passive “participant.”
2. Focus on Family Traditions
Every holiday season, families nationwide gather to celebrate. It’s worth taking the time to outline the different ways in which your own family brings in the holidays.
Are there special decorations, recipes, games or songs that appear every year? If so, discuss what makes these traditions so special to your child. And don’t be afraid to phase out customs that no longer provide any value.
If your family doesn’t have any annual traditions, this year’s a great time to create some. Alternatively, you can explore the “why” behind each holiday that you celebrate. From Thanksgiving to Black Friday to Hanukkah – most holidays have pretty interesting backstories.
Whether you’re inventing, refining or even ditching annual holiday traditions – the benefit to your child is the same. Each discussion presents another opportunity to learn new words and develop stronger language and listening skills.
3. Involve Them in the Cooking
We’ve already discussed the importance of involving your kid in the planning process. But meal prep deserves its own section.
Whenever possible, you should encourage your child to help with all of the cooking. That’s because regardless of religion, celebration or holiday, the meal is usually the centerpiece of the occasion. Involving your child in the kitchen will help solidify their role as “host” more than having them greet guests or collect coats at the door (although both of these are great ideas too).
If you really want to have an impactful meal, consider using ingredients from your garden or local farmers market. We’ve even written an entire post to help you get started with both of these suggestions.
4. Assign Seats Strategically
Another great tip is to map out seating arrangements strategically (for the family meal). Kids typically enjoy sitting with other kids. And with a large gathering (or small enough dining room), there may even be a dedicated kids’ table.
But this year, consider seating your child next to someone who can keep them engaged throughout the meal. This doesn’t necessarily mean having exclusive one-on-one conversation the whole time. The designated seating companion can also repeat tidbits that your child misses – whether it’s an interesting story or the end of a joke.
If this type of seating arrangement isn’t possible, you can create a ‘safe’ word (or signal) in advance. Your child can use this “secret” signal to let you discreetly know they need help – or that they missed something important.
5. Leverage Technology
Many children who are deaf and hard of hearing rely on hearing assistive technologies technologies like the aforementioned hearing aids and cochlear implants. And if your child does too, it’s important that their devices are in good working order, charged, and ready to go for the holiday season.
But don’t stop there.
You can also use hearing assistive technologies like frequency modulation (FM) systems. These are essentially personal PA systems that wirelessly connect with hearing aids and cochlear implants to send audio information directly to the wearer’s device. It’s the same technology that many educators use in the classroom when working with children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
With an FM system and a well-placed microphone in the centerpiece of the dinner table, your child will be able to hear significantly better throughout the meal. However, it’s important that you do some practice runs with whatever hearing assistive technology you choose before dinner. The last thing you want to do is troubleshoot problems – just as guests are arriving.
6. Choose the Right Music
As a general rule, you should keep background music to a minimum during holiday gatherings. Otherwise, you’re simply adding more ambient noise at a time when your kid may already be struggling to hear what’s happening around them.
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid music altogether. The holiday season is the perfect time to celebrate with songs and festive carols.
Some people have trouble believing that children who are deaf and hard of hearing can actually appreciate music.
At CCHAT, we have an entire Music Program that proves otherwise. In fact, it’s one of our most successful programs precisely because music is a universal language that appeals to everyone – even those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
So if your family celebrates the holidays with carols, be sure to practice them in advance with your child. In addition to creating music together, this exercise also allows you to go over unfamiliar words and concepts in each song.
If you don’t know who King Wenceslas was or why dreidels are made out of clay, then you (the parent) might also learn something new as well.
7. Encourage Family Buy-In
One final tip is to let all of your guests know about the time and effort that your child invested to make this year’s celebration so successful. You can do this privately and in advance. But the goal is to have every family member individually remark on some aspect of the food, decorations or whatever else bears your child’s mark.
Everyone enjoys receiving compliments – especially young kids. By encouraging guests to show their appreciation, your child will feel both recognized and included.
How Will You Celebrate This Holiday Season?
If your child is like most kids, they are probably focused on all the gifts attached to the holiday season. This is only natural.
But 10 or more years from now, all of those presents will be long forgotten. And what your kid will ultimately remember from their childhood days are the fellowship and togetherness that come with the holidays.
Each of the strategies outlined above is designed to help strengthen those bonds. And if all goes well, your child will develop fond memories worth sharing with their own children many years from now.
We hope you enjoyed this list. And if you have additional celebration tips you’d like to share, send us an email so we can include your suggestions in future posts.
And if you are looking for a new or different holiday event, join us for our 6th annual Holly Jolly Holiday Celebration on December 5 from 6-9pm. Proceeds from the event will go to our daily music program, Music to My Ears.
From all of us at CCHAT, we hope that this year’s holiday season is one of your best ever.
Travel safe. Eat well. And stay warm.