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Easter Survival Guide

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Anytime you combine church, candy, fancy clothes and family, you're looking at a strong chance of meltdown -- for your child, and for you, too. What can you do to make Easter a day for good memories, not sad ones? Follow these do's and don'ts to keep the holiday hopping.

DON'T inflict complicated clothing on a child who won't tolerate it. You may have always dreamed of having a little doll dressed to the nines, but you probably also dreamed of getting through a Sunday service or a family outing without screams and threats and tantrums, and you may not be able to get both. Be realistic, and be kind. Look for soft fabrics, comfortable styles, simple ensembles. If you must have hats or ties, put them on for photos only. And if all your child will wear is sweats, then buy sweats in cool springtime colors, stick a bunny sticker on the front, and let it be.

DO provide Egg Hunting help. Your child may not be able to find hidden eggs with the efficiency of other searching children, so make sure he or she has a chance to fill a basket. If it's a family event, keep one section of the hunting field aside just for your child, with eggs in plainer sight. If it's an event held by an organization, talk to someone in charge and see if they have any plans for children with special needs, and if not, whether they can set aside a small area just for your child, or let your child hunt with younger kids. No one wants to see a child go home eggless.

DON'T load up on the sugar. You may not be able to control what enormous quantities of chocolate family members will bestow upon your child, but you can make sure that sugar highs don't start at home. Instead of candy, fill your child's basket with small toys and other items your child really likes. Some can go into colorful plastic eggs, others can be wrapped. Books, CDs, videos, audiotapes, DVDs and stuffed animals can all be good, basket-sized items. And your child will still be enjoying them long after the last chocolate bunny has melted away.

DO prepare for family gatherings. For tips on how to survive holiday get-togethers with challenging relatives and challenged children, see our tips for Special-Needs Kids and Special Occasions.

DON'T expect church to be a religious experience. On holidays with long and crowded services, more than any other time, worship has to be a "whatever works" situation. For some ideas on keeping peace in the pews, see Church and the Child with Special Needs.

DO relax and enjoy your child. Let go of those fantasies of what the perfect Easter with your family would be like. The memories you will make may be entirely different, but they will be true to your child and your family and all the more precious for that. Find what delights and captivates your child, and fill the day with those things, no matter what anybody else says. A Happy Easter is a gift you give to your children, and one they will remember when they have families of their own.

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