Empathy on the Thanksgiving Menu: Navigating Family Time with a Neurodiverse Child

Empathy on the Thanksgiving Menu: Navigating Family Time with a Neurodiverse Child


Thanksgiving is a time when families come together to celebrate and express gratitude. It's an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, share delicious meals, and create cherished memories. However, for families with neurospicy kids, navigating Thanksgiving with extended family who may not fully understand their unique needs can be daunting. In this post, we will explore strategies to help you navigate family time during Thanksgiving, ensuring a positive and inclusive experience for your neurodiverse child.

Open and Honest Communication:

Clear and open communication is pivotal in helping extended family members understand your neurodiverse child. Prior to Thanksgiving, take the time to have meaningful conversations with family members about your child's neurodiversity. Share both the challenges and strengths your child possesses, give examples of how their unique needs may manifest during family gatherings, and possible responses to that behavior. Help them understand that supporting your child's well-being requires empathy, understanding, and patience.

Educate and Share Resources:
Many family members may not be familiar with or understand the neurodiverse world. There are tons of resources out there to help them get a glimps into your life. Send them a few funny reels or memes, share personal stories and experiences, and if you have a real curiosity in your family, send them an article or two. By sharing resources and personal anecdotes, you can foster empathy and dispel stereotypes or misunderstandings.

Set Boundaries and Advocate for Your Child:

As your child's advocate, it is crucial to set boundaries and communicate their needs to your extended family members. Explain the triggers or stressors that may impact your child's well-being during Thanksgiving and suggest ways in which family members can support them. It may be necessary to establish guidelines around noise levels, sensory stimulation, or expectations for social interaction. Encourage family members to respect these boundaries and understand that accommodating your child's needs is an act of compassion and inclusivity not only for your child, but for your whole family.

Create a Safe Space:

During Thanksgiving, it is vital to create a safe and comfortable space for your neurodiverse kiddo. If certain sensory stimuli or social situations are overwhelming for them, identify quiet areas or activities that they can retreat to when needed. Share these options to your extended family. Understanding the importance of allowing your child to take breaks and recharge if necessary, will give them permission to step away from an anxious child.

Foster Inclusive Activities:

Plan inclusive activities that allow your neurodiverse child to participate comfortably during Thanksgiving. Structured games, crafts, or activities that your child enjoys and can engage will create a comfortable space and build memories.

Seek Allies and Support:

Identify family members who are accepting and understanding of your neurospicy kiddo, and ask for their support in helping foster a positive experience during Thanksgiving. Allies can help bridge the gap between your child and relatives who may be less informed or hesitant to engage. Their presence can offer much-needed understanding and support, not to mention an extra set of eyes during family gatherings.


Navigating Thanksgiving with extended family who may not fully understand your neurodiverse child can be challenging. However, by fostering open communication, sharing resources, and setting boundaries, you can help family members create an inclusive and supportive environment. Remember, you are your child's advocate, and it is crucial to prioritize their well-being while also encouraging empathy and understanding within your extended family. With patience, education, and love, you can navigate this holiday season. You may even agree to another family get together next year.