The holiday season can be so joyful. But it can also be really overwhelming and isolating for a lot of people. Here are 10 ways you can make your holiday parties as inclusive as possible, so everyone can enjoy.
1. Be patient
The holidays can be stressful — and so are crowds, loud noises, hosting company, and any changes from the norm. So, give everyone a little leeway before reacting negatively to their words or behaviors. Chances are, your negative response might make things even worse.
2. Don't comment on what's on someones plate
Or on how much (or little) they're eating. Or if they've gained or lost weight. In fact, avoid all diet talk, in general. This could contribute to eating disorders, anxiety, or depression — for that person, but also anyone who might be listening.
3. Give details about the day
A simple "here's what's going to happen" rundown can help those with autism, anxiety, sensory processing disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) better prepare. Visual schedules are great, too!
4. Don't force uncomfortable clothing
Sure, that sweater might look cute for a family photo. But it might be so itchy, your kid can't focus on anything else. For those with sensory sensitivities, the discomfort could exacerbate the other stressors of the event.
5. Make space
Whether it's having someone help in the kitchen or providing a quieter space for relaxation, sometimes we all just need to get away for a little bit. Sometimes, we need to be invited into a conversation. And if someone has mobility limitations, make sure they're able to get where they want (and need) to go.
6. Tailor to dietary needs
Ask about allergies and dietary needs beforehand to make sure everyone has something they can eat. Holiday meals can be really othering for those with allergies, sensitivities, and certain medical conditions.
7. Respect pronouns
Holidays are hard for a lot of trans and nonbinary folks — especially around family that's known them since "before" and refuses to let go of that. Simply honoring someone's identity can make all the difference.
8. Be mindful of your language
Avoiding words and comments that are inherently ableist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic will make EVERYONE more comfortable. Seriously.
9. Make it accessible
If any of your guests have disabilities that involve mobility, dexterity, or use of limbs, make sure they're able to move around and participate at their own will. That might mean choosing more accessible gift wrapping, leaving extra space around the table, and making sure resources aren't up or down stairs.
10. Just ask
If you know a guest has a disability, allergy, mental illness, or sensitivity, or even if you aren't sure, ask how you can best accommodate your guests! It can help make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome.