A Big Get Together May Be Dangerous To Your Child

A Big Get Together May Be Dangerous To Your Child

For individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and very young children, a big get together can sometimes be a time of stress and severe discomfort. Unfortunately, get togethers come along pretty regularly throughout the year. There’s multiple birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. It may not really occur to us, but the holidays can be a very uncomfortable time for many, especially kids.

Today, we’re going to talk about:

Why these gatherings are so stressful and discomforting

How to make them more enjoyable

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Infographic on Child's Stress During a Big Get Together
This Tutor in Tinseltown blog article by Stephanie Ortega provides parents with tips on how to make holidays and any big get together enjoyable for their children with a history of sensory overload.

Why is a big get together stressful for our kids?

 

Why are big gatherings stressful for our kids_
This portions of the Tutor in Tinseltown blog article by Stephanie Ortega discusses why big gatherings can be stressful for young children and those with special needs.

How Can a Get Together Possibly Be So Stressful to a Kiddo?

It goes without saying that days of family gatherings and celebration can be different from typical days. And depending on your culture and family, they may be significantly different!

  • There’s an enormous change in their daily routine,
  • There may be parades with costumes and bright colors,
  • They may be dressed up in uncomfortable clothes they aren’t used to wearing,
  • They may be expected to eat food that is not in their normal diet, or eat at a time very different from what they’re used to,
  • People they don’t recognize are expecting hugs and kisses and entering the child’s personal space,
  • Loud noises, chatting, laughter, fireworks, and music,
  • They may be up past their regular bedtime depending on the family customs.

All of this is enough to stress out a child, not only physically (such as with the hunger and noise) but also with uncertainty. If the sensations become too overwhelming, it can lead to sensory overload. This is a very uncomfortable condition in which the sensory input the child is receiving (auditory, tactile, etc) becomes overwhelming. At this point, the child is unable to process it. Generally, this leads to crying, fussiness, or even a tantrum.

For further reading on sensory overload:

  1. Sensory Processing Issues and Anxiety: What You Need to Know

  2. 21 People Describe What Sensory Overload Feels Like

Thankfully, there are ways we can make these gatherings more enjoyable for our children!

 

Making Any Big Get Together More Enjoyable for Your Kiddos

children during big gatherings
This portions of the Tutor in Tinseltown blog article by Stephanie Ortega discusses how to make big gatherings more enjoyable for young children and those with special needs.

But don’t worry, here are some things you can do to help make the holidays a better experience for your kiddo:

  • Let them know that you’re aware of their triggers, and that if the situation becomes too overwhelming, they can let you know they want to leave,
  • Set up a quiet room away from the noise they can escape to for some relaxation,
  • Bring them an alternate meal they can eat if the food at the event is too different from what they’re used to,
  • Dress them in soft, loose clothing so there isn’t any tactile overstimulation added to the situation,
  • Insist that family members ask permission from the child before giving hugs and kisses. Not only does this respect your child’s wishes and personal space, but also begins to teach about consent. When the child refuses a hug, you can suggest a high five, handshake, or fist bump as an alternate greeting.

I hope these tips help! Let me know in the comments below what you do to help make holidays an enjoyable experience for your child.

With all my support,
Stephanie

Author: Stephanie Ortega

Stephanie is a behavior analyst and tutor with over a decade of experience in helping children. She creates planners and worksheets for the organizer within us all, maintains a blog, and runs two start-ups. She’s also a doodler and puppy and cat mom who enjoys travel and learning new things.

16 Replies to “A Big Get Together May Be Dangerous To Your Child”

  1. My special son which is so like everyone else but also so unlike most others is now 35. He has psycho nos, anxiety, interpersonal relationship disorder among others. I, of course did not know any of this when he was young (were talking early 80’s.) No one wanted to discuss it, some like my parents, wouldn’t even admit there was a problem. Any way he whined a lot anytime I went anywhere that was a big change and not extremely stimulating or any time we were out after his chill time of 6pm. Gatherings, friends, and fireworks or loud places forget it. After he learned to communicate and I read non verbal stress I learned about the reasoning and to this day it breaks my heart and I have such guilt, although, I have learned to leave some in the past. Sorry about the post it started as a comment.

    1. Hi Gladys,
      Oh please don’t apologize! I truly appreciate you sharing your story with me. It’s motivating how far science and society have come in understanding individuals with special needs, though the 80s and earlier certainly saw some dark times.

      Please don’t feel guilty, it sounds like you love him very much and did the best you could, given what was known at the time about these types of disorders. You sound like an absolutely lovely family and I appreciate your readership on my site.

      Stephanie

  2. Such a nice post and these are really a great tips and I will definitely follow these so that we are so prepare on our next gatherings. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Hi Geraline,

      I’m glad you found my tips useful and that you’ll be implementing them with your kiddo in the future! I’d appreciate you sharing this post with anyone else you think might benefit from reading it.

      Stephanie

    1. I agree, Cristina! Just because their problems seem small to us, doesn’t mean that they aren’t real and valid for a child. Thank you for reaching out and for your comment!

  3. When we have birthday parties I try to have them after nap times (between 2-5pm). That way my daughter’s schedule doesn’t change too much and she’s well rested and not cranky.

  4. This is a really great article. I think we forget that children can experience stress too and expect them to adapt. You provided some really great tips here for parents.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Elizabeth. I agree, it’s unfortunate that we sometimes expect too much of children when it comes to regulating their emotions. It’s even difficult for adults, let alone a child who is still learning about the world around them.

  5. This is very interesting, I had no never looked at larges gatherings for children from this perspective. I will share this post with my brothers and sister (who have children) as they will find your advice very helpful. Thank you.

  6. Now my mom guilt just kicked in because I didn’t think about this at all! My son has social anxiety and sometimes I think I push him to hard to get over his fears but now I’m thinking I’m doing the complete opposite! Thank you for your post. It’s really given me great perspective!

    1. Oh no, please no mom guilt! You’re taking the time to read and learn more and that’s all your kiddo really needs from you. I’m glad I was able to shed some new light on your relationship with your kiddo for you!

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