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.
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Why is a big get together stressful for our kids?
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:
- 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
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,
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.