It is Passover / Easter Weekend.
You are all gathered around a large dining table filled with delights, treats and all manner of goodies. Around the table sit three generations of family. The expectation is that the children will partake and enjoy the meal – but not too loud because the grown ups are talking. Of course the cousins are all perfectly behaved.
All is going relatively well until your child pipes up ‘I hate this, it’s boring’ and starts slipping under the table. All eyes are now on you. How will you react? You’ve been told already that your child just needs discipline and a firm hand. So you try in vain to get him up. You try cajoling, distraction, persuading then of course it all gets too much and you shout.
This has absolutely no effect except to embarrass you. Shortly after you leave vowing never to do this again. Until of course the next time that there is a family gathering you know you will do it again because you hope next time will be different……………
Well I am afraid to say that next time won’t be different, unless you do something differently.
Anyone following my blog posts will know that I say let’s not put all the onus on our children with ADHD and autism. They find life challenging enough.
So we need to change things and react differently in order to make their world less confusing and happier.
So here are my 7 Tips To Survive Family Gatherings
1.Make sure you inform all guests beforehand about your child’s difficulties.
If everyone is educated about ADHD or autism then they will understand that you have to do things slightly differently and have different expectations. Your child cannot be expected to behave like his cousins. It is not fair to have these expectations and you are setting him (or her) up to fail.
Your child may need a calmer sensory experience – so speak to the host and work out together how to make things suitable for your child. That way everyone feels like they are doing things to help.
2.Play to your child’s strengths
Think about what he is good at that you can incorporate into the day. Can he help carry in the plates, dish up the meal. Could he prepare place settings or menu choices. Could he prepare a music play list or make up a quiz. Make up a bingo game or could he draw cartoons of the Passover / Easter story for all the guests to follow. Give your child a real sense that he is showing off what he is good at. Take every opportunity to praise him.
3.Bring with you a massive emergency kit
You know what will keep your child entertained and amused. New magazine. Lego set. Colouring. Cards. Headphones and small MP3 player if the noise is too much. Fiddle toy. Sensory cushion. Comforter.
Don’t worry what everyone else will think. You know your child best and you want him to feel safe and happy. If having a chewy toy around his neck helps him, then go for it.
4.Have different expectations
Your child will not likely sit at the table for any length of time or take part in family activities. So let him know beforehand that when he feels ready to leave the table he must ask and then of course you’ll say yes. If he doesn’t want to do an activity that is okay too, you wont put pressure on him. That way he is showing respect, but you are meeting his needs to allow him to leave. That way it’s win-win for everyone. He however must be told what your (realistic) expectations are in advance. If he knows that you are ‘fighting his corner’ and changing things for him to feel comfortable, he will feel relaxed and calmer.
5.Quit whilst you’re ahead
Just because it’s all going well, don’t be tempted to stay too long. Leave whilst everyone is smiling. Let your child know what time you are leaving and stick to your word. You may need to make a visual schedule so he knows what is going to happen and when. Use real clocks, timers or drawings. But make the explanation really clear. Don’t use maybes and perhaps.
7. Movement breaks
Have plenty of opportunities to move around, go outside and have a break. Drink loads of water and try and keep him cool and not too over stimulated (might be tricky!). Keep praising and avoid showing you’re disappointed if it all gets too much.
I really hope this Easter or Passover is a happy, calmer experience for you and your family. I wish you all a lovely time of peace and joy.
I WANT TO HELP YOU
Imagine what a difference it would make to your family if we could talk twice a month.
I offer support and practical strategies to help create a calm, peaceful family.
We would talk twice a month to work out the difficulties and then I will come up with a bespoke plan that you would put in place immediately.
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