Birthday parties are a wonderful chance to celebrate, look back over your child’s milestones from the previous year and create wonderful memories with family and friends.
However, for many of the children I work with, birthday parties can often be a very overwhelming experience. It can be an environment that is noisy with singing, music, laughing and balloons popping and visually busy with bright colours, decorations and lots of people around.
Parties can also be very socially demanding with lots of people and the expectation to participate in party games that require the ability to listen to instructions, follow rules, wait their turn, self-regulate and cope with losing. Planning ahead can assist to make the next birthday party go more smoothly.
6 tips to assist your child:
- Don’t feel that you have to stay the entire time, maybe aim to stay just for a short while or go for the parts that you know your child can cope with. Going either a little early or later in the day, where there are less people in attendance, can be a good strategy.
- Have an escape plan for if things start to get too much. This could be to go to a quite room of the house or a quiet place outside. It could be to go for a short walk and come back or it could be to retreat to the car and head to the safety of home. It can be helpful to have some of your child’s favourite toys or activities on hand that can help to distract or calm them down if needed.
- Make a short story about the party. Stories are a great way to show kids the types of things that they can expect e.g. saying “Happy Birthday”, playing party games, singing Happy Birthday, party foods. It can be helpful to discuss the escape plan as well so they know what they can do if they need a break.
- Use play to reinforce what might happen at the party e.g. Use puppets and figures to play out the steps in the social story.
- Model Me kids DVDs are simple educational videos that can help your child to be ready to cope with typical birthday party situations.
I hope that with these strategies you can work towards making the next birthday party that your child attends a success!
-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist
Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback. I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.