Tips for a Smooth Independence Day Celebration
It is almost Independence Day in the United States, which for many families is a time of festivity and celebration as we commemorate the nation’s independence with colorful parades, juicy BBQ’s, loud concerts, and booming fireworks. These activities can bring many changes in routine and sensory stimulations that may be exciting for some individuals, but difficult for others. All Belong teacher consultant Marji Voetberg offers eight tips for helping all members of your family be prepared and equipped for your Fourth of July celebration.
1. Prepare children for what to expect.
Preview what the day will look like by showing pictures from a previous year (if available) and/or YouTube videos about what to expect during the day. Describe what your son or daughter might see, hear, taste, etc throughout the day. If necessary, discuss that the noises from fireworks are not dangerous sounds. You could include these items in a personalized SocialStory (see an example here) that highlights the day’s activities.
2. Acknowledge feelings.
Recognize that exciting activities can cause the same feelings for children as stressful, anxiety producing situations. Acknowledge that those feelings are real and remember that when interacting with your child.
3. Have a plan.
Explain to your children how you expect to stay together at the event. For example, will everyone wear the same colored shirt? Or stay within a certain distance? Be sure to share what to do if you get split up.
Also make a plan with your child for expressing any fear they may have during the fireworks display. For example, you could ask your child whether they would like to squeeze your hand as tightly as possible if they have scared feelings or give their favorite stuffed animal a big hug. This allows your child to preview appropriate ways to handle any unsettling feelings and gives them control about how they want to express those feelings.
4. Bring the right tools.
Especially for fireworks, it may be helpful to bring blankets (wrap your child in for deep pressure), ear plugs, sunglasses, etc. These tools can provide sensory input breaks/decreased input.
5. Use a camera.
If you’re headed to fireworks or an event where there is a lot of commotion, bring a camera that your son or daughter could use. Looking through the camera at the event brings the focus in to one object/event and may help your child feel less overwhelmed by everything taking place.
6. Talk about food.
Be sure to discuss candy consumption guidelines in advance. This is particularly important if your son or daughter has any food allergies.
7. Think ahead.
In general, think about what triggers there may be for your child in any of the celebratory events. Prepare your child and yourself for how to handle those triggers.
8. Lead with smiles and joy.
If your child sees that you are having fun they will be more likely to match your mood.
Alternately, some families prefer to avoid Fourth of July celebrations because of the excitement. For these families, it may be a good idea to shut your windows and turn on any fans as loud as possible in the evening. Find a fun family activity or movie to enjoy that allows your family to spend quality time together indoors.
Regardless of what your family does, the main goal is to plan ahead for the holiday and prepare your family for what to expect.
Do you have additional ideas? Share them in the comment box below.
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Marji Voetberg is a teacher consultant at All Belong.