Let’s talk about family events. To some when they think family events, they think warmly of the fond memories made and the ones to come. They may think about the delicious food, the laughs, the children running around playing, and maybe even getting to explore new places if the family is out of town.
For parents who have children with sensory challenges, or maybe if they have sensory sensitivities themselves), it can be an extremely daunting and draining experience for everyone.
While some people might be excited about the array of food, parents of children with sensory issues might be worried about: if there will be anything that their child will eat, if their child will even be able to tolerate sitting at a table, the various smells of non preferred foods, and the possible pressure put onto the child by other family members to try new foods.
A house full of family may make some peoples day, however to a child with sensory challenges, it can be extremely overwhelming and dysregulating, Depending on the child this can lead to:
Elopement and escaping attempts
Freezing behavior or shutting down and refusing to engage with anyone.
If you have a child with sensory sensitivities try these things to make for a smoother family gathering for the entire family unit.
Talk about where you are going, who will be there, and what is going to happen at the family function
Establish a safe word to use if someone is feeling overwhelmed. If your child is young or non-verbal, this safe word can still be helpful to communicate between parents that the child is feeling overwhelmed
Establish a “safe space” that is quiet that the child can go to or be taken to if they are overwhelmed.
Bring some snack or meal items that you know are preferred so the child has something he or she likes to eat, while allowing the child the space to try new foods if they wish
Advocate for the child’s ability to say no if they are not interested in trying something a family member is encouraging them to try