By Christine Peters, OTR/L
Prepare your child. Talk about the plan the day before, then remind your child of the day’s schedule that morning of. If your child tends to be anxious about new situations, a visual schedule with checkboxes may be helpful- they will be able to process the plans throughout the day and may make transitions easier.
Bring familiar snacks. Having familiar food stored away may be helpful if your child suddenly decides that the hot dogs and burgers “tastes different” and refuses to eat. This can also be helpful if your child has dietary restrictions.
Give your child an important job. It can be overwhelming for a child to be in a new situation with many other people. Giving them a “job” can help them focus on the task and can also give them the added benefit of heavy work, which can be very calming and regulating. Heavy work activities include pushing, pulling, and carrying, such as moving chairs or carrying a basket of food.
Give your child the opportunity to take a break. Let your child know they can ask for a break, either verbally or with a “break card”. Good places to take a break would be inside a house, a tent, or any comfortable area away from the general “party area”. Light activities should be available in the break area, such as providing a fidget or paper and colors. Be aware that providing a tablet may decrease the likelihood of the child returning to the day’s activities.
Help mute the fireworks. Noise cancelling headphones/earbuds or headphones with relaxing music can help when the auditory input of the fireworks becomes overwhelming. It may also be helpful to listen to audio of fireworks before that day so the child knows what noises to expect.
Have a Plan B. When a child is frightened, the “fight or flight” response kicks in. Have a plan of where to bring your child if the fireworks experience is too overwhelming. Let other’s know ahead of time of your plan B.