That Norman Rockwell-look of smiling, warm family get togethers is so lovely… except for those families dealing with a child with any of a variety of processing disorders, for whom even the contemplation of such events can easily evoke emotions ranging from apprehension to terror.
Try to think through your last family get-together in as acute detail as possible in order to try to pinpoint the possible tantrum / meltdown triggers that affected your child most. Some possibilities might be:
- Different place that the child isn’t used to
- Being touched/kissed by rarely seen relatives
- Different food
- High level of noise and general chaos created by lots of people
- Schedule changes
- Weather changes
- Impossible-to-meet behavioral expectations
Steps you can take to ease each of these situations:
- Speak with extended family with whom you will be meeting. Explain your child’s sensitivity and behavior and ask for the cooperation that you need, both for the sake of the child and for that of the situation and others involved.
- Try to plan, as best as possible, that the child’s routine remains stable. Sleeping and eating times, at least, should remain as close to regular times as you can manage.
- Go over your upcoming trip with your child. Explain all the fun and interesting things that are going to happen, and also start preparing your child that when people get together, it gets noisy. Talk to her about the environment in which you will be, for how long you will stay and what the expectations will be. Leave no surprises.
- Decide for yourself, on what you are willing to compromise and what you aren’t. Are you going to demand strict table manners, come what may? Will she be allowed to wear clashing clothing if that’s what she demands? Have that set in your mind, in a realistic fashion, before you leave.
- You might want to share this information when you speak with the extended family members involved, in order to avoid unwanted back-seat parenting, on their part.
- Discuss your expectations with your child, emphasizing that you are on your child’s “side” here, in her court, and that you need to communicate BEFORE there is an issue. Be prepared to take your child outside for a walk, or into another room for a story.
In short, understand that Norman Rockwell is not in your picture. However, it can still be a great scene, with some pre-planning and changing of expectations, on everyone’s part.