You're running late and starting to get stressed. You have to get your entire family in the car. But your youngest child is REFUSING to cooperate.
"I don't want to go! I hate parties!!" He yells as he pulls off his jacket.
This time of year is full of festivities, usually with several gatherings to attend. For kids who struggle in social situations, this can be a challenge. So what can you do to make it a little bit easier? Here are a few tips you can use to help prepare your child for parties and hopefully make the experience better for everyone.
1. Have your child use their imagination.
Have your child imagine what the party will be like start to finish. Have them identify which parts of the party will be more difficult. Then have them imagine themselves there and successfully making it through those parts of the party they identified as more of a challenge.
For example, if they struggle with entering a party, have them imagine a successful transition from the car into the house.
2. Fake it!
Have them try out their acting skills, and just fake it. Have them act like the most outgoing person they know and try on that persona for the party.
3. Find comforting people.
Identify a couple of people your child feels comfortable with at the party. Have your child go and find them and hang out for a bit. You can even offer to drive one of these people to the party with you. This can help ease the transition and make your child feel more comfortable even before you enter.
4. Go ahead, take a break
I’m an introvert myself, and sometimes need a break when I’m at a party. Kids need to learn to do the same. They can go to the bathroom, get a drink or get a snack. It’s okay to bring a book or a portable gaming system to take a break when needed as well. Just don’t do it the whole time.
Talk with your child about a good place to take a break, especially when using an electronic device. Usually, if other kids see that, they want to know what you’re playing and watch or get a turn. If your child really needs solitude, they need to pick an out of the way spot.
Bonus tip for parents:
Sometimes, well meaning relatives or party goers will try to force kids to hug, make eye contact, etc and you know your child is not able to do that. Preparing a brief explanation helps. You want to be able to communicate your child’s need for space clearly and succinctly. This help can prevent you and your child from getting frustrated and the other party goers from being offended.
You say to your son "I know parties aren't your favorite. Go get your hidden pictures book. I'll also bring your leap pad, just in case. You can take a break when you need to at the party."
He breathes a sigh of relief, puts on his jacket and runs off to find his book.