As a mom of 3 kids, I have been to MANY birthday parties! We buy the perfect gift and make sure that our kids are adorably dressed. Off we go to what should be an hour and a half of pure fun! We watch the kids run and greet each other, laughing and giggling, excited to be with their friends. But as many of us know, there are always a few kids that aren’t behaving the same as the other children. They cling to their mom’s hand, crying on the sidelines, refusing to participate in the festivities with the rest of the children. As the parents are dealing with their hysterical child, they can’t help but think, Why is it always MY child? Is everyone staring at us?
Here is what you need to know….you are NOT alone! Even though it feels like you are the only one, there are many parents grappling with similar situations.
Here are some important tips that can be very helpful!
• Respect that your child is uncomfortable. Pressuring a child to perform in a social situation is unlikely to make the situation better. It will usually make it considerably worse!
• Loud noises, crowded spaces, and new environments, can be intimidating to ANY child. These can be even worse for a child who has anxiety or sensory issues. Bring the child to a part of the room that is less crowded and a little calmer.
• Worry about YOUR own child, not what your friend’s children are doing. Each child develops differently and reacts different in social situations.
• Kids have different interests. Children with anxiety may be nervous that they cannot do what the other kids are doing. Maybe they aren’t as comfortable with sports or don’t know how to dance like the other girls. This may make them feel inferior to their peers. Understand that a kid who loves science may not love going to a hockey party because they aren’t as confident in that area.
• Have realistic expectations. Not every kid is born a “Social Butterfly.” Sometimes it just takes kids longer to come into their own. Be patient!
• Give your child some Relaxing Techniques. Try a game to distract them. One of my favorites is The Candy Game. Start with the number one and take turns with them. For example, One gummy bear, two Hershey kisses, 3 lollipops, etc… This type of game keeps their mind off of the anxiety and on to something else. It refocuses their thoughts and allows them to relax.
• Don’t make a scene by yelling and punishing your son or daughter because they aren’t participating like the rest of the kids at the party. This can be very harmful and embarrassing to them. Your child needs encouragement and support from you. ·
• Focus on the positive! Find something that they enjoy about the party. Maybe they’ll see a friend from school or experience a new activity that they have been wanting to try. If all else fails… the goodie bag is always something that kids look forward to!
• When planning your own child’s party, take into consideration what THEY want. Just because you want to throw a big bash and invite all of YOUR nearest and dearest, doesn’t mean that this is what your child would want. Don’t lose track of what’s most important- Celebrating a special day! Sometimes an intimate gathering with their close friends is what will make your child most comfortable.
• When you have exhausted your energy and patience, speak to a professional who can help you handle the situation. It will help you be a better mom and give you the tools that you need to make the next situation more manageable.
Moms, here is what you need to remember. Anxiety is a normal part of childhood that every child will experience at one point or another. Realizing that your child has a genuine fear is so important. Let your child know that you are always there for them!
Oh… and a little shout out to the mom’s out there whose children run into parties laughing and giggling without a care in the world…Here’s a tip for you… DON’T give the mom with “that kid” the sad puppy-dog face or the “I Feel So Bad For You” speech. Don’t talk about her to 3 of your friends when she isn’t looking. Be Kind! Remember this: What’s not on your plate today, might be on it tomorrow!
Guest Post by Stefanie Weiss (Mental Health Consultant- specializing in children with Anxiety, OCD, ADHD, PANDAS and other related disorders)
photo credit: © Bosakanna | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos