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8 Ways to Survive and Enjoy the 4th of July with your Adopted Child
It’s coming...the smell of burgers, the sounds of familiar happy voices, and the feel of the warm air on your skin. The Fourth of July is a wonderful time where family and friends come together to celebrate an American holiday. This is an opportunity to teach your adopted child about American history, our flag, and patriotic songs. While we may look forward to this holiday, the stimulation of the day may be a rude awakening for our adopted children, especially children with sensory processing issues.
Activities of the day may include lake or beach activities, water play, unstructured play in open spaces, exposure to the sun, hot body temperatures, eating off schedule, new and unfamiliar faces, and – of course – loud noises from fireworks.
To make this an enjoyable day for all, it’s best to be prepared. Here are 8 tips to make your child more comfortable:
- Prepare your child for the events of the day by showing them what could happen. Review pictures of activities you all will be doing, and show online videos of different types of firework displays. If you will be on a boat, show a video of the boat moving in the water and discuss how it will feel to be on the boat (ex: wind, vibration from the engine, noise, etc.) Describe the types of food that will be available, the environment, and the people they will see.
- Talk about safety. Let your child know about the dangers of Snap Popper Fireworks and Sparklers, and how and when to handle them. If there will be water around, review your family rules for being around the water, including wearing a lifejacket, only going in with an adult, etc. Discuss any rules you want to put in place about staying within a certain distance of you or adults in general. Lastly - let your child know who he should talk to if he has a problem and can’t immediately find you.
- Prepare for the noise and unpredictability of the fireworks. Specifically review how loud they can get, and how they may feel like they are raining down on you, but in reality won’t touch or hurt you. Have your child try on noise reduction headphones and earplugs to get a good fit before the event. Using these during the fireworks display could really ease some fears and prevent a meltdown if your child is overly sensitive to noise. Find noise reducing headphones online at Amazon or Fun and Function.
- Consider buying a few small toys your child can pass out to other children. These may include water balloons, glow bracelets, putty or slime with hidden objects inside, bubbles and small flashlights. This can give your child an avenue to initiate a friendship and play with new children. Allowing them to give a gift could give them a sense of control, confidence, and ownership over an otherwise unpredictable day. Check Oriental Trading or Party City.
- If you are not hosting the event, talk to the host ahead of time about the plans for the big day. Discuss the activities, schedule, environment, and food options so you can better prepare for your child. If you feel comfortable, tell your host about the concerns you have for your child so she can be an ally for your family. Find out where you will be able to take your child for quiet time, bathroom breaks, a nap, if needed, and where to get away from the noise of the fireworks if your child is uncomfortable during the show.
- Pack a “comfort bag.” Include a small pop-up tent (a play tent will do) to get away from the hot sun, the crowds, and noise. Bring your child’s favorite comfort toy, blanket, and/or pillow. Take a few quiet board or card games, activity books, puzzles, or pretend play figurines they can use with one or two other people. Don’t forget a flashlight and glow stick for your child to use independently in his own small, quiet space. Pack those noise reduction headphones or earplugs to be ready for the fireworks. Other calming tools include: a weighted blanket, which provides deep pressure input that is calming to the whole body, a lavender oil infused rice pack for the comforting smell, Play dough or putty, deep breathing exercises, yoga positions for kids, and fidgets your child may already use. Find the items here:
• Weighted blanket: Check online at Amazon, Fun and Function or Pinterest to make your own.
• Lavender infused/scented rice pack: Buy one on Amazon or Etsy or make your own with this tutorial.
• Yoga Positions for Kids: Check Pinterest.
• Deep Breathing Visuals for Kids: Check Pinterest
- During your Fourth of July event, keep an eye on your child’s food and water intake. This is the kind of day where sugary desserts and drinks are plentiful, and sitting down to eat a real meal may happen only one time during the day. Check on your child and encourage him to eat healthy snacks and drink water at various intervals throughout the day to prevent dehydration and misbehavior due to too much sugar, and over- or under-eating.
- Finally, throughout the day, facilitate regular quiet breaks with your child to help remove them from some of the stimuli. Kids often have so much fun with other children, family and friends; they often don’t realize how tired they’ve become. Children may have difficulty regulating their arousal levels and energy levels. An example of a quiet scheduled break: take a 10-minute break on the hour, every hour, away from other people, loud noises and the hot sun. During these breaks you can talk, play a quiet game, read a book, and have a nutritious snack and water.
Let’s face it, celebrating the 4th of July is a blast but also exhausting! Most of us adults have had years of experience with picnics, long days in the sun going into the night, and fireworks finales. We know what sensations we will be feeling, and how to handle the unpredictability of the day. Our children are new to all of this, and some of our children are more vulnerable than others.
I feel confident with a mix of a few of the strategies above, you’ll be able to ensure your adopted child and/or child with sensory processing issues joins in the fun for a memorable holiday.
Have a happy 4th!
This article was written by Dr. Angie Lynch Fannon, who has a Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy and has been practicing for over 15 years. She has worked in schools, clinics, homes, as well as overseas orphanages, group homes and centers for adults with disabilities. Her specialties include working with children with sensory processing disorder, autism, and those adopted from international orphanages. Dr. Lynch Fannon is available to help your family determine the extent to which sensory and developmental issues are impacting your child, and how you can help your child with these issues. Dr. Lynch Fannon is an ACT Team Member with America World, and is glad to answer any questions you have. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.