Tips to Help Celebrate the 4th of July with Your Child with Sensory Issues

As with just about everything this summer, the 4th of July probably won’t look the same as it has in the past. And while parades, backyard cookouts and big community celebrations may be modified or cancelled, that doesn’t mean the day won’t be celebrated. There will still be fireworks, and perhaps you’ll attend appropriately socially distanced picnics.

If you have a child with sensory processing challenges, the 4th of July can be a stressful time, no matter how people are planning to celebrate the holiday. It can be overwhelming, especially if family traditions are changing into something new. But there are ways to help your child navigate their feelings and bodies so they can be involved in the fun:

Spend Time Talking About Your Plans

Speaking with your child about plans you have for the day can help prepare them for what’s coming up. Talking about how long things will take, where you are going, what you’ll be doing and who will be there are all good starting points. Some children respond well to a countdown calendar, which can be a fun way to lead up to the celebration.

No matter how you do it, discussing plans with your child beforehand can help them feel better about what’s coming up on the big day. You know your child best, so you are the right person to determine how much to share and when to share it.

Plan Alternate Activities

If there won’t be a yard full of neighborhood kids or family this year you might need to come up with your own activities to celebrate the 4th. Making sensory based projects with a patriotic twist can help fill the void and offer up some fun play time with your child. A quick search on Pinterest will provide you with lots of ideas that incorporate materials like slime, shaving cream, water, rice and other things you likely have in your pantry.  Or, if it would be best for your child to forgo holiday festivities this year, consider having a movie night at home complete with a few patriotic snacks.   

Get Your Child Involved

If you are attending any kind of festivities, or perhaps hosting one yourself, find ways to get your child involved in the preparation. Asking them to help with a few small tasks can better prepare them for what’s to come. Simple tasks like setting up chairs around the fire pit, or packing a bag not only allows them to contribute, but helps prepare for the fun.

Have Familiar Things on Hand

Festivities can be full of new experiences, new foods, unfamiliar sounds and lots of people, all of which can heighten anxiety for someone with sensory issues. Having a familiar snack or drink on hand may help to calm things down and provide the consistency your child may be looking for.

 In addition, consider establishing a “safe place” where your child knows they can go if they start to feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot away from the bustle where you can set up a chair or blanket. You may want to include a favorite toy or book as well.

No matter how you celebrate this 4th of July, it’s going to look different, which might prove to be overwhelming for a child with sensory processing challenges, Taking time to prepare them for what to expect can help make the celebration fun and can go a long way to ensure that everyone enjoys the holiday.


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