Tomorrow is Independence Day or Fourth of July. I was chastised not to call it that by a friend who reminded me that it’s also the Fourth of July in France and Italy and Nigeria tomorrow but not a holiday. We don’t call Christmas December 25th; why do we call Independence Day by the date and not the name? I have pondered this and he’s right. Now I’m trying to get better. But I digress. But it is a big day for getting together with extended family and friends. This for many of us RAD parents is sure to send our blood pressure into the stratosphere like a bottle rocket. So, how to handle the over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-peopled family get-together?
Since no two RAD kiddos are alike, there’s no cut and dry answer. Every child has a different trigger. The key is managing expectations and making sure you are as much as possible not creating a situation destined for failure. There may be some things that are just not in your control. But there is a lot that is. Here are some tips and tricks that I have found useful in the past to keep my sanity and help keep the peace. Also some other ideas I found helpful in my research.
- Pay attention to the food going in your child. My grandmother had chocolate EVERYWHERE. All at the height of your average 5-year-old. Her theory was if you don’t say no, then it isn’t a forbidden thing and children won’t be begging for it all the time. Yeah, that doesn’t work with a RAD kiddo. August can eat his body weight in candy without getting sick but it sure would wind him up. Which for an already hyperactive kid seems impossible but isn’t. It may be tough to socialize but it’s definitely worth it to keep a close eye on the sugar and caffeine intake.
- Make sure you know if there are will be any triggers in attendance. August’s grandfather collected state coins. And had several small pocket knives. Their house was like walking into a diamond mine. His impulse control (what little there was) went out the window at their house. His grandparents had a house full of antiques and collectibles and it was hard to know where everything was stashed. In the chaos of a large group of people it was easy for August to slip away and go snooping. We missed it early on but once we knew his affection for shiny things we made sure he was searched before we left.
- Have an exit strategy. “Expect the best, prepare for the worst”. Heard that before? When August was very little, transitions were the worst. He’d get caught up in playing with friends or playing a game and when it was time to go, all hell broke loose. He would launch into a tantrum of epic proportions. The wailing and screaming and kicking were something to see. All the 10 minute, 5 minute, 2 minute warnings did nothing to stop the exact moment of terror that occurred at that time of departure. We enacted what we referred to as “scoop and run”. This meant making sure everything else was in the car, all the good-byes had been said and nothing else needed to be done before we literally scooped him up and ran for the car. Faint cries could be heard in the distance as we drove away. Make sure you know how your child deals with transitions and plan accordingly.
- As awful as it sounds…host the event at your house. It might seem like I’m suggesting the worst possible pain for you but truly it might be the easiest situation for your child. Keeping them in their comfortable space with their things where there is no transition time to deal with and you have better control over food. It may be best. While it seems like more work on the front end to have all the people in your house, set strong time boundaries, hire a caterer or make sure people help with food. This may create the best day for your child and ultimately you.
The big thing to remember is your RAD kiddo is wounded and some of what they are reacting to at the holidays is coming from a hurt place deep, deep inside. This article is a great explanation of how all that connects and manifests during the holidays and may help us keep a grip when we might want to explode!
Since I just saw August last week I won’t be able to go see him tomorrow. I will be consoling my dog who is deathly afraid of loud noises. And I have 15 family members coming for the weekend. August will call and get to talk to them and we will miss him terribly. Hopefully we will have him with us for Independence Day next year.
Until Next time,