Family gatherings can be stressful. You may be able to talk to some relatives about your child’s learning and attention issues. But others may be judgmental or just not “get” it. The thought of dealing with your child’s behavior and your family’s reactions may make you feel that going to these events just isn’t worth the effort.
“Nurturing these bonds is important. Kids grow up quickly, and their relatives won’t be around forever.”
But family events can have real benefits for your child and for the rest of your relatives. If you’re tempted to skip these gatherings, here are some reasons you might want to reconsider.
Reason #1: It’ll help your child bond with relatives.
Some relatives may not understand your child’s learning and attention issues. But there may be at least one or two people who can form a special bond with her.
Maybe it’s Grandma, who loves to bake cookies with your child and hear her stories about karate class. Or maybe it’s an uncle who has dyslexia and can offer encouraging words to your child. He might say something like, “Reading was tough for me in school. But I kept at it, and I know you can, too.”
Nurturing these bonds is important. Kids grow up quickly, and their relatives won’t be around forever. Family gatherings can help your child learn more about where she came from. The older she gets, the more she’ll value this knowledge.
Reason #2: It’ll give your child typical life experiences.
Politely turning down your aunt’s invitation to her Labor Day barbecue may seem like the easiest thing to do. But going to family gatherings is part of what’s expected of most children. It’s good for your child to have as many of the same experiences as possible that other kids have—with whatever reasonable adjustments she needs.
For example, if your child has sensory processing issues, she may get overwhelmed at parties with a lot of people. In that case, you can let your aunt know that you’ll come early, before the party gets crowded, and stay for only an hour or two.
Reason #3: It’ll give your child more role models.
Kids with learning and attention issues may struggle to pick up on social cues. But you can use family gatherings to show your child examples of proper social behavior. Going to a big Thanksgiving dinner, for example, lets her watch her cousins and other relatives doing things like saying “please” and “thank you” when adults give them food. Quietly point out to her these good behaviors.
Reason #4: It’ll help your family understand your child better.
Taking your child to family gatherings can be good for her. But it can also be good for the rest of your family. Spending time with your child can help your relatives develop a better understanding of people with learning and attention issues—and more empathy for them.
For example, if your child has ADHD, she may not be able to sit still at the dinner table for very long. She may have to run off and play after the meal. Explaining that ADHD is a brain-based condition can help her cousin understand that while he finds sitting through the adults’ after-dinner conversation boring, it’s even harder for your child.
Being around your child can also give adult relatives a better sense of how you and your child cope with her challenges. Seeing this might help your family be more supportive.
Of course, some family gatherings may be more stressful than others. Holidays can be particularly hectic. Consider these ways to make the holidays easier. Remember that you don’t have to attend every family gathering or stay for the whole event each time. Pick what works best for you and your child. It’s also a good idea to look for common trouble spots and ways to avoid them.