25 Jun Summer Cookout Tips
There’s nothing more fun than gathering with friends and family for a backyard barbecue. Unfortunately, sometimes parents of children with special needs skip the fun altogether because of worries about their children’s safety, happiness, or behavior. But you don’t need to miss out! If you follow your child’s lead, and some of these tips, you’ll be on your way to a successful summer party season.
Know Your Expectations
Before you venture anywhere, it’s a good idea to examine your own expectations. Set yourself and your child up for success by ensuring that your expectations for the day are realistic.What does a successful cookout look like to you? For example, in what ways do you expect your child to have fun? It may be too much to expect a child to play in a large-group game with unknown peers during their first cookout. Instead, it might be more reasonable to expect your child to play a small-group game for a short period, or to observe their peers playing.
Know Your Limits
Similar to knowing your expectations, try to know your limits as well. Can you really stay for 4 hours? Can you manage a meltdown in an unfamiliar home? Identify in advance what events will be your cue to head home. If you’re attending with other family members, know their limits as well, so that everyone is on the same page.
Talk to Your Host
Know as much as you can about the environment before you arrive. Ask your host if there will be any pets, fire or fireworks, or pools. Know if the event will be held near a busy street or if there will be a contained area that is safer for kids to play. The more you know upfront, the better you can prepare yourself and your child. Conversely, make sure your host knows as much as you’re comfortable with upfront as well. Let them know if you will be bringing any special foods or drinks for your child. Tell them of any allergies. Let them know how your child communicates, and any preferences that they may be able to accommodate. Your host will want you and your child to be comfortable and have fun, and will likely be very open to your suggestions.
Talk to Your Child
Once you know what to expect, talk to your child about the event. Tell them who will be coming, what food and games will be available, how long you will stay, etc. If your child responds to visual cues or social stories, talk to your ABA provider about setting those up and maybe using them during sessions.
Make it Fun and Comfortable
Bring your child’s preferred foods, toys, drinks, etc. Bring enough to share with other children if possible; your child may be more comfortable playing with other kids when they toys and games are familiar.
End on a High Note
You know your child best. Observe him carefully throughout the cookout and watch for signs of fatigue, impatience, or overstimulation. If you see signs that your child may be struggling, try to wrap up and say goodbye while he is still successfully navigating the cookout. It’s better to leave earlier, on a high note, then to push a child to his limits and try to leave during or after a meltdown. You’ve already set your own expectations and limits, adhering to them is always a win!
But most importantly….
Expect the best, and have fun! Our children are in tune with our emotions and pick up cues from us. If we are comfortable and having fun, then we set a positive tone for our kids and we support their success.