Birthday Parties Tips for Children with ADHD
By Jackie Edwards
Peer status is a key concern for children with ADHD. A review of peer relationships for 7–9 year old children diagnosed with ADHD found that 52% of these children were in the rejected category and less than 1% were of popular status. Having a birthday party, receiving an invitation to a birthday party, or not receiving an invitation, can impact a child’s peer status. Behavioral and verbal responses (whether appropriate or dysregulated) when one of these scenarios present themselves, or during a party, can further impact peer status and relationships. Whether the child with ADHD will attend a friend’s birthday party or the parents will throw a birthday party for their child, parents can help their child by planning ahead and anticipating challenges. Every child should enjoy birthday parties as they are major events in their childhood. Children with ADHD are no exception. When children experience a good birthday celebration, whether it’s their own party or their friends', they will have a valuable memory.
Since some parts of birthday parties are predictable, parents can help prepare their child for these events. For example, receiving birthday greetings, singing Happy Birthday, saying good-bye, and saying thank you. Parents can teach some of these skills by using playful activities to improve the social skills of their child. Through playing games, the child can also learn what to do in less structured situations such as being part of a game, or simply interacting with another child at the party.
It is helpful to go over everything with your child a few times before the party. Parents should explain how the party will unfold and help establish the child’s expectations. Parents can also help the child write a timeline of the events to make them better understand what will happen.
Consider the Guest List and Length of the Party
While it might seem like a good idea to invite all the classmates of the child it may be too stressful or overstimulating for the child with ADHD if there are a lot of people at the party. Individuals with ADHD are often easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. Another benefit of having only a few attendees is that the birthday child will be able to interact with each attendee with less pressure. Parents should also make it a point to keep the party as short as possible. It’s better to have a short, fun, and memorable party than one where the child becomes exhausted and dysregulated. Parents should also consider the size of the party when they attend another child’s party.
Familiarize your Child with the Location
Children with ADHD are often creatures of habit. Many want familiarity and consistency, which is why new places might be overstimulating or overwhelming for them. Taking this into account, parents need to choose a location where their child is very comfortable. Parents can also help their child become familiar with an unfamiliar location of a friend’s party by visiting a couple of times. For some children, this will reduce stress and reduce the chance that they become dysregulated.
Communication with Other Parents
It is also important to communicate with other parents. Ask other parents about their plans for the birthday party. Parents should discuss with each other vital information about their child to make sure that every child will have the best time.