March 11, 2024

How to get through Purim day

Unlocking Wisdom: Expert Tips from Victoria Safdieh, founder of CARE and mom to children with special needs

Do you know the feeling you get when leaving for a party? The combination of excitement, and worry, what to expect, wear, talk about. For kids with special needs, this feeling can be constant and exaggerated. There is nothing more wonderful than gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holiday. We enjoy getting dressed up, giving mishloach manot, going to hear the megillah, eating the meal with family, loud music, continuing fun traditions and creating memories we treasure for years to come.

For children with special needs, Purim, with all the fun it comes along with, can have the potential to be very overstimulating and difficult to get through. Participating in these gatherings and traditions can go from wonderful to awful all too quickly. Large family gatherings and loud noise can offset your child’s typical routine and daily structure. Going to shul could be out of the question for some children with special needs. The child may not be able to sit quietly throughout the megillah and could disrupt you and others. Sometimes the family gathering is in an unfamiliar place, or the meal has unfamiliar food. Costumes can usually trigger sensory issues to the point of tears. While you want to make your child part of the festivities, sometimes it is impractical and too much for the child to bare. If it is too much all together to include this child in the festivities of the day, or too much for you or the rest of the family, allow the child to sit this holiday out. Sometimes, as much as we want to include the child in everything, it’s just too much. The child might be better off staying home and continuing with his/her normal routine. He/she won’t feel bad that they are missing out and will be happier without the anxiety and stress of the day. Ultimately, so will you and the rest of the family.

If you feel the child can manage the day, here are some pointers to consider preparing in advance to help everyone in the family enjoy a much better holiday.

1. Adjust expectations-we all have expectations going into the day. Let’s try and make those expectations ones that aren’t too high and will not disappoint us at the end of the day. We want to enjoy every conversation and fully engage with family. We want to enjoy the mitzvot of the day. However, your child might need you throughout the day and you might have to shift your focus sometimes. You may need to step out of the house and take your child for a walk to reset. Adjust your expectations and simplify them. I have learned that if I choose to enjoy the simple moments of the day, I will end up content in the end.                         

2.Gather the details of the day; by knowing what the day will bring, you could better prepare for it. Find out the different times for megillah readings, so you can organize your day accordingly. Find out what time you are expected to arrive and leave the meals.  Is there a space available for your child if they need alone time or to rest? As you gather the details and expectations, you can make decisions on how best to prepare.

3.Prepare a bag to take along– a few simple things can make all the difference. A comfort item, or preferred toy, change of clothes, headphones or tablets (no!! it doesn’t make you a bad parent). It is a long day; bring anything that will help your child feel comfortable.

4.Gather your “team”- don’t go into this day alone. If you have an aid or respite worker, plan to take them along with you. Talk to your spouse and other children so you can face this day together. Make a game plan, take turns with your spouse and other children watching, feeding, keeping the child busy, or going out for a walk. Having a team and planning together prevents potential tension and frustration that can build up as you try to do everything on your own.

5.Give yourself permission to step away or do what is best in that moment. Don’t push your child beyond what is reasonable. If it’s best for your family to leave early, do so gracefully. You can always follow up later with a phone call or text, thanking the host for the time that you were able to share together.

At the end of the day, keeping in mind the story of Purim and how the situation seemed dark and bleak. Venahafochu, Hashem turned things around and brought about salvation and light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Unlocking Wisdom: Expert Tips from Victoria Safdieh, founder of CARE and mom to children with special needs


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