What to do when your child does not like Purim
Weeks before Purim starts, many children have already been busy with it. They know what their costume is going to be, what they will give in their mishloach manot to their friends and in general get excited the closer Purim comes. They love the noise, the candy and how most rules go out of the window on Purim. On Purim almost anything fun goes. Many children yes…..but definitely not all of them.
Children with sensory sensitivities may hate to have to wear costumes. More often than not the costumes tickle, are itchy or are just plainly uncomfortable. Food intolerances or an overload of sugar can cause tears and angry outbursts. Not to mention oversensitivity to sound. With all the loudness during the megillah reading and during the day in general you have a sure recipe for a meltdown. Anxiety rears its ugly head and can change a happy day into a disaster. Not just for your child, but for the rest of the family that has to deal with it.
What can you do to help your child and have a Purim that they and the rest of the family can enjoy?
Involve your child in choosing a costume. If you have a family theme, see what works for your child within that theme. The more your child can tell you if a costume is comfortable or not, and can wear the costume before Purim to get used to it, the better the chance that on the day itself the costume will be a success. Purim is supposed to be a day of fun and happiness, so if your child does not want to wear a costume at all, that too should be ok.
Food and treats
Many children have food allergies or intolerances. In addition, many many children have a reaction to sugar that causes quite the range of behavior unwanted on a day like Purim. Instead of saying that your child can not have any sugar at all, give him/her a choice of some candy and swap the rest out for something else. Something else can be decided in a discussion beforehand. Some kids like to get money for the sugary stuff, others like to have snacks that are healthier. Most of all, the child has to be on board with the alternative. The more fun it is, the easier it is to hand in the tempting candies.
Ask the parents of the children you are going to give mishloach manot to if their children have intolerances, if they want healthier snacks or gluten free. The traditional Hamentashen can be made in such a way that even those gluten intolerant can eat them : https://somethingnutritiousblog.com/gluten-free-hamantaschen/
Even the best plans can fail. Take that into account and have a backup plan.
Noise and fun in synagogue
Discuss with your child what he/she thinks may help. In case your child, like many, says they have no idea, here are some suggestions to talk about and decide upon.
A smaller, quieter minyan while the other children go with the other parent to the regular loud one.
Noise-canceling headphones or just regular headphones so that the megillah can be heard without all the racket.
Visual cues for when the name of Haman is going to be mentioned. Very often, if the sound is expected, the child can adjust and does not get startled. Just being able to cover the ears in time can help.
Watch on a phone or tablet, with headphones, the Purim story while the megillah is read.
Most of all. You as a parent, relax. If your child knows it is fine and normal to feel everything he is feeling, feels that you as parents do not think it strange that she does not like what so many like, communication will be much easier. If it is clear that you are looking for solutions that work, not to be the same as others, creativity will be on your side.
Last but not least. Even the best plans can fail. Take that into account and have a backup plan. When all fails we will………the answer is up to you and will make sure Purim is not ruined for the rest of the family, and you.
Have a Happy Purim!