Christmas can be a triggering time for our little ones. Parties can often be tricky to manage. The combination of Christmas and a party is something else entirely. Over the last few years, I’ve come up with a quick checklist that I run through, before taking my children out to any Christmas Party. The more prepared I am, the less stressed my kids are.


Parties are noisy. There’s the music, people talking, and the sound of footsteps all around. The amount of noise depends a lot on the size of the party and the type of guests. A small family party is a lot less noisy than a school disco for example. Children’s parties are often full of excited kids screaming, or shrieking loudly, as they get hyped up on sugar.

If your child has noise cancelling headphones, even if they don’t want to wear them, it might be an idea to pack them. I also like to scope out a quieter space, where they can go during the party if they need a sensory break.

Visual overwhelm

There is so much going on at a party that has the potential to overwhelm our little people. To be completely honest, I find them rather overwhelming myself at times. There’s usually food laid out on big plates, which can be tricky for little ones who have yet to master self-control. It can help to fill a small plate with food for them, or discretely place them at the end of a table so there’s less temptation.

The general busy-ness of a party is completely overwhelming for those who are hyper-vigilant. It can tire them out quickly. It’s worth considering how long you think your little one can manage happily, before it becomes too much. Set them up for success by arriving later and doing a shorter stint if it helps, or skip a few parties if there are loads.


The size of the venue, how full it is, and the familiarity of the building, will all play a role. Does it feel cramped and claustrophobic? Is there space to run?  Is it a familiar safe space, like a friend’s house, or an unknown building? Personal space is also worth bearing in mind, especially if your child is super sensitive to touch, or sensory-seeking.

If you think your child may struggle, it is definitely worth staying at the party with them. If you are unable to do this, ask someone you, and they, trust to keep a close eye on them for signs of distress. It will also reassure your child to know there is a safe person they can go to immediately if they need to. Prepare your child as much as you can. Visit the venue if it’s a new one, and make a note of a potential quieter area they could retreat to.


There are lots of unspoken expectations around parties. The hosts and other guests will likely have certain expectations, as will you and your child. Preparing everyone for what to expect can help. This is especially important for your child. Don’t assume that they have realistic expectations, even if they have been to countless parties before.

Chat to them beforehand and ask what they think will happen at the party, what they are most looking forward to and most worried about. Will there be a visit from Santa?  Presents? Party bags? Is there a certain type of food they are expecting, or a friend they are counting on seeing?

Then it’s helpful to consider yourself. What are your expectations of how the event will go? Are they realistic? Having realistic expectations ourselves helps us to parent with our child in mind, without having to deal with our own disappointments alongside.


I like to pack a big backpack. There are extra snacks in case they don’t like unfamiliar party food, and a water bottle in case they feel a little sick from all the party food. Packing a straw to drink through can help if they become dysregulated. A full change of clothes is handy, in case of spills, and it’s a good idea to pack some sensory toys if your child uses them. Lastly, packing a comfort object or favourite book might help if they need a break.

Part of preparing for me, is planning an escape route! I feel so much more relaxed, knowing that I have a plan. Planning how to explain an early departure to my child and others helps me feel confident in the moment.  It’s crucial to avoid shame for your child. Something short and simple works. ‘We have had such fun, but it’s time to go now’.

Long-term strategies

Lastly, making mindfulness and other ‘calming down’ activities part of your regular day can help in the long-term. We cannot expect our children to suddenly use these techniques in a heightened moment if they have not practiced them hundreds of times when they are calm.

And remember, our kids can learn the skills to self-regulate. They can learn to make decisions in their best interest and one day they will be able to manage these situations. It takes time and lots of repetition and co-regulation, but they CAN get there! You’ve got this!


by Lizzy Fraser