Up until my son was about 13 years old, I absolutely dreaded receiving invitations for him to attend a classmate’s birthday party.
Let’s face it, kids parties can be a veritable minefield of pseudo-politics and who-is-cooler-than-who. I was not much into mingling with people I didn’t already know though, so none of that worried me. What I worried about was leaving my ADHD son at a party, not so much as unsupervised as unprotected!
At one point after my son’s ADHD diagnosis and before we started medication we were trying a form of an exclusionary diet- no sugar, caffeine, colourants, trans-fats or preservatives, lots of green vegetables, lots of added vitamins and fish oils… Apart from the fact that my son was never a big eater and this diet made our lives miserable, it also meant that there was nothing he was “allowed” to eat if he went to a party. I eventually adopted the “everything in moderation” approach to food, but in that time often turned down invitations rather than have to lecture my son on what he could or couldn’t eat.
The thing is though, whilst the myth prevails that sugar makes kids hyperactive, countless studies have been done to show that this is in fact not the case. If there’s anything that can and does affect some children’s level of hyperactivity and attention it’s the artificial colourants and sweeteners! And the setting of a party with entertainment and noise laid on is going to give any child the impression is that- for the time being- excitement is not only okay but expected. Can you imagine little Johnny’s mom’s disappointment if the kids at her son’s party behaved the way they are expected to do in a classroom situation?!?
That aside, my son was painted with the naughty brush very early in his school career and I found- to my dismay- that he was being watched like a hawk, by parents and children alike, for the slightest sign of aberrant behaviour! Never mind the fact that he was at a kids party and surrounded by colour, noise, other excited children and all kinds of entertainment, he was not allowed to get excited or run or shout. If he did so, then he was hopped up on sugar and “obviously” hyperactive and out of control. It broke my heart that my son was the one expected to be calm and compliant no matter the surroundings.
I implore you and I challenge you as adults- whether you have children or not- that when you are next hosting or attending parties for children, you keep the setting in mind before you brand any child with the hyperactive label. When they’re at a party, you want them to be happy. You want them squealing with excitement at the petting zoo. You want them gasping at a magic act and volunteering to be disappeared. You want them laughing on a jumping castle.
A party just wouldn’t be the same without all the giggling and excitement now would it!?