Thursday 7 March 2019

World Book Day Stress

Browsing the internet today might give the impression that World Book Day is a wonderful, joyous occasion; a brilliant idea to inspire children and help persuade them all to love books.

For some, that might be true. For a long while, I thought that all children must love books and love the excitement of a dress up day at school. Then my eyes were opened, and I realised that far from being a wonderful opportunity for every child, World Book Day brings stress for many families. I've seen pictures of all sorts of fantastic costumes being posted on social media accounts and I'm happy for those people who can take joy in something which seems so simple.
The Week magazine cover world book day
Here, the stress started for Sasha a couple of weeks ago, when she discovered that her new school was going to do a dress-up day for World Book Day. A couple of days later, this copy of the magazine The Week Junior came through the door. Usually, despite her self-proclaimed hatred of reading anything, Sasha likes to pick this magazine up on the day it arrives, as soon as she sees it. She sits on the stairs as she tears off the wrapper and flicks to the pages she likes to skim read. Not this time though. I found it very interesting and telling that this issue of the magazine has remained untouched, still sitting on our stairs in its cellophane wrapper. When she saw it had arrived, she took one look at it and herrumphed 'World Book Day, grrr' before turning her back on it and stomping off.

It's not just World Book Day of course; any dress-up day can cause this stress in a family. I'm sure there are many non-crafty parents like me, who don't manage to 'just' pull a Willie Wonka or Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter outfit together from whatever clothing items are already in the house, with a few clever additions. Even with plenty of notice and a child who knew what they wanted, this would never have been a strength of mine. 
Tamsin in viking outfit
I was the mum who would turn to the internet (see above Viking outfit) and throw money at the situation in order to avoid our eldest daughter feeling left out or inadequate. Instead it made me feel inadequate, highlighting my lack of creativity and making me wish that I had more imagination. Luckily, Tamsin was happy with the shop-bought, generic outfits and didn't mind (in fact preferred I'm sure) that I hadn't spent hours crafting something special and unique for her to wear.

Today, for different reasons, our youngest girl is not in school for World Book Day. For the past few years, Sasha has had a problem with dress-up days of any description. Her sensory issues mean that many costumes are just too uncomfortable - she's not a fan of clothing at the best of times, so something new and different to wear at a stressful time is definitely not going to be a winner.
stephs two girls in witch dresses
There were times when Sasha was younger when she would wear costumes, but they never stayed on for very long. She was able to cope with special events better in some ways back then, maybe because they were shorter bursts, but also because Sasha seemed to be distracted in her own world of excitement for those periods.
sasha as a pirate
She did go through the typical Princess dress stage too; her love of role play and great imagination meant these added to her fun for a short while. I don't remember buying Sasha a costume of her own though, they were all handed down from her big sister.
sasha in a princess dress
In primary school, World Book Day did even manage to inspire Sasha to do some work, just the once... Dora was one of Sasha's obsessions at that age, and thankfully her costume was fairly simple to replicate.
sasha as dora
Over the years to come, Sasha became more aware of the world around her, and was able to articulate more about why she found these times difficult. Being approached by other children, and adults, in costume is something that she finds scary, and bewildering. I remember times at primary school where she hid behind my legs and couldn't enter the classroom. Too much change all in one go, coupled with the increased noise, chatter and excitement levels of all the others taking part have a big impact on her anxiety levels, to the point where she feels the need to be as far away as possible.

That's why Sasha is not taking part in World Book Day today. She was unable to face all the others who would be dressed up. It seems a shame for any child to miss out on this fun, but for some it's just not fun. I'm not trying to suggest here that themed days shouldn't happen, just hoping for acknowledgement of the difficulties they bring. I already know from comments on my Facebook page earlier that there are many other families in this same situation. World Book Day is a stress we could do without!

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking for more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, the posts below may help.

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

Autism with demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance?

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  1. I hear you! Any form of dress up or dress down day is a huge trauma for my children and leaves us coping with tears fir days later. They are not fun in any way. I also object to the money parents feel obligated to pay out for such things, even if schools argue they don’t need to. In times when some families struggle to heat their homes the last thing they should be buying is fancy dress up clothes that will likely never be worn again. Besides trying to work a day at school with some elaborate outfits will be a huge challenge!
    I am so glad you kept Sasha off!

    1. Yes, there's definitely a lot of extra issues in what you are saying too. I'm not sure why dressing up needs to be a mass participation thing linked to learning...

  2. My daughter struggles with seams and uncomfortable clothing, I think the option is to keep her off as the school hasnt said they can come in non uniform. Also I agree the parents that struggle with money, its not fair

    1. Think there needs to be more thought and flexibility for everyone!


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