Please welcome my friend, Kyndra, back to the blog. She always shares amazing advice for parents dealing with children who have sensory issues. Thank you, Kyndra, for helping people like me.
We went to Target the other day. The holiday decorations were up, and the children were so mesmerized by the the blinking and moving decor that they promptly forgot our shopping rules. Not a big deal as we were only there for about 15 minutes, but not a good sign of what to expect during the holiday season!
There isn’t a good, single solution either. I have to shop. At the very least, there are groceries to buy, and the children have to come with me. Mouse (5 and a half) responds to the lights, moving objects and noise by getting very clingy and putting everything in sight into her mouth, while Buggle (6 and a half) goes into ubergeek mode and asks unending questions about how everything works. Add in a preschooler and a toddler (riding on my back and playing with my hair) and it’s a wonder I manage to come home with the right groceries!
The same thing is likely to happen when we visit friends and relatives. It even happens at home when we bring out the Christmas decorations. We are changing the physical environment and even though our decorations are few, simple, and quiet, they still change the sensory input.
What to do with holiday sensory overload?
Stick with the routine
We try to keep up with the tidying and usual chores as much as possible. That’s part of the routine and somehow putting away their laundry or clearing the dishwasher is calming and centering.
Remind of the rules
We constantly review the rules. Rules are a lifeline to children who require routine and predictability and since they are young and easily overwhelmed, they need constant reminders that the rules don’t change when there are sparkly trees in the stores.
We specifically review what things they may and may not touch at home and when we visit. They need sensory input so when we visit someone I go around the room with them, look at everything and remind them that they are not to touch, before I start visiting.
We are intentional about employing coping mechanisms that we know work. I will keep a chew necklace in my purse for Mouse and get some new Silly Putty for Buggle.
We plan for overload and meltdowns. We leave somewhere if we need to. If we can’t leave for some reason then we employ coping mechanisms including holding and positive touch.
Get extra rest
We plan for extra alone time and rest before we go somewhere stimulating. When we return from events, we often have a half-hour of room time to allow everyone to settle again.
Most of all we try to be patient. They are not trying to be naughtier than usual. They are overstimulated and can’t find their calm. We need to help them and not disapprove of the way they are made.
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a house full of young children, unending questions, and abundant grace.
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