Kids DO get overstimulated. Despite the belief of many, all of the sights and sounds and crowds during the holidays can be a lot for kids to digest. You know your child best, if they seem like they are getting overstimulated to you, then they probably are. There are a few things you can help do to avoid overstimulation, or to help your child deal with it. Additionally, remembering that kids are kids can go a long way.
What is overstimulation?
Overstimulation occurs when there are too many sights, sounds or activities for a child to handle. Often, this can lead to behavior issues or a child who has difficulty calming down. During the holidays, there are parties, school events, crowded stores, presents, etc., it can prove to be a lot for many kids to handle. Part of understanding overstimulation in your child, is knowing and recognizing the cues for what happens before they become overstimulated. Once you can identify what happens before, you can better control what happens after.
How to avoid overstimulation.
There are ways to avoid overstimulation by dealing with it through connection and flexibility. Often we set adult expectations on our children, and need to remember that they are just kids. Additionally, they don’t always have the verbal skills, or are not comfortable or self-aware enough, to recognize what is causing them to be upset and to talk to us about it.
Here are some tips to help your child avoid overstimulation during the holidays:
Give them the words. “I need a break” is a powerful phrase for kids. It doesn’t require complete expression of their emotions (which makes it a bit easier to verbalize). Helping your child learn that they have they power to ask for a break when needed, helps them also to identify the precursors to becoming overwhelmed. For example, if you are at a holiday party in a crowded room full of music and you see that your child is having a hard time sitting in their seat to eat, ask them if they need a break or have them request one. You can go for a short walk outside and take a couple of deep breaths to regroup.
Schedule down-time. With breaks from school it can be really tempting to schedule their days with the assumption that they will be ‘bored’ at home. Get together with friends and plan a couple of family activities, but remember that finding time for kids to have some unstructured time is beneficial as well.
Be flexible. Use your child’s cues to help them avoid overstimulation. Over time, you will be able to recognize some of the early cues of overstimulation. In babies, this might be avoiding eye contact, or in toddlers it might manifest by a disinterest in an activity that they might typically enjoy. If something isn’t working, give it up. Be flexible in your plans and use your child’s cues accordingly.
Use a calm down corner. Having a safe, quiet and calm place for kids to go when they are becoming overstimulated will give your child a sense of control as well as give you a good strategy for knowing ‘what to do next’. Use these phrases as alternatives to saying “calm down” to help your child.
Check out how we set up our calm down corner and how we use it as a positive discipline strategy as well.
Let your kids know what is going to happen. The holidays often come with a major change in the daily routine. This can be incredibly challenging for even the most well-adjusted and adaptable kids. Taking your child to and from activities without much notice, or without knowing what is expected of them when there can ramp up behaviors quickly. In the morning, give your kiddos a quick run down of what the day will look like, and any expectations you might have for your child.
You can avoid overstimulation in your kids during the holidays, but it might take a little bit of flexibility and extra attention to your child’s cues and needs. Help them use their words, schedule some down-time, be flexible and set expectations to help manage these emotions. Additionally, have a safe, calming space for them to go to when they need to take a step back.
Enjoy the holidays with your family!
Photo Credit: Baby Santa
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