Whether it's due to bad weather, remote learning, homework after school, or any other reason, sometimes our kids get stuck inside for long periods of time and start to show signs of overstimulation. Currently with it being winter, as well as a global pandemic, it's pretty evident that children and families are experiencing overstimulation at record rates. Getting a hold on your child's attention long enough to complete what's expected of them can be challenging and frustrating-for you both. You're ready to throw in the towel and they're discouraged and exasperated. So what's to be done?
Look at it from a standpoint of what they need, not what they need to get done.
We can often get so hung up on
-getting the homework finished
-staying on track with remote learning
-playing independently so Mom/Dad can get something done
-giving up and giving them screentime
that we miss the whole point! Their lack of focus is actually a signal that something is off with their body. Instead of trying to power through, stop and notice what they are physically doing.
Bouncing off the walls?
Hiding under a blanket?
On the verge of tears or an anger outburst?
Rolling on the floor?
Sitting upside down on the couch?
Fidgeting excessively with their hands?
Chewing on their shirt/pencil/hands?
These are cues to tune in. And if we as the adults can't read and address them, how can we expect our children to?
On the flip side, when we learn to read a child's signs of dysregulation and offer ways to reset, we model for them how to self-manage appropriately. This is going to get the job at hand done much more efficiently than "powering through" AND helps them develop skills that will last them a lifetime.
There are many simple sensory supports that you can use to quickly get a child back into a calm, regulated state. These tap into one or more of their sensory systems in order to provide calming feedback to counteract what feels overstimulating about their current environment.
Dim the lights
Use candlelight, flashlight or a headlamp to complete work
Remove clutter and visual distractions from workspace
Remove anything with flashing lights or bright patterns/colors
Look at a lava lamp for 5 minutes
Play I-spy for 5 minutes
Play nature sounds or classical music at low volume while taking a break
Turn off the TV, other music or other background noise
Find noisy pets or siblings something to quiet them down
Put on noise blocking headphones
Diffuse calming essential oils
Light a favorite scented candle
Rub hands or temples with scented lotion
Smell eucalyptus or flowers
Run hands through box of dried beans or rice
Rub hands or face with a favorite textured blanket (faux fur, crochet, etc)
Take off socks and walk through the house across different rugs, tile and floors
Take a shower or bath
Proprioceptive (The body's sensation of pressure)
Wear a weighted blanket
Roll your child up tightly in a blanket as a "burrito" or "sushi roll"
Give a bear hug
Pounding massage using fists or edge of hand on back
Wear tightly fitting clothing like Under Armor
Drink through a straw
Lift, push or pull heavy things (groceries, full laundry baskets, etc)
Vestibular (The body's sensation of movement)
Swing on a backyard swing set or on an indoor one like this one
Smooth, back and forth, straight swinging is key for calming (not fast, or irregular)
Breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth 3-5 times or more
Trying one, two or a combination of more of these are quick resets that will have your child feeling ready to return to the job at hand AND much more understood and supported.
In the process, you are also modeling for them self-awareness of their needs and self-care. With these skills, they can perform at their best, rather than push through with unhealthy expectations for what they are capable of. And can set them up for a lifetime of healthy self-regulation.
Cheering you on!