With the holiday season in full effect, stress levels for many people are through the roof. Parents are trying to plan around school breaks, while also trying to work and shop for loved ones. Teachers are also trying to get their last bit of learning in before children are “on vacation” for the next two weeks. In between all of this, children are having to carry the weight of homework assignments, increased family activities, and the overall general excitement for the days to come. However, for some children, the idea of the holiday season can be an overwhelmingly stressful period in which they feel overstimulated, overwhelmed, and maybe even, alone.
Does My Child Experience Overstimulation?
Overstimulation happens when there are too many external stimuli in a child’s environment, making it difficult for them to process each one individually. This means that, when combined, the stimuli can cause a child to react intensely under certain circumstances. While every child responds differently to their environment, those who struggle with sensory sensitivities might behave in unexpected ways. Observed behaviors may include: sudden irritability, opposition to environments with loud noises or bright lights, and nervousness about their surroundings. While the holidays are meant to be fun-filled days with family and friends, when your child is overstimulated… it can feel scary.
How Can I Help Them?
Even in the rush of the holiday season, you want to ensure that your child is comfortable. Being able to recognize when your child may be experiencing overstimulation and how to avert their anxieties can help the days run smoother.
If your child begins to show symptoms, use the following techniques to help ground them and find a moment of peace:
- Remove them from the scene temporarily: Many times, a child simply needs a break from the scene for a moment to breathe, which can allow them to calm down and gain control of their emotions
- Open communication: Be open to understanding your child’s feelings and concerns so that they feel validated.
- Focus on what you can control: In a room that has a million things going on at once, try to only put energy into what you can control. Tackling small hurdles consistently will show your child that you have their comfort in mind.
- Be empathetic of their reactions: Overstimulation is like taking ten feelings and combining them into one. Children often have difficulty navigating big emotions all at once. Be patient with their reactions will give them a safe space to feel better.
- Have the proper tools: Headphones, fidget toys, sunglasses, and comfortable clothing are all ways that can help your child shield themselves from any overstimulation.
- Include them in your plans: Have a conversation and explain to your child about what is going to happen. Give them time to prepare for what to expect. Allow them to ask questions, and ensure them that you are there to help them when they need it.
Conquer The Holiday Chaos This Year
Becoming overwhelmed with environmental stimuli can be stressful, and when the additional stress of the holidays is included, healthy outlets are crucial to keeping the celebrations cheerful. This is why it is important to keep your children in mind when making plans. Children will have various reactions to the stimuli they are presented with, but discerning between what they can and cannot handle is a balancing act. Together, you can reduce any adverse effects by keeping one another grounded in all the festivities. It is okay to feel intense emotions during the holidays, and do not be afraid to use any tools when you need them.