The stores are full, your inbox is too, and you are wondering how to handle your sensitive child’s reactions to family and school events. You are not alone.
Everyone knows about the “holiday blues”, where our dreams and expectations come up against real life: awkward family relationships, conflicting demands on our time and finances, etc. But for kids with sensory and emotional sensitivity (I don’t see these as always separate issues, by the way), surviving the holiday season can be very difficult indeed. The excitement and the novelty of the holidays affect them more intensely and are not always welcome additions to their days. Here are some suggestions to make things better:
- Think about an event before you commit to it. The hour of the day, the size and the activity, the duration of the event are all considerations. You know your child, so you can identify what factors will be the most challenging and what will be easier to handle. In general, sensitive kids do best with smaller, shorter, quieter and earlier events.
- Create your own event around your child, and invite others to join in. When you get to design it, you have more control over how things play out. Some suggestions would be cookie decorating, visiting a nursery or outdoor holiday display, making wrapping paper with crayons and stickers, and watching a holiday video party.
- Get your sensory diet activities all set up for an event that you can’t or won’t cancel. Your OT should be able to help you craft a plan to reduce your child’s overall sensitivity with input such as deep pressure, breath control, tactile input, etc. Just ask. Most of us would be happy to help you.
- Do not forget the basics of keeping any child calm at an event: enough sleep, enough to eat and drink, and being healthy enough to participate. If your child is ill, tired, or hungry, you need to think carefully about how well he will manage, and make the decision to cancel or alter your plans. Sometimes the situation isn’t going to be fixed with a few bounces on a therapy ball and some joint compression. In these situations, your child isn’t any different from any other child.
If you are looking for ideas about how to decrease sensitivity, take a look at How to Help Sensitive Kids Handle Greeting People (Including Their Own Parents!) and Sensory Sensitivity In Toddlers: Why Responding Differently to “Yucky!” Will Help Your Child
Holidays can be fun for everyone, including sensitive children. Plan well, be flexible, and make thoughtful choices that work for your family!