Right now we are all feeling a little (or a lot overwhelmed). Kids are the same. Their lives have been turned upside down. As everyone continues to try to "find a new normal", kids are getting more and more frustrated. They just want to play with their friends and do all their favorite things again. When kids are frustrated it comes out as behaviors, yelling, and sometimes a child you don't recognize. You may be saying "She never used to act like this" or "why can't you just calm down?" Often we are caught off guard, and something that seems like it should be "no big deal" turns into a massive meltdown. This affects not only the child, but the entire family.
We have certainly had these struggles at our house, and likely you are having the same problems. As a parent it is maddening to try and figure out what is wrong. Sometimes kids can't tell you; they just know they are frustrated. They are struggling with control.
Self control is the ability to control your own emotions and behaviors. Another name for is self regulation or sensory regulation. Sometimes kids struggle with self control because of difficulties with sensory processing and sensory modulation. Sensory processing is how our nervous system take in sensory information from the environment and makes sense of it. Sensory modulation is controlling the amount of sensory input that comes into the nervous system. Some kids are sensory seekers and some are sensory avoiders. When there is a disconnect between the sensory information coming in, and the child's ability to process it, there is often difficulties with self control.
Other times difficulties with self control stem from struggles with emotions and external circumstances. This is likely the case for many children right now. There are lots of tools you can use to help children learn about their own emotions and come up with strategies to calm themselves when feeling overwhelmed. I often use How Does Your Engine Run and Zones of Regulation. The picture above is a great visual to teach kids about self control. First you STOP what you are doing, THINK about the different options you have, after you chose the options you can reACT.
If we equip our children with simple tools to help them think through different options, they are empowered to realize they are in control. They can learn to think before reacting. This will be so powerful to a family when a child can have better self control.
Pediatric occupational therapists are one of your best resources in teaching children self control. They are uniquely positioned to look at the child from a neurological (sensory) and behavioral perspective.
For more information about occupational therapy services that are available in Lincoln Nebraska please reach out at 402-413-1356 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Halloween costumes that will bring smiles instead of tears
Halloween is less than 2 weeks away. Many times this holiday is met with excitement and fun. For children with sensory processing challenges Halloween is stressful and frustrating. Children with sensory processing challenges experience the world very differently. Their bodies often over respond to sensory input. Noises and certain fabrics can send them into a panicked fight or flight state.
Imagine having to walk around in the dark in a wet swim suit with the sound of fingernails running down a chalkboard, and ants crawling all over your body......sensory overload. This is how a child with sensory processing difficulties may feel if forced to wear a costume and trick or treat.
Many well intentioned parents may think "you'll have fun if you just try" and force their child to put on a costume and go out with siblings. Unfortuatnely this child will only become more overwhelmed until eventually a meltdown will happen. It is not that the child doesn't want to go, it's that they can't handle all the confusing messages coming into their nervous system. Additionally they see friends and siblings having fun, and struggle to understand why Halloween isn't fun for them.
Below are some ways to make Halloween costumes more sensory friends so that all children may enjoy the fun.