Things can get really hectic at this time of year, and sometimes it all just becomes too much for our little ones.
Keeping routine and structure will really help keeping anxieties low, but if you sense that your child is beginning to struggle its worth trying to de-escalate the situation by using whatever strategy works for you and your child.
Here are some simple things you could try…
Going outside for some fresh air can work wonders, maybe a dog walk or a run around the park. My son often finds being in nature really relaxing, he climbs trees and rolls around in the mud to his hearts content. It often really helps to bring his anxieties back down and levels his mood.
Calming music and dimming the lights can really calm a child.
'Bubble motion tumbler' toys can work really well for children to focus on and are very relaxing to watch.
Lying on the sofa and being 'squished and squashed' with cushions can have a calming effect on some children.
One of the hardest things for children to recognise is when they are beginning to feel anxious and stressed, as they often live in a heightened state of anxiety all the time. That's why they can seem to explode from out of nowhere. So emotions visuals and wristbands etc can help us as adults highlight to our children when we sense they may need some calming strategies. Visuals work well for this as language is difficult for children to process when they are anxious
Some children find being in a warm bath or shower relaxing, as do us adults when we get chance!!
Pets are amazing at calming children who are anxious. My sons loves to cuddle his dogs when he is feeling sensitive.
Its always worth having a sensory kit bag with fiddle toys/ earphones/ blanket/ lights/ stress balls / favourite snacks etc.
Sucking on ice can help, my son uses ice pops or chewing gum as I find when he is stressed he starts chewing his sleeve.
A tent with cushions and blankets, this could be in the lounge or upstairs out of the way, whatever works for you.
Favourite activity/ special interest can be what children need to reset.
Allowing your child to stim, its what they need to do.
Pressure and weighted products can help calm children, these include jackets, blankets, shoulder and lap cushions.
Jumping on a trampoline/off the sofa can relax and calm kids as it repetitive movement. Or a scooter board also offers repetitive relaxing movement if you scoot up and down on it.
Shaving foam on the kitchen table is a great sensory activity that relatively easy to clean.
Spinning in a chair can help some kids to calm.
Ear defenders can help if things are too loud, or listening to a favourite story or music on their earphones.
Stretchy suits and sleeping bags can provide cocoon like comfort and help children feel safe.
A drive in the car can help calm a child sometimes maybe with their favourite audio story just to get out of the situation.
Hand/ head/ shoulder massage can help calm a child that’s becoming distressed, this often works well for my son.
But inevitably things do escalate sometimes despite our best efforts so....Reduce pressure, reduce language and choose your battles. I find it helpful to think of it in terms of a panic attack. This helps me focus on helping my son instead of getting frustrated with him.
Kids who are really overwhelmed feel trapped and will more often than not want to run away to keep themselves safe from whatever the perceived threat is. And if they can't escape, they will lash out to get passed whatever is in their way, which is often us (flight or fight). So as long as it's safe for them to do so, allow a way for them to get out of the situation, and you will find they often take themselves to what makes them calm anyway.
Keep your tone as calm as possible, your language to a minimum and don't criticise. This is one of the hardest things we have to learn to do as so much of the process of de-escalating the situation is down to how we react to the behaviour. It always helps me to just keep telling myself it's not personal and they can't help it. They are not in control of their bodies when things have got to this stage. Repeating this again and again in my head has got me through many a tricky situation with both my own son and the children I have supported over the years.
If you feel that knot in your stomach becoming too big and you feel swamped with adrenaline get someone else to take over and get yourself calm again.
And finally don't beat yourself up. Despite all the planning, prep and routines in place ....sometimes we can't avoid everything.
So do your best and give yourself some time to recharge afterwards. Just as your child will need time to recover, so will you. Take care of yourself and don't dwell on what went wrong.
Pat yourself on the back for being so in tune with your child that they feel safe enough with you to truly be themselves at their most vulnerable time. And know that they need our help, love and support more than ever when they feel like this.
So what you're doing simply by being there everyday is so important for your child and if they could, they would tell you the very same as I am about to.....You're Fab!