Christmas can be a time of sensory overload for both parents and children alike (whether they have sensory processing difficulties or not).
For the last few weeks all of us (including me!) in my family have been running out of steam and the tiredness combined with too much sensory input (Christmas shopping, school play, Christmas nights out, parties), has led to more and more meltdowns (mainly the kids, but some from me too!).
When school finally finishes next week here are a few tips to make Christmas as happy , relaxed and sensory friendly as possible!
- Sensory scheduling – Christmas can be a time for family and friends to visit, which is of course wonderful, but can also lead to too much sensory input reaching our poor ‘modulator’s (sensory systems). When you are making plans for Christmas, try and space out visits with quiet (chill out days) or walks, playground visits (if it ever stops raining). You may need to turn down some invitations in order to get the right balance.
- Routine – many children with sensory processing difficulties find the change in routine over the school holidays really difficulty. Where possible try and stick to bedtime and morning routines. If you know the plans for the next day tell the child (or even better show in pictures ) what is happening. Anxiety or excitement can change sensory threshold (usually making us more sensitive to sensation) , so keeping things as predictable as possible can help keep sensitive kids more relaxed.
- Keep up the sensory activities – Try and build in some time for exercise every day- ideally outdoors . A change of scenery can sometimes be as good as a rest and a bit of good old proprioception always keeps the sensory system calm and alert. If Santa brings a bike or a scooter- get out and practice riding it!
- Matching the activity to the child’s sensory needs – Some children might prefer to open their presents in their room (quieter) or on their own, or be given the presents (after Santa has left them)one at a time over the next few days as they might find the excitement of the presents to much. Also Christmas dinner may not be appealing to our fussy eaters, so letting the child have a dinner they like before Christmas dinner starts might mean less upset at the Christmas dinner table. If you are having lots of family around for Christmas dinner, the child may find the noise and hustle and bustle too much- you could try setting up a quiet table for eating and ask who prefers the noisy table or the quiet table( you might get a few more takers for the quiet table!), or letting them eat beforehand and then join everyone for dessert.
- And lastly … mind your own modulator! – If you are also feeling a little (or a lot) tired, and sensory overload is beginning to hit you too- try and take some time away from the house, go for a run, do some meditation or breathing before bed or whichever activity you find calms you down. Keeping youself regulated can really help avoid sensory clashes in the household.
Here are a few more tips. from a mum with a child with sensory difficulties .
I wish you and your ‘modulators’ a very happy, relaxed and joyful Christmas,