Finding balance when sensory overload hits can restore peace to your home.
Do you know what my very favorite thing to do is? Sit. That’s right. I love to sit on the porch and drink coffee. I love to sit in my rocking chair and read books. I also love to sit in my bed and watch trash tv. Do you know what I like second best? Quiet. Yes. Sitting and quiet. Do you know what my kids like? They love to loudly ask me a lot of questions way too early in the morning. They also like to turn the tv up so loud that I’m pretty sure the neighbors can hear. They also like to run, jump, climb, spin, and lots of other movement words that make me tired.
I’m sure all of you mamas can relate, no matter the gender and age of your babies. What makes things a little bit different in our family is that my 8-year-old has sensory processing disorder. This disorder, like many, can be experienced on a spectrum and occurs when an individual has a hard time receiving and responding to information that comes from the five senses. So, what does this look like for us? My kiddo is far on one side of the spectrum, where he is a major sensory seeker. For instance, he loves loud noises and is constantly humming or singing. He loves to be squeezed. He often asks for tight hugs, he likes to be in tighter fit clothes, and he will touch objects frequently. He also likes to chew. It doesn’t matter how many chewy necklaces and gadgets I supply, he will chew on his shirt, the ends of pencils, and my least favorite is the TV remote.
I like sitting in quiet. My son likes loud noises and can literally bounce off of walls. This is challenging, friends. Here are three things that I do to attempt to meet my son’s needs as well as my own.
- Provide Consistent Sensory Input. What does this mean? For us, it means almost scheduled hourly breaks to get movement in. We have been a homeschooling family since early pandemic life, so this is a bit easier for us to accomplish. I’m constantly asking my kiddo to choose an activity such as: bouncing on the trampoline, throwing a ball back and forth, or hopping around on the pogo stick. Throughout the day, these activities are necessary to keep him regulated and keep the chaos from escalating if his body’s needs are not met. For me, the perk of these activities is that I can sit and watch! Want to show me tricks on the trampoline? Great! Want to jump up and down the driveway while I sit and drink coffee? Wonderful!
- Have Designated Areas For Activities/Toys. If your boys are anything like mine, the noise and commotion associated with superhero battles are really intense and cause intense inner anxiety. So, we have compromised. We keep all of the race cars, Transformers, superheroes, and overall general noisy toys downstairs in the living room/playroom. Toys like legos, play-doh, arts & crafts are all kept upstairs in their bedroom. This way, the chaos certainly still happens, but at least I’m able to have a little distance from it.
- Take Care of Me. This pandemic has been challenging on so many levels, but the most difficult has been navigating ‘alone time’ being a single mama stuck mostly at home with two kiddos. It has taken its toll. So, to get any sort of breathing space, I’ve had to get creative. I have swapped out time at the gym prior to school pick-up for walking up and down my street numerous times each day. We live on a dead-end street, so I literally walk up and down for about 20 minutes each day or until a kid runs outside and needs something. My kids also have a super early bedtime. I have learned that no matter how late they go to sleep, they still wake up ungodly early. So, I cherish my evening time to myself. I try to choose things like enjoying a hot shower, reading a book, or tackling household chores in quiet to give my brain a break from noise and stimulation.
I would love to hear how you all handle sensory challenges in your home!