How To Handle Overstimulation During The Holidays

The Honestly Adoption Podcast- Season 8, Episode 69

Trees! Lights! Parties! Presents! Friends! Family! Concerts! Cookies! Candy!  How can you help your child navigate all of the overstimulation they are experiencing during this time of year?

The holiday season is full of fun and exciting sights, sounds, smells, treats, and activities. Mike and Kristin have asked their good friend, Jenn Hook, to join us today as they discuss some ways parents can handle overstimulation with their kids during the holiday season.  Listen in now for Part 2 of 4 in our “Holiday Survival Tips and Tricks Series.”

Listen Now:


Notes and Quotes:

What are triggers?  What can we be looking for and what do we need to be aware of?
  • 80% of kids from hard places who have experienced trauma have trouble with overstimulation and their brains cannot make sense of it or organize it, so they don’t know what to pay attention to.
  • Triggers are things that have to do with the 5 senses:  smells, sounds, sights, touch, and tastes
  • Transitions are also very difficult for our children
What can we do to help our children regulate?
  • Set boundaries on how much extended family time, trips, activities you will do
  • Make things predictable
    • outline how the day is going to happen (rehearse ahead of time)
    • use visual images not just verbal information
    • put in a “wild card” so they know there sometimes ARE unknowns
  • Tune into your individual child’s particular needs
    • sensory-seeking kids need breaks, heavy pressure, spinning, swinging, etc…
    • sensory-avoidant kids need their own spaces to go to be alone
  • Every 2 hours: check in and use this “sensory diet”
What about emotional overstimulation?
  • This can be complex: with sadness and excitement at the same time
  • Validate their feelings (It’s O.K. to feel that way)
  • Don’t try to fix their feelings
  • Make a “feelings box” or color a “feeling heart”
What do we do with family members who don’t get it and tend to overstimulate our kids?
  • Educate extended family and friends!
  • Teach kids they have a voice to say “no” to hugs and touches they don’t want.
What do we do when a melt-down does occur?
  • Connect with that child, as the first priority, because they are in their trauma-brain.
  • Prepare the kids before hand so they don’t get to fight, flight, or freeze

BUT…if they do…

  • Quiet the noise in your brain and theirs by moving to a place away from outside judgements
  • Correction will not be helpful because they are in fight, flight, or freeze
  • Connect, regulate, and calm first.
  • Use engaging, playful activities and simple slogans
How do we handle technology?
  • Smart devices have a blue light, which is a stimulant, so be careful and strategic about using these devices.
  • Pick your battles. Sometimes a movie is great for a long car ride.
  • Overuse can be really detrimental.  Be aware of the information available about how much is too much for kids.
  • Set some boundaries and use a timer.
  • Give a 5 minute warning before turning it off.
What hope is there for a parent who is dreading the upcoming holiday season?

Realize that, through each of these experiences, you are drawing closer to your kids and learning more about them to be able to help them.

Find time for rest and self care and rest in the hope there is in Jesus.  As you love your kids through this season, remember these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

You are not alone.  There are people who understand what you are going through.

Be connected to a community who gets it- where you can be authentic and share.

Resources and Links:

Jenn Ranter Hook (M.A.) is a therapist, who worked in the foster care system, doing trauma counseling with children 3-18 years old, for many years.  She is a TBRI educator and the founder and director of Replanted Ministries. She also is one of the leaders and visionaries of Refresh, Chicago.

Question: Gotta question for us, or a story to share? Leave it in the comment section below this post! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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