Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is Your Child Over-stimulated?


     The over-stimulation of children has been increasingly on the rise.  The wide array of products for babies, toddlers and even events for children have us parents feeling more like a booking and taxi service to our children than parents.
     Too often I see parents taking new babies to barbecues and letting them be passed around. I see parents schlepping toddlers from one birthday party to the next. I see parents enrolling their school age children into as many extracurricular activities as possible. All the time we are thinking this is good. We should give our children lots of new experiences. They should be comfortable around lots of people.
     How comfortable do you really want your child to be? Chances are they are not happy with what you are doing. Studies prove that time with children is what helps them to thrive. As parents you have to remember that we are their "nest". We have to have a stable nest, one that your children feel safe, loved and relaxed in. When your children are loved and safe at home they are able to go out and try new things and take on the world because they know you have their back and they can always come home and be loved and have some space to relax in. Even babies are not much different from adults.

   Although adults relax it never occurs to us that our children need to relax as well as us. Even babies need to relax. We have to show and teach our children the importance of not being overstimulated and taking time to relax in our day.

    Over-stimulation can happen when a child is swamped by many experiences, sensations, noise and activity than he/she can cope with. A baby can get unsettled after being at a party and being held by many adults. Toddlers and Pre-School age children may have a tantrum during or even after leaving a party. School age children get cranky if they go to school then after-school care and then an extracurricular lesson. From birth to preschool age children's brains grow very fast, so children need lots of learning opportunities but be careful to teach them to slow down and not to overdue things.
     When babies get over-stimulated they become very cranky and tired and are very hard to soothe. They may cry a lot, and even turn their heads away from you. An over-stimulated baby's movements may be jerky, he/she may clench their fists, wave their arms or kick. If your baby gets overstimulated do not dangle toys in front of your baby. Be sure to give your baby quiet time in a predictable and familiar setting. Take baby somewhere quiet to calm down. Sometimes quiet time in the crib helps or sometimes just playing quietly on a blanket with one or two toys is all that is needed. A great way to calm your baby and keep them from getting overstimulated is wearing them in a carrier or even swaddling them.

       When Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers get over-stimulated they get cranky, upset, tired, hard to manage, and may not want to do a particular activity anymore that they are usually happy to do. If your child becomes overstimulated be sure to reduce noise first. At this age, screens and noises are usually what makes them over-stimulated. Be sure to turn everything off, television, radio or anything you have that may be noisy. A good thing to do is to take them to their room and see if they can pick out a quiet activity such as coloring, reading, or just laying down on the bed together or giving each other back rubs. Once your child calms down be sure they get some time to quietly play alone. Also, changing the environment helps as well. Try going for a walk or to the park or even in your back yard or sitting on your porch coloring with chalk.

      If your School Age Child gets over-stimulated it can result in major behavior problems, problems concentrating and even sleep and bed wetting issues. If they become over-stimulated help them to put into words what they are feeling so that you can know exactly what it is that is over-stimulating them. School age children can be over-stimulated by the same things as toddlers and pre-schoolers or from activities and things that they are involved in so it is important to pin point the problem. Suggest to them to go to a quiet place to lay down, read or listen to music quietly. School age children benefit most from only one or two extracurricular activities that they are really interested in.

      Children benefit the most from quietly entertaining themselves and exploring their environment in their own way and at their own pace. By giving your child the chance to really explore their environment and spend time in quiet activities it teaches them a valuable life skill of the ability to occupy yourself. Self play and quiet time let's your child also reflect and think about what they want to learn and do and see. You will be surprised what an everyday quiet time can add to both your child's and your life!

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Sources for article: Raising Children Network

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