When an abundance of stimuli is beyond the child’s processing “threshold” and causes confusion and/or anxiety, children experience overstimulation. It’s a little like how many parents feel when facing 300 options in the cereal aisle, scrolling through Netflix deciding what to binge next or trying to choose the “best” anti-wrinkle cream in the cosmetics section… Sometimes it is paralyzing, other times we end up with cereal no one will eat, watching bad TV and those wrinkles, they’re not budging!
Reality is that life, more now than ever, offers too many choices. Our children are inundated with digital, social and print messaging about every “Hot! New! Now!” game, toy and activity on the market. And, while it’s tempting to let them do it all, studies show that less is more. Please don’t tell them you heard that from us.
3 Strategies to Avoid Overstimulation in Kids
- Reducing the noise, removing your child from situations that provoke sensory overload and taking breaks are all good places to begin. Yoga, breathing exercises and even meditation helps, too – yet in the moment – focus on connection alone to get them back to calm. One quick Google search will prove that we’re not making it up – child and teen meditation is real. Plus, this is an activity you can learn and practice together. Any opportunity to spend one-on-one time with your kids is a win.
- Limit the number of games and activities they are allowed to have and do. Curb screen time and encourage activities that include passive toys and materials. Slowing active children down with fewer choices increases focus, attention and brings their creativity to life. Read THIS article to learn more about recent studies and the incredible results.
- All of our senses are affected adversely when in a state of sensory overload. Our “fight or flight” mechanism works double-time when we are in a constant state of chaos. Children and teens with Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism or other sensory vulnerabilities are more easily overwhelmed. In our pediatric occupational therapy clinic, we focus on positive interactions; building strong relationships and helping children feel at ease with themselves. This in turn helps them manage stressful and overwhelming situations. Zier Institute’s social groups and programs help children (of all ages) develop stronger self-confidence and provides them with tools to use when the rest of the world becomes too much.
Always remember less stuff, fewer items on the calendar and more love is key to keeping overstimulation and sensory overload at bay.