Our seven year old, adopted at 11 months, is in the living room whooping it up as I am blogging. She has a trumpet, a drum, a friend, and her sister to help with her noise making. Needless to say, this house is not a haven of rest on this pre-holiday Saturday afternoon.
Our sweetie has sensory processing issues, like many children adopted from hard places. Strong sensory input can cause her to overload. When she was younger, she would often stage an all-out tantrum when faced with sensory overload. These days, she is more adept at figuring out what she needs, and she sometimes handles it well. However, as I listen to the noise ramping up in the living room right now, I can predict that she will soon melt into tears or run away and escape. It is certainly paradoxical that the same kids who cannot handle loud noises are the most adept at making them.
The holiday season begins this week with Thanksgiving. It can be tricky to bring our sensory-sensitive kiddos into family gatherings. I struggle with the balance between protecting my kids and my own heart from real or perceived criticism and enjoying the company of family and friends. A few strategies have worked well for us. As parents, we are still learning even as our kids are learning and growing. Maybe some of the Heitritter family strategies can help you too. I’d love to hear what works for you!
1) We take two cars to family events. We need to have the freedom for one parent to stay and visit with relatives and the other to head home with an overwhelmed child or two. If we are away visiting family, we work it out for someone else to bring a parent back to the hotel. We need to have the freedom to run away.
2) We stay in a hotel even when there is an option to stay with family. Our kids need a place to have a quiet get-away and we have found the pool to be especially therapeutic. Even though our family members have been great, we have found it is just best to have the escape hatch available.
3) We try to make sure our kids are fed before we go to any gathering. My sensory kiddo just can’t stand to be hungry. I know it is strange to feed a child before going to a family dinner, but arriving with a hungry kid is asking for trouble.
4) This is the hard one…I try to stay very positive about my kids when I talk to relatives who don’t see them often. Even when things at home are rough, I don’t want to play the “You can’t believe what my kid did now!” game. I try to emphasize the blessings and downplay the challenges. My kids deserve me to be their cheerleader, even if that means I’m not as real as others might expect me to be.
This post took me long enough to write that my little ones are asleep. The predicted melt-down happened. The friend was brought home and the kids were fed. Sleep, for sensory kiddos is always welcome! Happy holidays folks. May you be blessed and may you be a blessing to those you love.