What a crazy past two years this has been for everyone! With all of this unpredictability and change, your child may be experiencing some big feelings at home. If this is the case, we are here to help! Below, you can find some tips on how to empathize with your child during feelings of frustration, anger or sadness. These moments can be very challenging for primary caregivers and other caretakers, especially when additional stressors are present. Experts from the field of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry have provided essential information to help us support both young children and adolescents through heightened emotions. These tips are short, simple and straightforward!
Sleep is the best regulation for your child! We need sleep each night to recharge our bodies and minds. Sleep is just as important as a balanced diet and physical activity, it affects our safety, as well as our memories, moods, behavior, and learning abilities. Establishing effective bedtime routines allow your child to develop self-soothing skills which they will benefit throughout their childhood and adult life.
Consistency is key! Children thrive from a structured and predictable routine they can anticipate. Decrease and remove all electronics before dinner to spend quality time with your child during their bedtime routine.
Try these bedtime tips to set your child up for sleep success:
- Bath/Shower/ ”Tub Time”: After eating dinner, transition your child to a bath, get creative and try new things to make the bath enjoyable for you and your child (i.e. glowsticks, cups, or toys). A bath is a great way to end the day and allow your child relaxing sensory input. After the bath, you can apply your child’s favorite lotions, pajamas, and tooth brushing.
- Books: Read new and favorite books WITHyour child each night. When reading stories, point to different objects and items on each page. Talk about the book and identify new items you see and explain what it is to your child. Ask your child questions about the book to increase your child’s cognitive skills and language development.
- Set the Mood:
- “Lovey”/Self-soother: If your child is still nursing or takes a bottle at night, use this as a great opportunity to bring your child’s “Lovey” with them on your lap, sing lullabies with your child, or talk to them.
- Atmosphere: You know your child best! Does your child like to be swaddled, in a sleep sack, or do they not like to be covered with heavy blankets? Sleep occurs best in a colder room. Have the room dark with only a dim light on for reading and soft music playing or a natural white noise (e.g. fan). Sing lullabies with your child and tuck them in.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
What is stimming?
“Stimming” is a term which is often used to refer to self-stimulatory behaviors in children. These are repetitive behaviors that children engage in to stimulate their various sensory systems. Common forms of stimming may include hand flapping for increased proprioceptive (body awareness) input, rocking back and forth for increased vestibular (movement) input, lining up toys or staring at spinning objects for increased visual input, and humming or making other repetitive noises for increased auditory input. In extreme instances, stimming behaviors can be self-injurious (such as head-banging, self-scratching, or biting).
Self-stimulatory behaviors are often used by children to help them regulate their bodies and make them feel calmer or more engaged in certain situations. When children under-stimulated by their environments, they often participate in self-stimulatory behaviors for extra sensory input that may help them feel more engaged in the moment. When overstimulated, repetitive stimming behaviors can provide extra sensory input that many children find calming.
Is stimming bad for my child?
Self-injurious behaviors can be dangerous and may require you to intervene to physically stop the behavior before your child hurts him or herself. However, most self-stimulatory behaviors are simply socially inappropriate. In these situations, you can try to meet your child’s sensory needs through other activities, so he or she feels less of a need to seek out additional sensory information.
What can I do to help?
For children seeking out extra visual input, try playing with bubbles, balloons, or other toys which are easy to visually track. If your child seeks out additional proprioceptive input through hand flapping, you can try wheelbarrow walking, encouraging the child to sit on his or her hands, or providing hand squeezes to provide extra pressure in his or her joints. Try playing music, using a white noise machine, or playing with bubble wrap if your child engages in auditory stimming behaviors. If your child rocks or spins, try swinging in a blanket, climbing playground equipment, or rolling on the ground for increased vestibular input.
Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L