Encompass Blog

Supporting your Child’s Sensory Needs During the Holidays

December 9, 2019  |  Child Development, Pediatric Therapy  |  By Kavita Sleight, OTR/L

Grandmother and child embrace

The holidays can be overwhelming for us all. It is important to stop and think about how our children may be overwhelmed during this busy time and what ideas might help make the season as joyful as possible. As parents, it is important to understand and support your child’s sensory needs/preferences.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • If clothes can be bothersome, allow them to wear textures or styles that are comfortable. If they are bothered by scratchy or stiff clothes, their ability to handle other challenges will be reduced.
  • If they are easily overwhelmed by busy environments or cannot stop themselves from touching everything in sight, consider limiting holiday decorations to less-frequented areas of the house, or put them out of reach. When visiting others, kindly ask them to remove items that your child may find irresistible to touch (i.e. tinsel, tissue paper in bags, ball shaped glass ornaments, etc.).
  • Plan for breaks when holiday shopping or visiting others. Think of a calm place to take a break before they become overwhelmed. If there is not an extra room or quiet area, listening to music in the car is an option.
  • If your child has difficulty with new foods, focus on spending time together rather than trying new foods. If food is an important way that your family connects, your child can participate by handing treats out or bringing one of their own favorites to try.
  • Loud gatherings can be overwhelming for some kids. Noise-cancelling headphones, hoodies or over-sized beanies, or sitting towards the sidelines may help them participate without being overstimulated.
  • Keep routines, such as nap times and bed times, as similar as possible to help maintain some predictability.
  • Prepare your child for changes by talking about what to expect, looking at pictures of visitors or places you will be traveling, and engaging them in the preparations, such as setting out bedding for guests or packing a few special toys for travel.
  • When routines or environments present challenges that you cannot accommodate, be understanding and anticipate that your child may have more meltdowns than usual. Give yourself extra time for the unexpected. Let family and friends know what the challenges are and what, if anything, they can do to support you and your child.

If your child is working with a developmental therapist, have a conversation around your child’s specific needs for supports geared specifically for him/her.  If your child has sensory challenges that impact his/her ability to learn and play appropriately during the day, you may consider an occupational therapy evaluation. To schedule an evaluation with Encompass, please contact us at 425.888.3347.

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