Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Where did that energy come from?? Can I please have some of the energy radiating from my child?

I noticed a number of restaurant staff watching me as our youngest was pushing me in my chair, arm wrestling with me and headbutting me (in a playful way). This is what happens when he is tired, overwhelmed, or excited.

Earlier in the day, I was getting very annoyed with this behaviour. Then I took the time to figure out what was going on…

He is the type of kiddo that seeks out contact. Deep pressure is his friend. Sometimes he has no idea that he is pushing me. I have to tell him that he is pushing me. I will give him a big hug and then he does not have to be attached.

There are some days that I feel like he is an added limb. This is usually when he is excited or worried about something. His big brother is moving out this weekend. I did suspect he would struggle with this big transition.

This type of behaviour is often labeled as Sensory Seeking.

One of his favourite activities to do when he is feeling a great deal of need to sensory seek is to build and climb into forts. Our basement is easily converted to Fort McSween!

The opposite of Sensory Seeking is Sensory Adverse. Children can easily go from one state to another very quickly.

Sensory Adverse behaviour can be refusing to go somewhere with loud noises, refusing hugs, not liking smells, picky eating and many other behaviours.

Our little man gets very sensory adverse in new situations. So he will cover his ears or plug his nose. We let him put up his hood or wear noise-canceling headphones when he wants.

If your child is displaying these behaviours it does not always mean that it is a problem. All humans will go through stages of being sensory seeking and sensory adverse.

 
What can you do if your child is constantly sensory seeking or needing help to calm as he/she seems like a wild child?

 

If your child is sensory seeking, lead him or her towards active activities. Lots of climbing, jumping, sensory play, pushing, pulling and being squeezed.

You can also get your child to carry heavy things. This input can be calming.

How can you get your toddler doing this type of activity? Ask them to help!! Our son loved to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. He also loved (still loves) to wear a backpack with lots of items in it around the house so I would fill up his backpack and ask him to carry it upstairs or downstairs.

 
What can you do if your child seems adverse to everything?

 

If your child is sensory adverse understand that he/she may refuse to eat certain foods and want to do quiet activities like reading, colouring, and sit close to you but not snuggle. Provide your child with the space to get comfortable with a new place or sounds. Then understand that certain clothing or foods can be very irritating, don’t push it. You will discover the different things that your child enjoys.

One of our son’s favourite things to do when he is feeling averse to things is to wear a tight-fitting hoodie.

 

Now here is where things can get confusing! Your child can go from sensory seeking to being sensory adverse very quickly!! It can also depend on the individual sensory system. For example, our son often seeks outs things that involve jumping, pushing and pulling but is adverse to various touches and sounds.

For more specific information related to your child please feel free to send me a private message or e-mail so we can address your specific situation.

Safety: Have we gone too far?

This month I am going to focus on how we can keep our kids safe. Before I get into that I wanted to begin with a post about how we can and have taken some things a bit too far regarding safety.

 

If you sit back and watch a group of young children there will be a group of adults right behind them. The adults are usually giving guidance and direction to the little ones. Isn’t this a good thing? The kids are safe.

 

Yes, the kids are safe but they are often unsure or afraid of what to do if an adult has not given them the guidance. I love watching a group of kids that feel safe and secure enough to branch out to explore. The adult can be close by but allows the child to make mistakes or problem solve how to deal with a situation.

 

What can we do to promote little ones that are willing to explore?

 

1. We can ask our children what they would like to do

2. We can ask our child for ideas of how we can solve the problem (see Problem-solving article)

3. We can show our children why something is dangerous instead of completely avoiding it.

4. We can start this process as young as 2. They may not get it completely until age 3.

 

I am the first to admit that I would love to bring out a roll of bubble wrap and stick our 6-year-old in it. However, when I hover or make decisions for him it teaches him that he is not capable of figuring things out himself. I have learned to let him make certain decisions and to advocate for himself if he feels he can do something. There have been many times that I have been pleasantly surprised at how he has handled a situation himself.

 

Personal Example:

 

Our son has a number of food allergies and intolerances. I would love to be with him at all times but that is just not feasible. He needs to navigate this world with his allergies. He has been taught what he can and cannot eat. He is the first to ask what is being served. Has he made mistakes? He sure has but he learned from it.

 

There is one brand of Potato chips that he can eat the plain chips but not the salt and vinegar. Another brand that he can eat the Salt and Vinegar. Well, he mixed it up at a recent birthday party.  I had to stop myself from freaking out and monitored him from a distance.

 

He did not get sick so all was good. He was very upset that he made the mistake. We talked about how it was an honest mistake. The next week we were out and he recognized the salt and vinegar chips he could have. He was proud to show them to his grandmother. He has learned a lesson and we will move on from it.

 

Regulations: Good or Bad?
 
There are many regulations in place now. I realize they are in place with the best intentions. Have we taken this too far?

 

There seems to be a regulation about everything. Really?? Is it needed? I get that lawsuits occur when things happen. People are angry if an injury or death occurs. I get it. However, I wonder if we now live in a world where we are close to bubble wrapping with regulations.

 

I recently commented on a post where a mom was talking about how her little ones (3 months and cannot roll) sleep in the same crib. I stated that it was okay for now. Well within minutes I had someone jump in and let me know it was not safe and that I should l follow safe sleep regulations. I get it but there are times when we need to let people do what they have to.

 

What are your thoughts? Please comment below with your thoughts on this subject.

Transitions: What are they and how can you help?

What exactly is a transition in respect to children?

A transition is when you are moving from one activity to another or when there is a big change in your little one’s world. Basically, it means you could be having 10 to 20 transitions a day.

Some children do absolutely fine moving from one activity to another. Other children do not.

There are a number of strategies that you can use to help your little one with transitioning from one activity to the next.

Helpful things when dealing with transitions…
1. Warnings:

Giving advance notice that the activity is changing or that you are going somewhere different can be helpful. There are 2 different ways you can give warnings. You can use verbal warnings or use timers.

Verbal warning example:

In 5 minutes we will do_____

Timers:

There are a number of different timers you can use. Egg timers, digital timers, your phone, and visual timers (affiliate links below). The key with a timer is that it is not you being the constant reminder and your child is less likely to get frustrated with a timer.

2. Words:

The words you use can have a great impact on whether your child is able to follow through. When you ask “do you need to go__”, or “would you like to__”, I can pretty much guarantee the answer will be “no”. Instead, try stating what needs to happen. For example, “it is time to go to the bathroom”. Then follow up with giving your little a choice of how they will get there. “Would you like to walk or run there?”. There are more examples of words to use in the following article How to Talk so Your Toddler will Listen.

3. Listening:

When we are in a rush or trying to get out of the house we can forget to pay attention to our child’s words. When we listen to their reason for not wanting to stop the activity we will have a better understanding of how we can help them transition.

4. Using Visuals:

Charts or schedules can help your little one with moving from one activity to another because they know what is going to happen after the complete a certain activity. If they do not remember you can remind them to look at the chart. Here is a link to an example of a bedtime chart

 

Good luck assisting your little one with transitioning in a smoother manner. Feel free to comment on the post for more information.

Aa Always, Be the Parent You Want to Be!

Let Them Get Messy!!!

A scene that I see being played out over and over again is when little ones are exploring or eating with a parent right on top of the child cleaning up after them. It drives me bonkers sometimes!

I get that there are people that are really fearful of germs; however, this creates little people that do not want to get dirty.

Case and point…

I love my husband but when our little man was a toddler I had to do a mini-intervention.

My husband does not like a mess. Well, this does not bode well with a toddler. Our little man would get distressed and run to wash his hands if he was dirty. It was becoming an issue. I did not want a little person that was afraid to explore or eat something due to becoming dirty. He was literally suctioned up after most meals with a “Dust Buster”.

After the mini-intervention (and after being kicked by me under the table a few times), our little man will power through his meal and will try touching different things (he does not like all textures but that is information for a future post regarding sensory related issues) while exploring.

When our little ones are able to explore their environments they learn so much!! If I see a little one that is “dirty” on the playground from jumping around and climbing I have to stop myself from going over and high fiving that parent!

If you are concerned about your child getting sick or hurt, it is important that you also look at the other side. Children that are not free to explore their environment can have increased fears and their physical development can be delayed.

 

Ways to be Prepared for a Mess while out…

 

1. Have a change of clothes with you

I made a habit of having a change of clothes in my backpack, diaper bag or my purse. I also had an extra couple of outfits in the vehicle for those last minute adventures

2. Have a few wet wipes or a cloth in a bag for those moments

Never hurts to be prepared to clean up a mess. Baby wipes have many purposes. I still have a package around for those moments 🙂

3. Join in and explore

By doing this you can teach your child how to explore in a safe manner if you are concerned. This also allows your child to see that it is okay because mommy or daddy is doing it too!

4. Carry a Plastic Bag

This has saved me a few times. Soiled clothes have a place to go without causing an issue.

 

Children learn so much when they are given the opportunity to explore. I am not sure about you, but man I had a blast as a child when I was free to jump in the puddles, make mud pies and roll down the hill.

I am challenging you to let your little one get messy. They will learn how to clean up after themselves and they will have so much fun doing it!

If you are looking for more information about the benefits of exploring the outdoors, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of “Balanced and Barefoot” by Angela Hanscom. Following is an affiliate link for the book.

Have fun letting your little one get messy!!

Have you heard???

Parenting Foundations has a membership program. Join like-minded people while you help improve your child’s sleep and ask Brenda questions about all things related to children.

Crying, an Alternative Perspective

Crying, an Alternative Perspective

When we here a child crying it can send anyone into “we must fix this” mode. This is very evident when a baby cries.

Often a baby’s caregiver will jump into action trying to find out why the baby is crying. For an infant, this is their main way to communicate with others. I firmly believe that when a baby cries it is a good idea to make sure their need is met. If you have met your baby’s needs(fed, changed and comfortable) and baby is still crying, your baby may just need to express emotion. Expressing emotion is the need. Babies express emotion through tears. This can be uncomfortable for adults.

A great way to put this in a different light is to compare a child crying with how good it feels to vent and drop an f-bomb every now and then. You release pent-up emotion. Emotion is “better out than in”. When we are constantly trying to stop our child from crying we are not giving them a chance to express the pent-up emotion.

With older children, we will often try to get our children to stop crying. Imagine when you are in the middle of a vent and someone shuts you down so you stop venting. You are still frustrated, angry or sad. You may actually have more intense feelings than you did when you started your vent. When you are given the chance to vent without judgment and with support from the person listening, it can feel like a weight has been lifted from you.

 

 So now what do you do when your child is crying or upset? 

 

You let them cry or be upset. This can be difficult if you are out. When you can, be present when your child is expressing their emotion. You can offer a hug if they want it. Using words like “I know it can be hard”, “I am here”, or “I love you”. If your child begins to throw insults your way, remember that it is their vent session. Afterwards, you can make comments like “wow you were awfully angry” or “you said some nasty words” and then move on with your day.

I wrote an article about tantrums that would be a good read in addition to this post. Once you have figured out if your child is having an “upstairs” or “downstairs” tantrum you can act accordingly.

Understanding Tantrums

95% of the time that our son is crying, screaming or having a tantrum, he is simply offloading some feelings from his day. After he is done he is back to the happy young man that he is. When he is stopped for whatever reason (it happens) he will be a cranky and non-compliant little guy.

So…

Let them express their emotion! Be present when you can and move about your day.