Now that our families are fully back to school, the demands of school expectations, sports and after school activities are in full force and the amount of overstimulation we experience can often feel overwhelming. If we have worked all of September to reestablish predictable daily routines at home, now is the time to rely on them as anchors in the weeks to come when we need them most.
Throughout my thirty years of supporting families and preparing them for what seems to be an increasingly stressful few months, my mantra has been, “We are starting the overstimulation time of year and it will continue until January.” Regardless of what celebrations, rituals or holidays any family observes, we are inundated with commercial reminders of one event merged into another to entice consumers. Children are the direct target as their curious and wide-open senses absorb stimulation throughout their day from all the forces at play, even if it’s not reinforced at home.
Acknowledgment is a Primary Family Intervention
When parents are aware of this context they can acknowledge its impact for their children. We cannot change the course of the commercial culture, but we can influence its impact on our kids. When we pass advertisements and shop in stores, we see it all around and they soak it up without any buffers. During these moments, we can simply state the obvious about what they are experiencing, giving validation and containment to that experience. For example, “yes, there is so much candy selling this time of year” or “decorating” or whatever it is they notice in front of them. These small moments provide opportunity for kids to process gradually, so as to not become overwhelmed with the demands of the season.
The Beauty of Routines – Once Established you can Rely on Them
When we get off track in our busy schedules, routines can always be re-introduced into our daily activities. Routines provide necessary predictability in our caregiving environment and our relationships. Despite all that is going on, I encourage you to protect the nighttime routine most of all, because adequate rest is essential to daily functioning. If maintaining all of your routines feels unmanageable, chose to preserve the structure of the nighttime routine. This will help in the morning when kids are anticipating all that they must achieve each day while going to school, participating in activities, and being at home with family. And when one routine is mastered, you can re-introduce another. You may be surprised at how simple it is to get back on track when everyone is feeling rested. Remember, as kids grow, routines can become the structure that assures them they have what they need to feel and be successful.
Make Adjustments but Keep Family Priorities with Regulation at the top of the List
Guiding children with family practices, provides the reassurance that they are taken care of and safe despite all that is going on outside of their home environment. Regulating our emotions when we are feeling overstimulated models coping mechanisms that do no harm. As parents, our commitment to supporting the structure of daily routine with regulated emotions communicates to our children verbally and in our actions that we are trustworthy and reliable. Learn more about how you can self regulate and the benefits before engaging with your children.
If you are feeling like your family is being torn in many different directions and you are exhausted from just the thought of navigating the school-year schedules with the added hype of this time of year, I encourage you to follow a few daily practices. First, set time to regulate yourself each day, start your day with the vagus breath. Initiate that breath when you are feeling overstimulated and remember to simply acknowledge the world your children see all around them. When you are in your home, re-introduce the daily routines that are working for you. Remember to stay focused and committed with some flexibility to the rhythm of your family priorities and practices. If you would like to learn more about self regulating practices and how the energy you bring to each interaction with your children sets the tone, we offer a free introductory call to learn more about the Family Consult at Roomtomove.com.