Everyone pretends that the Christmas holidays are the most wonderful time of the year.
In reality, it can be a tense, stressful time for families. The combination of sugar, bright lights and late nights with extended family doesn’t result in ‘all being calm and bright’ this Christmas, especially for parents of children who are wired differently.
Parents of these children may need some extra help to enjoy the holiday because for Wonderfully Wired children the stimulation of the season can be completely overwhelming.
In her book, “Brain-Body Parenting”, neuroscience expert Dr Mona Delahooke has some helpful, interesting research.
Delahooke says that we tend to think of a child as being good or bad, stubbornly choosing to misbehave. Sometimes, however, he can’t help his behaviour when external factors cause his body to send stress signals to his brain.The misbehaviour stems from a stressed nervous system not a disobedient character.
Think of it like a bank account in the red, a child’s body account can become overdrawn with too many of these stress signals.
These behaviours are driven by the body and stem from a stressed nervous system not from a disobedient brain.
When he feels calm and safe his brain is able to make good choices; but when the body account is overdrawn he acts out with a need to move, shout, or fight.
Even as adults, we react to situations with less patience when we are tired, hungry or anxious – when more withdrawals have been made than deposits into our body accounts.
This is so much worse, and happens so much more quickly, for your Wonderfully Wired child because he is a super responder. The same sounds, lights or discomfort that another child can block out are urgent and distracting to him.
So what do we do?
We need to help our children balance their body accounts and ensure that withdrawals don’t exceed deposits.
We first need to understand what constitutes either a deposit or a withdrawal for each individual child.
Some possible deposits:
a healthy snack
a quiet voice and tone
a good night’s rest
time with a special interest
Some possible withdrawals:
too much sugar
too much fun
Tips to tackle the season:
Make deposits, such as insisting on early nights for kids even during the holidays!
Plan your calendar carefully, avoiding situations that will make too many withdrawals and end in chaos.
When situations are unavoidable, discuss possible courses of action when you notice early signs of sensory overload.
Your child may find the lack of routine of the holidays difficult, tell them the plans ahead of time.
Balance your own body so that you have the energy and patience to respond calmly when your child acts out.
When your child does act out; Avoid making more withdrawals
Lectures, time outs and consequences don’t work when a body account is in the red.
Remind yourself the behaviour isn’t wilful or personal. Take a deep breath and choose to respond in a reassuring manner.
A calm tone is more important than what you say.
Tell your child you understand they are upset, your understanding is a deposit when a child feels out of control.
Change the environment and move to making deposits into the body account.
Here’s wishing you loads of peace and sweet times with your wonderfully wired kids this Christmas