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Sensory Tips for Crowded Holiday Spaces

The holidays are a festive, fun and exciting time to celebrate with family and friends; however, they also bring about a plethora of sensory stimuli everywhere you go! Between the sights, sounds, smells and crowds our senses are overloaded with the spirit of the holiday season. For some people, particularly children with sensory processing difficulties, this time of year can cause stress, anxiety and uneasiness. blog-holiday-sensory tips-main-landscape

In addition to increased environmental stimuli around the holidays, typical routines are thrown off due to breaks from school and travel plans. Children with sensory processing difficulties benefit from a schedule that is predictable, so they know exactly what to expect and how to plan for new or different sensory experiences.

Below are 8 sensory tips to help make the holidays and crowded holiday spaces more enjoyable for your whole family:

  1. Prepare your child for the various events that he will experience over the holidays including specific parties, shopping events or travel. Give explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, what he may see, hear or smell. This will help him to know what to expect at these different places without being worried.
  2. Practice! Before going to various holiday events or places, practice. Stop by the mall with your child for a few minutes a few times before the holiday season, spend time at family or friend’s houses that will be visited over the holidays or visit the airport a few times ahead of your travel day. Giving your child an opportunity to experience these places when they are not as crowded will help him be successful during the busy times.
  3. Use a visual calendar that identifies daily activities over the holidays so your child feels comfortable with their winter break routine. Review each day’s events prior to leaving the house, so your child can better prepare himself for what to expect.
  4. Review pictures or videos from the previous year’s holiday events to remind your child of the sights, sounds, smells and crowds he will experience.
  5. Be prepared! During over stimulating situations your child may benefit from sensory strategies such as headphones, ear plugs, sunglasses, weighted objects or a favorite toy. Be sure to be prepared with these items during crowded holiday events. These strategies will help decrease the intensity of environmental stimuli.
  6. Be proactive! If you see your child becoming upset or overstimulated, find a place to take a break from the situation (bathroom, car, quiet hallway) and help him calm down.
  7. Arm your child with strategies ahead of time to help him through a situation where he feels he is becoming upset or overwhelmed. Strategies such as deep breathing or counting to 10 may help decrease anxiety. Encourage your child to let you know when he feels he needs a break.
  8. Talk to family members and friends about the difficulties your child may have and educate them on how they can help.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Winter Blues

4 Tips for Dealing with the Winter Blues

When you think of the winter holiday season, what comes to mind?  Time with friends and family, shopping the sales, family vacations, breaks from school?  While all of these can bring smiles to people’s faces, the holiday season can also be a time of great stress and worry.  What are your stressors during the holidays?  Perhaps it’s looking after your little ones while they’re off school for a few weeks.  Or maybe you have an overwhelming number of gifts to buy friends and family; a commitment of both time and money.  Maybe you’re just one that doesn’t care for the snow, cold weather, and cloudy days.  Whatever the stressors are that you find difficult to deal with year after year, the first step that can be helpful in dealing with these stressors is identifying them.  While some may begin to feel down because of the additional responsibilities and busy go-go-go related to the holidays, others find that winter comes with less to do and often find themselves cooped up in their home.

4 Tips for Dealing with the Winter Blues

Communicate expectations- With your kids, your spouse, nanny, other family members, etc.  Routines can change with the seasons, especially when dealing with breaks from school.  Let your kids know what to expect during winter break.  If you’ll be at work, who will be looking after them?  Can they have friends over?  How about later bedtimes?  When we know what others expect from us, it’s much easier to give them what they want.Winter Blues

Share responsibilities- Whether it’s purchasing gifts for the family, preparing for (or cleaning up from) a big dinner, or additional child care needs, enlist friends and family to share holiday responsibilities.  People often report feeling guilty asking their loved ones for help of this sort.  The fact is, they’re typically happy to help, just as you would be happy to help any of them.

Utilize your support systems- Similar to the previous tip, however this is in regards to your emotional health.  Often when feeling down, we isolate ourselves.  This, in fact, can serve to prolong and exacerbate our blues.  Some find it helpful to join a support group, speak to a therapist and spend time on self-care.

Recognize if it’s something more- A hallmark of seasonal blues is that…well… they’re seasonal!  A true case of the winter blues is absent during the remainder of the year.  If you find that you often feel down and/or have experienced changes in mood, sleep, and behavior that are getting in the way of daily life and have lasted for two weeks or more, it’s highly recommended to consult a mental health professional.  Taking this step is important to do for not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones.  While this does involve a commitment of your time and money, the benefits of tending to one’s mental health far outweigh the costs.

Click here to watch our webinar on sensory strategies for success over the holidays.