Being a parent is hard. (Can I get an AMEN?!) Being a parent of a sensory kid is extra hard.
When parenting – or just wanting to guide the behaviors of – a child with sensory processing disorder, there are some essentials you need to know.
1. Understand that the ‘behaviors’ (or ‘misbehaviors’) that your child acts out as a result of their sensory system not functioning properly – are NOT behaviors.
The biggest misunderstanding about behaviors from a child with a sensory processing disorder is: It’s NOT a behavior. A behavior is something your child chooses to do. A behavior is something that they can help.
Sensory processing and the “behaviors” that result from sensory processing are not behaviors at all. Your kiddo can not help it. It’s not their fault.
This biggest thing to understand as a parent so you can better understand your child and therefore have the power to help them.
2. Identify your child’s triggers.
If you know your kid’s trigger then you can head them off before they escalate or before the reaction becomes meltdown.
Whether it’s recognizing that look in your child’s face. Or seeing that their body is starting to tense up.
For example, food is a common trigger for sensory kids – for the ‘behaviors’ related to sensory stuff. As a parent, if you haven’t already, you’ll get to where you can see it coming. You’ll be able to tell immediately if my kids have gotten ahold of something that they shouldn’t have eaten. For example, gluten, too much dairy, too much sugar, certain food dyes, etc.
Another trigger could be for something new to be presented suddenly when they didn’t expect it. Or perhaps certain textures upset them. Like, a particular pair of pants, or texture of food, or having to get their hands wet to wash them.
Knowing those triggers helps you to help your child to calm down before it gets to be too overwhelming for them.
3. Know your own triggers and practice your reactions.
One of the biggest helps you can do for yourself as a parent is to spend some time reflecting on what triggers you.
Trigger meaning – upsets you. Causes you to want to have a meltdown with your child. A meltdown for a parent might look like unreasonable aggravation when something happens or doesn’t happen, becoming increasingly impatient, etc.
Once you know what triggers you then you can visualize and practice how to react in a mature and healthy way…for both you and your child. And the beautiful is you set the pattern for your child for them to follow.
For example, if you know that whining is a huge trigger for you…you can anticipate the whining…..give yourself some grace as you practice in real life situations.
Understand you’re not going to be perfect every time and keep at it.
4. Come to understand the importance of connection with your kids. For you and your kids to have community with each other.
The biggest and best thing to do for yourself is to have a great connection with your kids.
Keep in mind the five love languages by which we humans are able to give and feel love. Remember we each have a primary language that we are able to feel love, however we each respond to each language.
They are Quality Time spent together, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Giving Gifts. If you want to know your primary love language – begin to notice which of these you give to others – or attempt to.
If you want to know your child’s primary love language – begin to notice which of these they continually attempt. If you want your child to feel love the simplest way is to speak their love language. (If you’d like more study on love languages, get one of Gary Chapman’s books. They’re awesome.)
Make sure you’re making eye contact with your child as much as you can. Use touch and affection. Positive reinforcement. Constantly tell them how much you love them, how much you understand them. Show kindness. Respect them as their own person.
When they’re upset, try something like, “I see you. I see that you’re struggling with this. I see that you’re frustrated. Let’s take a deep breath together and let me help you.”
In that moment take a deep breath yourself and remind yourself of what you want your reactions to be as well and begin practicing.
5. Share your plan with the other caregivers in your child’s life.
Share your plan with anyone helping to care for your child…Mom, Dad, Teacher, Daycare teacher, grandparents, babysitters, etc. They need to know these tips too so that your child can benefit.
- Understand their behaviors are not behaviors. They’re reactions to a sensory system that isn’t functioning properly and they literally can’t help it until that sensory system is cleared up.
- Identify your child’s triggers.
- Know your own triggers and practice your reactions.
- Build connection with your kiddo by having a plan for how you’re going to react to triggers. Yours and your kiddos.
- Share your plan with your child’s other caregivers.
It takes a village. It really takes a village.
Today’s blog post was taken from an interview of our very own Lisa Gammel, founder of Follow The Child. For more from her, click here and follow her on her FB page Follow The Child.