Lately, I have been reading some wonderful articles from parenting experts to see if they are saying anything different from what I know as an educator. I like to keep up on current things going on in the niche of education I am involved in daily. Halloween came and went as fast as it does every year. This year, in particular, Halloween was on a school night. Needless to say, weeks leading up to this super fun and creative holiday, children were getting ready with costume choices and observing their homes turn into spooky fun with decorations inside and out. There is a ton of positivity involved in this scary holiday, but there also are some huge developmental aspects and in particular, emotional skills and self-regulation comes into play.
Your young child is still very new to this world and taking in a huge amount of information each day. When we add holiday fun in the forms of decorations, costumes, events, parties, well, let’s just say, that can be overstimulating for many sensitive little senses. You may be experiencing your child having mood swings, being more irritable, crying, breaking down, not wanting to do some of the self-managing things they usually do, like putting on their own shoes or coat. I want to emphasize that your child is not misbehaving, or purposely being “naughty”. Right now, your child is experiencing overstimulation from the super fun Halloween excitement. Your children are also overtired, and at this time they are unable to self-regulate their emerging emotions. In the early years, children are still developing their complex emotions. They do not have experience with an overabundance of feelings that they have just gone through with this super fun holiday.
A couple of my little students had some breakdowns this week already due to their overstimulated minds. They were tired and still overwhelmed from their exciting Halloween experience, and came to school using their minds in complex ways for a long period of time. I want to mention some behaviors that are common, that I see every year and throughout the year when we have holidays or big events in young children’s lives. When young children are still developing both their social skills and their emotional skills, they use a lot of brainpower. Each day my students come to school they are practicing how to communicate with their friends in a variety of ways. They are using their body language, their facial expressions, jesters, and figuring out what type of speech to use. Language development is no simple task and takes years to fully mature. Young children are navigating taking turns, sharing, trusting, which the latter, I often mention as being extremely important in my opinion. They are also getting used to our school routines, figuring out how to help their friends when they need some assistance, and really just discovering who they are as people at this very young and tendar age. Communicating is still a big mountain each child is figuring out. Often, I listen to their conversations and will give them words or short phrases to use with their friends. We also talk a little about the tone of speech. If our tone of speech in any way sounds mean or threatening, the other child/ children will immediately not trust the child who took a negative tone with them. So, we work on how to say things in a kind manner. I like to emphasize kindness and respect for each little friend. In terms of behaviors during this time of year, I notice that at arrival times, and going home times, some of my little friends completely meltdown for their Mommy or Daddy. Your precious little one is not misbehaving or purposely embarrassing you, or defying you. Your young child at that moment is communicating in the only way they can while being overstimulated and too tired to communicate the way they normally do about how they feel. They do not have the ability to self-regulate those very raw emotions. So, they revert to acting like a toddler especially if they have a younger sibling in that age range, or they will cry and get angry and cling to their Mommy or Daddy. At that moment your child feels strongly that they need you for emotional support. They also are in a way asking you why they feel the way they do.
If any of you parents out there are of a highly sensitive personality type, or particularly sensitive socially, you may fully understand what I mean when I say, children when overstimulated emotionally do not understand why they feel this way or how to identify the multiply feelings that are coursing through their minds. As parents, remember you are doing the best you can. Leaving your child to go to work or to run errands is something important and part of your responsibilities. Most of the time your child will quite quickly find other interests once your leave. If you can stay and help them transition to an interest area or provocation, that is wonderful, but not everyone has the actual time to do this. Luckily, as an educator, it is my job to find ways to help your child transition when they are feeling this way. No, I cannot make everything better, because I am not the parent, but I can communicate to your child that I do care, their friends care, and we want them to stay and play with us. And, when a child is inconsolable, you, their ever strong, stable, loving parents will be contacted so you can come and help your child feel better. Little people, as I’ve mentioned before are new to this world, their emotions are just developing. Overstimulation of the mind, body, nerves, is real and does not feel good. It is natural for your child to not know how to self-regulate their emotions, or self-manage their time when their young minds are overwhelmed with these strange feelings. Your child expresses the way they are feeling by crying, being angry, frustrated, and sometimes reverting to toddler-like behavior. This is okay as long as you stay in the moment, recognize what they are feeling, and validate those real emotions. I wish more employers out there would be more educated on children, so they could be more supportive of their workforce that has children, that way you aren’t as stressed about getting to work on time if that is something you have to contend with.
Returning to normal daily routines after a super fun event /holiday like Halloween is important to your child’s mental and emotional health, even if your child did not have any visible repercussions. I purposely do not over decorate with holiday things and keep our routines the same, just for these reasons. I like for your child to be able to give their mind a break. To be able to take the time they need to adjust from being overstimulated. They can do this by finding joy in the interests they usually engage in while at school with their friends. Playing is a wonderful way for your child to relax, become focused on their friends, and return to common interests like dinosaurs and cooking. in the play kitchen. I like to have art available every day, so your child can be as alert, creative, and talkative as they wish, and as relaxed, lost in thought, and gaining therapeutic benefits from the experience. Calming the mind through sensory is one way to ground an anxious and overstimulated mind. As parents, please rest assured that your child may have a hard time with these big holiday events, but this is all part of human development, and the human experience in our society, in our culture. You are there for them at every step. I also want to say that you can feel hurt, frustrated, sad, angry too. When you are in the moment trying to help your child calm down, trying to figure out how to be there for your child in the times I mentioned before, you have a right to your feelings too. Do not just push them aside, they are real and valid. Once you go through your emotions, you will be better able to look at your child’s emotional experience in a more objective and empathetic way. And know that you have done nothing wrong in how you parent your child. Each family is like a mini-culture within our super large culture. The most important thing is that you always take the time to listen to not just what your child says, but how they are actually feeling. And they will show you through their actions, and behaviors,