Back To School: Tips For Kids With Sensory Overload

sensory overload

Children around the UK have finally returned to the classroom, after a long period of home schooling and COVID restrictions, it’s what parents everywhere had wanted for so long. A sense of normality, structure and routine could now resume. For many children, seeing their friends and teachers once more was exciting, but for others, there was a deep sense of anxiety. Having not ‘socialised’ for some-time and the awareness of a nasty illness still out there in the wider world, it was understandable that the prospect of returning to school might feel daunting.


Sensory Overload in Kids

Children have largely been at home for the past 18 months. They’ve grown accustomed to the secure bubble of house and family. To be thrust into a noisy classroom in the company of 20 plus pupils, would be overwhelming for anyone. Now, they’re having to adapt to new routines, become more active, and process multiple things happening all at the same time. It’s a complete sensory assault and there’s no wonder that many are experiencing overload.

Some may come home buzzing and simply can’t wind down, others may find it affects their sleep, feel more anxious or become clingy. In others, their behaviour may deteriorate, or the dreaded meltdown may rear its ugly head. For parents, desperate to get back to normal as quickly as possible, this unexpected turn of events can cause worry and frustration.


Back to School Anxiety

It’s important to look out for signs of back-to-school anxiety as children often don’t voice their concerns. These may include:

  •       Morning tantrums 
  •       Tearfulness at the school gate
  •       Not wanting to get dressed on school days
  •       Not wanting breakfast
  •       Being clingy
  •       Difficulty sleeping
  •       Waking up in the night
  •       Bed-wetting
  •       Angry outbursts
  •       Negative thoughts or often thinking that bad things are going to happen


It's important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Having one on one time with your child creates space for you to open up a conversation with them. Reflect on how it's been for them going to school again, and ask if there's anything in particular they're enjoying, looking forward to or feeling worried about. 

Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel. Explain that many children are feeling the same and that what they’re feeling is entirely understandable.

If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. You could describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again or like a cloud that passes by.

Another tool that can be used with children is aromatherapy. Essential oils have been used for centuries by people suffering anxiety. Scentered Aromatherapy balms are safe to use on children. Apply Scentered De-stress balm whenever they might be feeling anxious, whether it’s at the school gate or when they’re at home. This is also a great aromatherapy balm to use for children that find it hard to wind down from school or that appear over-stimulated.

Once you’ve applied the balm, get them to take 3 deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for 3. This will help your child feel calm and in control. The more regularly you use it, the quicker you’ll create a cue to relax. You'll find more guidance for helping children with anxiety on the Young Minds website.

Coping With Over Stimulation

One way to reduce over-stimulation is to limit screen-time at home. Do get the kids to go outside, have some fresh air and run around when they come home to work off excess energy. Fresh air is also great to transition from one mind-set to another as is aromatherapy, so using the Scentered De Stress balm can also help to calm overstimulated kids too. As the evening progresses, have some quiet or one on one time, which will help with lessening sensory overload and calming the mind.

Sleep Issues in Children

Children’s sleep is all over the place right now. Most have been staying up much later than normal over recent months so we can hardly expect them to fall back into an early bedtime just because it’s convenient for parents. 

During the hour before bed, keep everything calm and low-key. You could revert to the classic tricks like avoiding screens, relaxing baths, a milky drink, reading books together, relaxing music, drawing or one on one time. 

You could also apply Scentered Sleep Well Balm a few minutes before bed.  This aromatherapy balm really does do what it says on the tin. It’s a sophisticated floral lavender blend harnessing the therapeutic benefits of Lavender, Chamomile, Palmarosa and Ho Wood amongst others and it quietens the mind and promotes a better, deeper quality of sleep. 

As with all Scentered balms, apply it to the wrists, neck and temple. Then get your child to deeply inhale the scent from their wrists three times. If they awaken in the night, you can repeat this sleep ritual to help them drift off again.

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