Mr. Sensitive’s behaviour can be challenging. Actually, his behaviour can paralyze the entire household. He’s anxious on a good day, and can drive a parent bonkers by simultaneously spiralling around our home, throwing toys, grabbing parents or siblings and shouting intermittently. All this on the way to getting ready for school.
I’ve described Mr. Sensitive as a small, anxious tornado circling through our lives (Lessons Learned on the Care and Feeding of Four Year Olds). Imagine trying to get three kids under five and at least one adult dressed and out the door, while dealing with a small, anxious tornado. He’s also a highly intelligent, small, anxious tornado who is very creative. Nothing is ever what it seems. Serving platters become shields. Machines are made out of paper clips, kitchen tongs and magnets. All before 7:30 AM.
Oh, and you have to dress the tornado and brush his teeth. The bus arrives at 8:00 AM.
We live in an apartment building. Going to the bus involves loading two kids in a stroller, packing lunch and back pack, and heading downstairs. On days where the floor of our elevator does not line up with the ground, Mr. Sensitive grabs the stroller and holds it still, screaming, and worried about going into the elevator. In the meantime I’m worried about missing the elevator and the school bus.
So, to deal with Mr. Sensitive’s behaviour we’ve sought out a behaviour therapist and social worker. The social worker worked with Mr. Sensitive to help him identify when he is feeling anxious. The behaviour therapist gave Hubby and I ideas for preventing Mr. Sensitive from spiralling out of control.
We’ve also had a few occupational therapists involved who gave all kinds of sensory processing disorder advice. Large bean bag chair? Check. Small cozy tent? Check. Outings to the park to play on the swings? Check. Dietary overhaul, focussing on protein? Check. Water play? Check. Noise cancelling headphones? Check.
One recent behavioural recommendation is to do at least 15 minutes of ‘special play time’ a day. This means one-on-one play time where the adult follows the child’s lead, and actually listens to the child. This sounds simple, but in a crazy busy household with three kids under 5 years, Mr. Sensitive has been missing individual attention.
Mr. Sensitive usually reads stories in bed every night with Hubby or I, and even this has changed over time. Mr. Sensitive used to read stories with us for over an hour every night (!), now he has to compete with siblings and the time has been reduced. Dishes, laundry, and work demands push this time aside.
So we jumped into special play time. I bought 1700 piece set of Lego for Hubby and Mr. Sensitive to play with together. After listening to them argue about how to follow the directions, where wheels should go, and how Mr. Sensitive was messing up Hubby’s Lego creations, I then confiscated the 1700 piece Lego set. I told Hubby and Mr. Sensitive that when they’re ready to play together, I will return the Lego.
Lego set is now sitting on top of my china cabinet. They can play with it together, so long as I’m around to supervise.
To my effort toward special play time, Mr. Sensitive and I have ‘date nights.’ This is simply one-on-one time with me while we run errands together and take time to follow his lead. Our ‘dates’ usually include fancy coffee for me and hot chocolate for him. Or, ice cream for both of us. So far I think I’ve gained about five pounds in our date night regime.
I have noticed a huge reduction in Mr. Sensitive’s anxiety and overall improvement in behaviour in the day following ‘date night.’ He’s calmer and less reactive. But then, so am I.
I’ve included photos from our recent date night. We went to our local plaza for bread, milk and dollar store items. We stayed for a car show that was happening by chance when we were there. We stopped following a schedule and followed his lead instead. We also picked up a pizza to take home. (Mr. Sensitive’s idea.)
Mr. Sensitive loved looking at the engines of all the cars, and was fascinated by the race car. He used my phone to take photos (and reluctantly posed when I wanted to take photos of him). It was win-win for both of us. Except for the weight gain of pizza AND ice cream. My hips are following a lead of their own.
How do you spend special time with your children?
For more of Mr. Sensitive’s adventures, be sure to check out: