As new parents we so often get carried away and want to give our children the world. Especially on their birthdays and at Christmas when there are so many new and wonderful toys and gifts that we know they would love. We often take them to places with high energy such as play centers or theme parks before they are ready because we are excited to show them the wonders of the world. Of course every child handles excitement differently but we can all agree that most children when they are overwhelmed act out in some way. Even with our good intentions we can be doing our children much more harm than good when giving them too many gifts.
If you think back on times when your child has received a lot of gifts all at once or they were in an environment too stimulating for them you can probably pin point the exact time when that over stimulation came to a head. Crying, fit throwing, or perhaps just extreme fatigue came forth from your child with an overall vibe of just plain yucky results. With the best intentions we put more on our children than they can bear.
I can share from a personal experience something that happened with my first and my second child. Since they are seven years apart I had to learn it the hard way twice. With my first child it took place at Christmas, their first Christmas at nine months old. Of course all the relatives wanted to give gifts along with the gifts from us and when it was all said and done there were a couple dozen gifts. I was trying to make it so special and sat her down in the middle of the floor surrounded by her gifts. I handed her one and she opened it and began to play with it. Then I took that one and handed her another, she began to look around her and I am guessing in her little sweet mind it dawned on her what her mission was. You could just see the over whelming look of horror on her face when she began to cry. She was normally a very calm child with an easy going nature but she was in a state where she almost did not recognize those closest to her. I quickly put her into a warm bath to try and sooth her and then put her down for a nap at which point she passed straight out. I hated to think that I inflicted this kind of emotional trauma on my little love.
This happened on several other occasions through different stimuli. In each case I was totally shocked that she responded this way. I suppose I thought that if she was with me that she would feel safe and secure and that I did not have to worry. But I was wrong. Another time when this happened it was an occasion when my sister-in-law was doing a highlight on my hair with aluminum foil. I guess I looked like a crazy space alien and when my daughter saw me she went into the same type of crying fits she had before and I was not going to be the one who soothed her! Her grandmother had to quickly get her some place quiet and help her to get herself under control, which again ended in a deep sleep.
And again I am reminded of the time we went to visit her grandparents when she was very young. After a long drive when she had just awakened from her nap I handed her to grandma. Not a good move at all! It took us over an hour to get her calmed down. And grandma was a little gun shy after that as well. Just because you know someone very well and they are dear to you do not expect your child to give them a warm reception!
If you think about it we as adults have these types of melt downs all the time from over stimulation but we generally, not always, can cover up our emotions as far as a public display and wait until we are alone. Babies and young children do not know that it is socially unacceptable and to hold it in until later. We often forget that after all they are little people with full blown emotions that most likely even surprise them when they come out.
My son went through some similar issues but he was often accelerated by over stimulation and ended up acting out by becoming a wild man. He would eventually succumb to crying and exhaustion as well but it took awhile. I learned very quickly to try to avoid this with him as I did my daughter. What was really awful about my sonís behavior was that he usually ended up getting corrected for something that I inadvertently caused. But with a child like my son these situations were not always avoidable. Just having a lot of company on the holidays would set him off. He had a couple of cousins that had similar personalities so as a family we did our best to keep things as calm as possible when we had our gatherings. No crazy clowns or visits from Santa or we would have several out of hand children before we knew it.
He actually loved to go to children's gaming restaurants even though he was terrified by the costumed characters that roamed the place himself. But we had to limit our visits there or before it was all said and done he was a big hot mess. We made the mistake of taking our children too early to a theme park and after a couple of really exciting rides and waiting in the endless line they passed out smooth and we ended up walking around the park and spending most of our time just watching.
Most of this behavior was grown out of by both of my children. My daughter is a very calm, mild mannered, and brilliant young woman who generally takes things in stride but does not like to be in chaotic situations. She does not enjoy crowds or craziness. She can manage chaotic situations as an adult now but always escapes as soon as she possibly can. She prefers quiet evenings with a good book or one on one interaction versus being around crowds. She showed these tendencies early on and over the years I have done my best to accommodate her with small parties and a calm environment.
My son has always loved being around lots of people but knows better now when he is getting overwhelmed. He can generally avoid a melt down by excusing himself from the crowd before he gets too anxious. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was younger but after being on the medication for awhile decided he would rather try and manage his behavior himself when possible. He is becoming more aware as a young adult of what will push his emotions over the edge and most of the time he is successful in avoiding these situations.
We as parents or grandparents need to watch our children from the time they are born to detect these emotional triggers in our children before they cause them more anguish. We should be observant and even though we can not shelter them from every life event we can be sensitive to what may cause them undo trauma. We need to ease them into foreign situations and make sure we do not give them more than their sweet little minds and emotions can take. When things like this do happen we need to quickly respond and get them into a place of comfort and security so that they know we are their safe haven. We can help them to adapt to these types of situations as they grow up by talking to them about what they are feeling and helping them to overcome.