An over-stimulated child: Signs and how to cope

An over-stimulated child: Signs and how to copeAn over-stimulated child: Signs and how to cope An over-stimulated child: Signs and how to copeAn over-stimulated child: Signs and how to cope

We live in a fast-paced world where it's easy to get overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Can you imagine how that feels for children with young and developing nervous systems?

Overstimulation in kids happens when children are swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise, and activity than they can cope with.

And as a result, it can result in what some may refer to as undesirable behaviors. But I think it's important to change the wording around it.

Coping mechanisms


It's simply their body and mind trying to find a way to cope and regulate themselves to meet the need that's being missed.

As adults, we train ourselves to use different coping mechanisms when we get overwhelmed, so it is up to us to be our kids' guide in how to handle overstimulation healthily and appropriately.

While overstimulation can look different in every child, here are some common characteristics and behaviors that an overstimulated child may display:

An over-stimulated child: Signs and how to cope

  1. They may be easily irritated: Having big reactions to small incidents. The wrong spoon, the shirt is too yellow, the puzzle piece didn’t fit etc.
  2. They can tend to go into a hyperactive mode: It can look like your child is bouncing off the walls, unable to sit still, even though they ought to be tired at the time. This can happen when the body is unable to calm itself down and so it begins to seek the external stimulus to stop from crashing.
  3. They may have little to no appetite: It basically means they're too dysregulated to acknowledge hunger.
  4. Blocking their ears repeatedly: This may happen in loud and busy settings.
  5. Aversion to being touched or held: This can be followed up by them becoming more aggressive.
  6. Aggression: Their impulses and reactions may be illogical or aggressive.
  7. Clingy: They may only want to be held and hugged (depends on the child).
  8. Inattentive: They may just display a general inability to listen.

What can lead to overstimulation ?

  • Change or disruption in a child’s routine
  • Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep
  • The environment, for example birthday parties, functions
  • Excessive screen time
  • If the child already has sensory/medical/neurotypical dispositions and conditions which can aggravate their nervous system easily. For example, Sensory Processing Disorder Autism, and ADHD among others.

 What parents/guardians can do with an overstimulated child

Here are some steps you can take to help calm your overstimulated child.

  • Dim the lights in the environment if possible
  • Remove the child from the environment
  • Cuddle with no words or added stimulus. When my daughter would get caught in a loop of overstimulation, I noticed whenever I would try to reason gently to soothe her, all I would end up doing is adding more stimulus to her already spiralling and tired brain/nervous system. LESS is MORE in these situations
  • Quiet time/zone, or calm corner
  • Drink something or have a snack
  • Read a book
  • EFT Tapping is something I have used with my daughter. It's not harmful, non chemical, and it helps them regulate their systems faster. This doesn't work with all children and it doesn't work all the time, but it works wonders for me from time to time
  • Gentle kid-friendly breathing exercises
  • Gentle distractions
  • Doing proprioceptive exercises
  • Going for a walk.



These methods won't work all of the time, and sometimes our kids just need an outlet to let it all out (just like adults).

Regardless, it's important that while we won't get it right all the time, we are aiming to continue creating spaces and environments where our children feel seen, loved and supported by the adults in their lives.

It takes time and patience, but it will pay off.

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