As children progress into their teens, they enter one of the most difficult life stages. Their bodies are changing, their hormones are sky-rocketing, and parents must adapt their approaches to accommodate for these changes. Here are some sensory strategies to keep in mind when your child is approaching adolescence.
1. Provide a safe space to exercise
Physical activity provides a wide range of benefits in a variety of important areas including improving motor skills, skill-related fitness, social functioning, muscular strength, and endurance. Creating a safe place where your child can exercise and lift free weights for proprioceptive input is an effective strategy for teenagers!
Sample different types of physical activity to see what your child enjoys best. From a home fitness routine to swimming, from riding bikes to riding horses, there is an abundance of physical activities that you and your child can try. Remember, start small and work your way up! The goal is to make physical activity a regular, enjoyable part of daily life. Ideally, include activities that encourage:
- Fitness: An activity that involves moderate to vigorous activity such as running/jogging, shooting basketballs at the park, swimming, walking to school, walking the dog.
- Social Interaction: An activity that involves one or more other people, such as tennis, ping-pong, and playing catch.
- Independence: An activity that can be done alone, such as a exergaming (i.e. Nintendo Wii that encourages players to move their bodies), turning TV advertisements into exercise breaks to engage in a rigorous activity like jumping jacks, or incorporating a home fitness or yoga routine – perhaps with the help of a video for visual learning.
2. Have teens help pick out their personal hygiene items
If your child’s sensitivities are causing an aversion to showering, brushing teeth, or grooming, you may find it helpful to bring your teen to the store and have him/her help pick our their personal items. They can try and smell products such as lotions, shampoos, soaps, deodorants, softer hair brushes, towels/washclothes, etc. Then create specific rules for basic hygiene, such as: you must shower daily and wash your hair three times a week, you must brush your teeth twice a day, and you must wash your face every day. Having specific rules and a routine gives your teen a plan to follow.
3. Organize a sensory space
Have your teen help you organize a sensory space, where they can get needed input throughout the week in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by pleasant sensations. The sensory space will vary according to your child’s needs, however it may include:
- Movement: An exercise ball, rocking chair, beanbag chair, or mini indoor trampoline.
- Lighting: Add a relaxing glow with holiday lights, battery powered candles, glow sticks, or lava lamps.
- Sensory Items: Headphones with music, iPad, stress balls, weighted blankets, lots of stuffed animals, etc.
- Therapeutic scents: Playing with scented play doughs or incorporating aromatherapy with a diffuser and essential oils. Lavender scent helps with calming and relaxation.
4. Have teens help create goals they would like to accomplish
For some reason, teens seem to be more cooperative when they are partaking in competition. Setting achievable goals is a great way for your child to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Get creative! Challenge your teen to set a goal to lift a certain amount of weight, see who can do the most push-ups in one minute or plank the longest. Other goals may include trying out for a sports team, running a race, biking a certain distance, or learning a new dance routine! Create steps and timelines to help your child achieve these goals.
5. Give teens specific chores to meet sensory needs
While many of us dislike our chores, we all enjoy feeling like we can help! Household chores can be a way to improve self esteem and move towards independence for the future. Here are some day-to-day tasks to engage your teen: watering plants, folding laundry (try the Flip-Fold laundry folder for extra fun and professional-style folding), washing dishes, vacuuming, making the bed, feeding the household pet, or simple food prep! Here’s a tip: Cooking dinner for the family? Have your child help you! Cooking provides input to multiple systems and is a great way to get your teen interested in eating foods they may normally reject.
Finding a way to fit sensory strategies into your teen’s daily activities and everyday life is very important while navigating adolescence. We hope these strategies help you create your own “tool box” of tips and tricks pertaining to your child’s interests and needs!