It is that time of year again when spring is in the air…literally. Often during these spring months, the odors are throughout the air, as trees are budding and flowers begin to bloom. While these smells can be desired by some, they are not always appreciated by all.
The human body can detect over 10,000 different odors. With this many smells, it can be confusing how we often classify odors quickly to either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, depending on our desire and tolerance for a smell. Unfortunately, when it comes to odors, there are only two ways to completely extinguish an odor:
- Remove the source of the odor
- Remove the person affected by the odor
There can be situations when your child may need to tolerate an odor, and these two options are not possible. Below is some insight into your child’s behaviour and ideas how to support.
What Your Child Feels
When a child is caught off guard by a non desired smell, irregardless of it’s source – food or environment – it can be very startling to them. Your child’s brain shifts into danger mode, using back brain thinking (i.e. fight or flight). When this occurs, your focus needs to be supporting your child through the moment. This is not the time to address odor acceptance with your child.
Establish an Odor Routine
The goal is to keep a child inquisitive about an odor, instead of reacting to the odor. To do this, you must establish a odor routine. This routine must be practiced multiple times and become familiar with the child for it to be effective.
- The routine must be practiced with the child in a controlled situation.
- A child should be regulated, calm and feel safe before trying this exercise.
- Discuss with your child how a NEW odor does not always mean a BAD odor.
- Use phrases like ‘I smell something new’ when an odor is detected, as opposed to ‘Do you smell that?!?’.
- Encourage your child to use all of their senses to describe the odor, not just their nose.
- Discuss a plan with your child about how they can handle undesired odors. This could include holding their nose, breathing through their mouth, taking a whiff of a desired smell or leaving the situation.
- Set expectations for your child when you anticipate interactions with strong odors. Remind them to stay curious to the odor and review your plan.