Here at Twenty-One Senses, we follow the Attachment, Regulation, and Competency (ARC) framework. Over the next few months, we’ll take a high-level look at each of these concepts and discuss ways you can use the framework in your everyday parenting life. Check out arcframework.org for more information.
In short, the framework asserts that in order for children to learn or process information, they must first feel Attachment, which comes from feeling confident in that:
- They are in a safe physical environment.
- They are safe with the person teaching them.
As parents and caregivers, our job is to create this sense of safety for our children. Attachment is the process of strengthening and supporting caregivers so that they might be a consistent source of calm, safety, and support. You can’t be a source or calm, however, if you’re overloaded or stressed.
This month, we encourage you to spend some time thinking about your own sensory triggers and experiment with ways your senses can help you find your calm. Have a favorite coping tip? Let us know in the comments!
Step #1 – Know Your Triggers
Try to notice what kinds of sensory input make you feel stressed or deregulated, and be mindful of how your triggers can compound. A loud TV might not usually bother you, but it just might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if you’re already feeling exhausted or overwhelmed by the mess in the kitchen. Some common sensory triggers include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Auditory – Yelling or talking over each other; loud electronics
- Visual – Messy or disorganized house; bright or poor lighting
- Tactile – Constant touching or snuggling; feeling too hot or cold
- Vestibular – Being bumped into or hung on; constantly stepping around messes
- Olfactory – Poor or reduced ventilation; bathroom or diaper smells
- Gustatory – Food fatigue or boredom; cravings
- Proprioception – Not getting enough exercise or physical contact
- Interoception – Not noticing when you’re hungry or exhausted
Step #2 – Know Your Fix
We all know self-care is important, but it’s not always as simple as pouring a glass of wine or taking a hot bath. If you are truly experiencing sensory deregulation, you might need to turn back to your senses to help find your calm. Maybe you’re crawling out of your skin due to being constantly touched, grabbed, or bumped into by your children, but wrapping up in a weighted blanket feels soothing. Maybe you can’t stand the sound of your children screaming or playing loud video games, but focusing on a podcast or calming music keeps you from losing it. Listen to your body and experiment with ways sensory input can help you stay regulated.
Finally, learn how to communicate when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Have a phrase (“My brain is scrambled”) or some nonverbal signal that lets others know you’re hitting your limit. Get the entire family in the habit of rating their level of stress or anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, and check in with each other throughout the day.