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Sensitivity to noise at school

How I dealt with my daughter not wanting to go to school due to noise sensitivity

Stella didn’t want to go to school this morning. Full out crying. Said school is too noisy.

She like me, has a  sensitivity to noise. So I get it. A classroom full of loud kids is the reason why I became an occupational therapist (OT) rather than  a school teacher. 

She was adamant about staying home. It was 30 minutes before her bus pick up and she was still in her pj’s crying.  There were also other factors at hand— her best friend moved away last year, her wonderful teacher suffered an injury in November and is gradually returning to work and she was just globe trotting for four months…so some of this heightened sensitivity, naturally, would be related to this transition period seeing that we only returned from Indonesia a couple of weeks ago.  

It’s all connected. The more balanced, relaxed and simple things are, the more we shine. The more stressed, overloaded and chaotic things are, the more dis-orderly we are.

After a few minutes of listening to her and reminding her that she needed to get dressed, I was getting irritated with her loud protesting. I was teetering with allowing her a day home.

I felt torn for a few reasons:

  1. I didn’t want her to cry her way into getting what she wants (ah motherhood) and yet it seemed like she was struggling with something.  Do I let her stay at home or not?
  2. I had work to do and didn’t want to deal with the noise of children at home (oh the irony)!
  3. She was already going to have a short week with us going out of town on the weekend and she had already had a half day last week where we picked her up at noon for a planned break mid-week.

All of these thoughts and emotions get processed (or not) in a matter of seconds— hence the need to slow down. A significant reason to join our simplicity parenting Facebook group , a place to be mindful with other like minded moms. Simplifying is invaluable.

Because I’m also a mama who is sensitive to noise and after a wonderful and very social Sunday, I was feeling a bit drained on this Monday morning. So I did a few things:

1. Communicate

I went downstairs to ask my husband, Mark, to go upstairs and talk to her seeing that I had reached my limit of patience despite listening to her and had to get on with our morning (I’m human just like you)! I know that not everyone has a partner to rely on and/or may be doing mornings on their own— we all have unique circumstances, so I invite you to reflect on where and how you can open communication. I also phoned the school about something else and asked the secretary how Stella was transitioning back (it’s a small french school with only kids in kindergarden). She then insisted I speak to the teacher which was a reassuring conversation.

2.  Reach out

Meanwhile, I reached out to one of Stella’s little friend’s moms via text to confirm whether her daughter would be at school. Her little girlfriend was away last week and this was one of the reasons Stella gave for wanting to stay home.

So immediately after my text, Stella’s little friend phoned. “Stella, are you coming to school today? I want to play with you”, her friend asked. A brief pause and silence. “Ok” Stella said with tears rolling down her face. That was enough for her to agree to go to school. Sometimes, all we need is a little encouragement and love. And to feel like we belong.

Had she not changed her mind, we were going to grant her the time and space to stay home for part of the day, as we were sensing she needed an extra day at home (soul fever as we say in the simplicity parenting world). It feels good to notice the emotional life of both our children and create space for them to process their kid stuff without trying to fix it for them.

3. Normalize

After she finished breakfast, I offered to read the book “So Loud, it hurts!” by Elaheh Bos. We snuggled on the couch with five minutes to spare before the bus and read this story about a boy dealing with the loud noises at his own birthday party (balloons, people clapping and singing, the barking dog) and how his father helps him see how unique we all are.

4. Have a plan

We packed her noise cancelling headphones for school and off she went with a big smile on her face. I hoped that she would have a nice day. She did come home happy, but at bedtime she complained of the noise still in her head from the day. So I rubbed her back and put on a kid’s meditation as she relaxed into sleep. 


*This a photo of her wearing the headphones, at five, due to the noisy tractor outside.

To sum it up

So as you can see there is a lot to tease out and it’s not always so black and white— one must find their way. The benefit of being an occupational therapist and simplicity parenting family life coach who focuses on women’s health and paediatrics is that I have many of the tools needed to parent consciously in my back pocket. So I am grateful. But it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes I worry and have my buttons pushed— I share these stories to share my process with you. And a significant reason why I started my own practice is so I could help other families like ours. Sensitive/stressed/spirited moms and kids who could benefit from the many beautiful approaches and strategies that I use within my own family.

At any rate, there are a lot of things that you can do to help yourself or your child with noise sensitivity. Things like healthy thought management, body awareness, simplifying your space and schedule, using headphones, learning to regulate emotions, among many other strategies (too many to list here).

Tell me in comments below if you deal with this at all in your home?

Schedule a complimentary chat if you’d like to know more about working with me.

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