How to Cope When You’re Feeling Overstimulated as an Introverted Parent of Young Kids

An introverted parent with young kids

As an introverted parent of young kids, sometimes you just need to truly be alone for a while — even if it means hiding in your car.

Before I had kids, I found it easier to manage the overstimulation that can come with being an introvert and a highly sensitive person. If I spent all day at a conference or went to a busy party, I would simply schedule some downtime afterward to recover and regain some energy. 

Once I had kids, my opportunities for alone time shrunk. While I was no longer attending many dinner parties or frequenting loud restaurants, I found that parenting young kids still provided plenty of opportunities for overstimulation since it involved managing meltdowns or pots-and-pans drumming sessions.

As a mom, I had to find ways to regain some energy while also simultaneously caring for kids, which, as most introverted parents know, can be a challenge. Over time, I’ve developed some strategies that have helped me manage (or at least reduce) some of the overstimulation that can come with raising small humans.

6 Ways to Cope When You are Feeling Overstimulated as an Introverted Parent

1. Try to find some comic relief.

Laughter has been shown to relieve stress, and since I often write parenting humor, you would think this would be an obvious go-to for me. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed as a parent, I don’t always think of humor as an option. 

But laughing with my kids is one quick way to boost my mood and diffuse a stressful situation. Sometimes this means saying silly things or crawling around on the ground and snorting like a pig (or whatever animal you feel like play-acting for your kids — you need not restrict yourself to farm animals). 

My kids also often can’t stop themselves from laughing when my husband and I shift into role reversals and act like kids while they pretend to be the parents. One of my favorite versions of this game is when they give me a time-out — they laugh while pretending to be the parent and I actually get a few minutes of alone time.

2. Take a reading break.

My husband and I read to our kids at bedtime every night, but the end of the day is often when I’m most drained as a parent. As a result, I sometimes try to fast-track bedtime stories to the shortest ones possible. 

But my kids love listening to books, so sometimes when they are using the living room as a Cirque du Soleil training arena, I can get them to slow down by sitting and reading to them.

3. Have someone else do the reading for you.

Since there are times when you may need to do things like make breakfast or go to the bathroom without a child attached to you, it also helps if someone else reads the books. And from the time my kids were toddlers, they have enjoyed listening to audiobooks. Some of their favorites were Arnold Lobel books, like Frog and Toad and Mouse Tales. And, as a bonus, audiobooks can often have some learning benefits for kids.

4. Play a game where you get to lie down.

When I’m overstimulated, I sometimes just want to lie down and rest for a while. Letting your kids have some screen time will often work for this (and I definitely use it!), but sometimes you can also play games where you lie down — like you being a patient and your children acting as doctors. For a while, one of my kids liked to play a game where we both pretended to sleep. That was one of my favorite games.

5. Hide for a little while.

Sometimes you just need to truly be alone for a little while, and if you are raising young kids, then you may just need to find creative ways to get it. Sometimes this might involve hiding in a closet, eating sushi in the car, or giving yourself a time-out in a quiet room for a few minutes when you find yourself getting overwhelmed.  

6.  Use music to change your mood.

When I was at home with young kids and time seemed to be crawling by, I would sometimes turn on music to try to boost my mood. I just had to be careful about what music I chose — since some kids’ music was so grating to me that it made things worse. 

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But turning on mood-lifting music was a good way to boost my energy when I couldn’t opt for one of my preferred methods of reenergizing (like checking into a hotel room alone for a weekend). One bonus of using this method with really young kids is that they can’t yet insist you play Baby Shark on a constant loop.

I’ve also found that sometimes I can set myself up for being less overstimulated by making some small adjustments when I’m around my kids. Here are some ways to do so. 

Ways to Set Yourself up for Less Overstimulation

  • Avoid multitasking. Since I’ve never had full-time childcare for my kids, I’ve often had to fit in some amount of working from home while caregiving, not to mention the endless list of daily household tasks that have to be done. I’ve noticed that some of my most frustrating moments come when I’m trying to focus on a work or a household task while getting interrupted five million times for a snack. Author Carla Naumburg has written about how multitasking can make parents lose their tempers. If I can find a way to focus on a single task, I often feel less overwhelmed. This isn’t always possible (giving my full attention to my children while also making dinner is difficult), but if I can try to chunk my time to fully focus on tasks that need my attention, and then different time to focus on my kids, I feel less drained.
  • Recognize your triggers so you can try to avoid them. As an introverted and highly sensitive parent, I’ve come to realize that there are certain things that really get to me. If there is too much noise for too long — or I’m overscheduled for too many days in a row — it chips away at my energy and patience. So, I’ve tried to be aware of what sets me off and, when possible, avoid those things. I try to not overschedule my kids by not signing them up for too many classes and activities, and I’ve been known to hide certain loud toys. Doing what you can to set the stage for a less draining environment can help.

Even with the best intentions, I don’t always have the presence of mind to use one of the above tips. So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed and not behaving in a completely calm manner, try not to feel guilty since all parents (not just introverted ones) have difficult days.

Being an introvert with young kids can be challenging. But I also try to remember there are some upsides — you probably almost always have a great excuse to turn down your friends’ invitation to a night of clubbing or a party full of people you don’t know (unless, of course, it’s a kid’s birthday party — then you might still need to go).

Want more tips and humor for introverted parents of young kids? Get my book, Babies Don’t Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?).

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