The Challenge of Highly Sensitive Children
With Christmas fast approaching, the excitement and intensity of the season increases….which means that if you are a parent of a Highly Sensitive Child, you may see the excitement and intensity of your child also increase. With that can come some challenges, and it can be a test of your patience.
The following blog gives you a glimpse into the life of a sensitive child…mine! And boy oh boy, it can be a roller coaster…not only for them, but for you as well. I get it. You ARE NOT alone.
I invite you into my life and my learning…
Having a highly sensitive child can create a lot of frustration and challenges. And if we don’t learn how to effectively and compassionately deal with the situations that arise out of their sensitivity, the challenges get bigger and we also begin to create a disconnect with our child.
One morning my daughter, Mackenzie, came to me asking to take her to a pottery painting studio. Since she loves being creative and I want to encourage that I thought this was a great idea. We also took a friend with her. To set the stage, we have been to this pottery studio before. Two times to be exact. And each time there was emotional drama involved. So needless to say, my husband advised me against taking her. But since we discussed these outbursts before, she assured us this would not happen again.
…Well, it did. And I have to tell you, I was in total shock that she was having a melt down in the studio over what seemed to be a situation that had a simple solution. I initially approached it with patience and tried to steer her to a solution, but as her resistance to any sort of solution escalated, my frustration also began to escalate. At the heart of it I was so irritated and angry because she had promised that she would not react in this way again. In my anger I assured her that I would NEVER take her to this place again, and I also threatened that she would be paying me back for the pottery I had bought for her.
I was at a loss as to how to handle this, with it now having been the third time happening. I thought the conversations that we had revolving around the last two episodes had really made a difference. She really seemed to understand the situation and even herself. BUT it happened again. What now?!
On the way home, her saving grace was the fact that she had a friend in the vehicle, and therefore I didn’t want to expose her friend to my tirade of thoughts and “lessons.” …and thank god for that. As I continued to drive home in total silence, initially I was fuming, but shortly it gave way to some understanding and compassion.
In my frustration at the pottery studio, I wasn’t in a state of mind to really hear her, but luckily enough of her words sank in that in reflection I recalled her sobbing saying, “I don’t know how to stop my body once I start crying. I want to stop, but I don’t know how.”
This wasn’t the first time I heard her say this. One day after a melt down over her dance tights, I had to invoke extreme patience in getting her calmed down. She had said the same thing then. In that case I used a deep breathing and visualization technique that proved to be fairly effective with her.
Upon arriving home from the pottery studio, Mackenzie went straight to her bedroom, and threw herself on her bed sobbing. Another spark of irritation began and I went upstairs with an overwhelming urge to lay into her about her inappropriate behaviour, and before I could get too far with my tirade, she said, “I know. I know what I did. I get it, and I’m trying not to make myself feel worse than I already do.”
That stopped me mid-sentence and made me drop to her bed and fiercely hug and console her. In that moment I could clearly see the process of how we grow to be adults that are so hard on ourselves, and how that is a very slippery slope that can lead to a lifetime of recovering from it. I know…I’m one of them.
I have been on a journey of letting go of the perfectionism, the over-achieving, the over-analyzing, the people pleasing and the strong tendency to be hard on myself. This seeps into so many aspects of our lives that we don’t even realize the deep impact it is truly having.
Along my journey, bit by bit, I have been opening up to who I truly am, and realize that the whole process is about self-love. There is a spectrum of self-love, and I can clearly see how I have inched my way along the spectrum and can say I feel I’ve surpassed the midway point, however there is still more to love and embrace, and being hard on myself can still rise to the surface.
I want my children to not have to slide down the spectrum of self love, but to always remain in a place of knowing their true worth.
In sitting with my daughter, it became very clear that this wasn’t about her being thoughtless and selfish; this was about her needing to learn how to understand, manage and honour her emotions. This is something I have been in the midst of truly getting a grasp on myself. For many years I thought that in being true to my thoughts and emotions was an indicator of my selfishness and thoughtlessness. In truth, it is an indictor of your connection and understanding of yourself, and it is vital to honour these feelings.
I never want my daughter to shut down her sensitivity, or see it as a curse. It truly is a blessing. And through our conversations regarding the pottery studio scenario, as well as her reaction in her bedroom, I could see the shift in her where she was embracing her sensitivity instead of resisting it; where through our chats she was also becoming more self aware. I could also see there was still much for us both to learn in regards to how to manage her emotions, but the vital step is in remembering to embrace her sensitivity rather than make it wrong and/or bad…and together we will continue to find ways to ease back into calm, compassion, and understanding.
There isn’t a one cure-all, fix-it method that will remedy these outbursts. Yep! That would be nice! But what it takes is a parent who is committed to their own inner work, as well as seeing through the frustration and keeping in mind the overall goal of wanting our children to always remain true to who they are, to retain their intuitive sense, and to remain connected.
Through learning to be a Soulful Parent AND a Soulful You, you learn to trust yourself in making the best choices when dealing with these challenging and often times daunting moments.