Monday, 26 September 2011

Highly sensitive children - my lightbulb parenting moment

We're at a pub with friends for a Sunday lunch. Their baby is snoozing peacefully in his buggy. We're taking turns walking up and down, pat shushing, trying to settle our screaming baby. Again.

Toddler group. All the children are sitting on the floor singing the wheels on the bus, merrily making the actions. My son is sitting on my lap sobbing, trying to cover his ears.

We head off to a pre-school mini football class. The other children all shriek and run around after the balls having a whale of time. My son won't come out from behind my chair and when I finally manage to coax him out and get him to kick a ball to me, he cries if I take a step from his side.

It's his fourth birthday. We've hired a magician and he's got to dress up like a pirate. He doesn't want to be the magician's helper. He reluctantly joins in the party games. He cries when everyone sings happy birthday to him.

He's getting dressed for school. Or rather, he isn't. He's making a fuss and not putting his shirt on. Eventually I ask him why he won't put his shirt on. Apparently the badge on the shirt is scratchy. I get him a shirt without a badge on it. He puts it on happily.

It's the dreaded time of day - school drop off. I take him into the playground. He clings to me, like every other day for the last year. He cries. He says he feels sick. A teacher has to peel him off me. He screams and tries to escape. I have to just walk away and it breaks my heart. They assure me at pick up that he was fine once I left.

'Your son doesn't say much in class, but when he does, it is stunningly well thought out as though he has thought very deeply about the answer and is almost adult in his approach,' to quote his reception year teacher.

Monday afternoons, our worst day of the week. Swimming lessons. He shouts and yells that he isn't going. 'I hate it,' he screams. I get him in the pool, refusing to negotiate on this point. The swimming instructor tells off the little girl next to my son for not listening. My son bursts into tears, his lip wobbling for the rest of his lesson while his goggles fill with tears.

This is my son. I have written about him before:
What to do when you don't like your child
When we send him off to camp
School Battles

For seven years I have been at a loss to know what to do with him. Nothing seemed to work. I'd always known he was sensitive, but as he got older, it seemed to me that many really undesirable qualities were coming to the fore: selfishness, laziness, aggression, drama queen tendencies.

But last week I was in a book shop and saw a book called The Highly Sensitive Person. It just seemed to leap off the shelf at me. I didn't buy it but went home and googled Highly Sensitive Children. And hey presto, up popped a web site with a quiz in which you answered questions about whether you have a highly sensitive child. So I did it. And no surprises, but he ticked just about every box. I ordered the book - Highly Sensitive Children by Elaine Aron - immediately and have spent the last few days reading it cover to cover.

It made me weep. Genuine sobbing and an immense feeling of guilt. How could I not have seen this in my child? How is it that I'd never heard of this as an issue? How could I have made so many mistakes with him? I wished with all my heart that I could take back the years and do them over again.

In case you, like me, were not aware of Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs), they make up 15 to 20% of the population, too big a proportion for this to be so unknown. It's NOT a disorder. It is NOT aspergers or autism.  In short, a highly sensitive person absorbs more and processes everything more thoroughly. To quote the book:

"HSCs are born with a nervous system that causes them to prefer to observe all the subtleties in a situation and to process all of this information deeply before acting. As a result, HSCs tend to be highly reflective, intuitive and creative (having a strong sense of how things came to be how they are and what could happen next); conscientious and concerned about fairness and what others are feeling; and aware of subtle changes, details or 'what's missing in this picture'. The trait also causes them to be more easily overwhelmed and hurt, both physically and emotionally; slower to warm up or join in; and sometimes quiet and unwilling to speak (in groups).

They are more easily overwhelmed by 'high volume' or large quantities of input arriving at once. They try to avoid this and thus seem shy or timid or party poopers. When they cannot avoid overstimulation, they seem easily upset or 'too sensitive'."

So my crying baby didn't have colic. There was just too much stimulation for him out and about.

My clingy toddler and pre-schooler wasn't being shy or wimpy, he couldn't take in all the noise and activity going on around him. He was hanging back to observe, process it and then venture forth (normally at about the time he had to leave which then caused him frustration and brought on massive tantrums).

My little boy wasn't being a party pooper when he cried at his party - he just couldn't take all of it in and couldn't stand the attention of everyone looking at him.

He doesn't hate swimming. He just hates the shock of the cold water, the splashing from multiple children, the gruffness of the instructor's tone.

Imagine it. Imagine that everytime you hear something, it sounds louder and you spend more time interpreting what that loud sound is. And imagine if every time you put on a scratchy jumper, it didn't just niggle you but really felt unbearable against your skin. And imagine if you didn't want to put that jumper on but your parents got annoyed with you for making another fuss and insisted on it. And imagine being forced to not wait and observe a brand new school with brand new people and lots of new rules and information, but being forced to go in because the bell is going and that's just what you have to do. Hell on earth.

Since reading this book I have looked at my son in an entirely different light. I can feel so much more empathy towards him now. I no longer feel that he is 'acting out' just because he's trying to wind me up. He is just a little boy trying to make sense of a very loud, overwhelming world that his nervous system battles to cope with.

In the last few days I have changed the way I am with him. I don't shout. I don't even raise my voice. I have lowered my expectations as to what to expect of him. I've helped him more. I've been infinitely more patient. I've explained why things have to happen simply and clearly. I've let go of the sense that he's trying to do things to get at me. I feel greater pride in the things he does do - like reading a poem in church for harvest festival. And the change has been phenomenal.

He is a completely different child. A happy child. Someone who is finally comfortable and able to deal with things because it's getting presented to him in the right way. Because he is super sensitive, he can feel the difference emanating from me. There's less frustration and disappointment and anger coming from his primary care giver. He is picking up on that positivity and literally blossoming in front of my eyes.

I know it's early days and it's going to require a great deal of patience to maintain the level of calm, fair parenting that a child like this needs. And it is going to be particularly hard trying to prepare him for a world that is quite simply not designed with sensitive people in mind - particularly for little boys who are viewed as cry babies or sissys instead of the macho role required by today's society. But I now know how I can help him and can see the utterly beautiful gifts his level of sensitivity brings.

I only wish I had known about this before. I hate myself for misinterpreting and misunderstanding him all these years, for not having the patience needed, for caring too much about what the rest of the world thought instead of doing what was right for him.

I promise to make it up to him by doing my very, very best to help him thrive in this busy, crazy world.

If you are the parent of a highly sensitive child, please share your stories with me.


Lazy Housewife said...

Jeez, that makes me feel pretty bad too, although I knew there must be an underlying reason for over shyness, lashing out, inability to take compliments or make eye contact with adults..... I supposed it was a way of attention seeking!
(Holding back the tears)

Home Office Mum said...

Mine doesn't do eye contact with strangers and also lashes out Lazy Housewife. We had a very successful day today where he went to swimming and didn't cry for the first time ever. He was startled once by the whistle being blown but I simply said: Swimming can feel overwhelming because of all the noise and splashing, but just pretend you can't hear it and concentrate on what you're doing.

And just like that he skipped off. Wow.

Lazy said...

Brilliant! Good luck with the rest! X

nappy valley girl said...

So glad to hear you have made progress. It must have been very frustrating now knowing what was wrong. x

Jenny Rudd said...

You should feel proud of yourself, not upset at how you had reacted in the past. I must make you feel empowered to have some clear idea of how to help your little lad enjoy things. Good for you. I am going to read that book. My son has quite a few of those traits. That's such an obvious but hellishly easy to miss truth about being overwhelmed by the world.

Metropolitan Mum said...

My daughter is a HSC - just as I was myself and my husband was. As a baby, she would have started screaming when strangers looked into her pram, she still looks down and shouts 'NO!' when I am talking to strangers. Don't feel guilty. How would you have known? To be honest, there were moments when I thought that she had aspergers - despite my own personality and the similarities in her personality traits. xxx

Iota said...

If 15 - 20% of people are highly sensitive, then that means that huge huge numbers of parents never suss this out about their child. So don't beat yourself up. Instead, congratulate yourself for being one of the very very few who find it out.

A friend lent me a similar book when I was having a tough time with my younger son. I didn't feel he fitted the profile, though there were elements that seemed to ring true. But I thought that was the case for my other two as well. I kind of concluded that children probably all have areas of particular sensitivity, and maybe part of being a good parent is to try and learn what those are, and how to deal with them. (But I didn't read all that much of the book - perhaps I should go back to it.)

I'm so glad it's working for you. What a wonderful breakthrough.

Sarah said...

Guilt and parenting. A traditional recipe :)

Incredible that you were able to see the truth when it was offered. So many people are so invested in how they have acted that they cant change - you have adjusted and that makes you A Very Good Mother.

Home Office Mum said...

NVG - it was mega frustrating. At least I feel I know what I've got to do, even if I can't always do it

Jenny - I think most people have some of the traits, some just have more than others

Met Mum - at least you recognise it early on with your daughter so know how to respond to her

Iota - I know - there must be loads of kids out there that are just seen as being a bit fussy instead of sensitive

Sarah - thank you!

rosiescribble said...

I'm going to go out and buy thsat book. My daughter's definitely very senstive to things. The book was recommended to me when she was vwry young. Why the hell didn't I buy it then?!

Iota said...

I like Sarah's comment. Yes. It takes insight, wisdom and guts to change ones parenting style and assumptions.

Nicola said...

OMG. I need to get this book. Thank you. Thank you for providing some much needed help with CU.

monzemum said...

OMG! That's me as a child and I can see some elements in my youngest too. Will have to get the book. Thanks

Abby_Mummyof4 said...

OMG! Lovely story. Made me cry! Just searched 'Highly sensitive' on BabyCentre and came across your post. Our little boy who is 4.5 yrs is a hsc and we found out about a year ago. He was my 2nd and new something was not right when he was about 14 mths. He was the easiest baby ever but when he started walking he changed. He would cry everytime he woke up for 2hours. I work with kids and demanded he was assessed but was fobbed off for a coupke of years. When the assessor came in she knew he was a hsc after 5 mins when he went to wash his hands! I had never heard of it, nor had any of my work collegues. I read all the books and there was immense progress, especially when he started school suprisingly as they seemed to follw his IEP well and were careful not to shout at him but we are curren tly having a step backwards. There are no problems at school withhim but at home my patience has worn thin (have 4 kids so life is hectic) but your post has reminded me that he needs me to be more patient as I have been rather strict with him which he does not react well too, Thank you! xx

Tori said...

I'd been seeking help with our son for over a year, and wondering if we should be getting help for years before that, when I too found The Highly Sensitive Child when scanning the shelves of a book shop for any help I could find. I'd realised that he had sensory issues, and knew he didn't respond to the usual parenting techniques, but this book has given me confidence in my instincts and so much more insight into his world. He had been incredibly aggressive and violent, and just the same as you, the change in him when I changed was instant. It's hard not to feel guilty, but my mum said to me, he's lucky, he has a mum who kept searching for answers, as did you. Sadly, the paediatrician who had been seeing him dismissed highly sensitive as irrelevant and although he has since been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, she also dismissed this as something they grow out of and therefore not an issue. When I said it took 3 hours to get him dressed every day she suggested letting him stay in his pjs. Not very helpful in the winter, on a school day etc... Anyway, thank you for writing so honestly about your experiences - it is hugely reassuring to read about other families going through the same things. I just know that with lots of love and reassurance and encouragement, these amazing little people are going to be absolutely incredible adults. I am blown away by what my boy manages every day, and by his ability to communicate and analyse his feelings and experiences. We're lucky parents - what a lot we learn from them, and how we have to grow and develop ourselves to parent them, and what an amazing privilege to watch them master and manage the big wide world. Thank you for sharing your world.

Anonymous said...

*weeps* I have recently had almost the same experience except my little girl is 5 and my copy hasn't arrived yet. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps to know that its not too late to change things and make her life easier. Good luck x

Anonymous said...

my son is four and will be starting school in september. His nursery teacher over the past year has pointed out some of the difficulties he has while in nursery. Coping with to much noise, does not like be touched, or people to close to him, very sensitive to his environment or people around him. Always asking questions. This leads to him screaming in frustration and anger quite often. However the teacher has also pointed out his strenghts eg his attention to detail, empathy to others, creativity and excellent listening skills. I understand more about the subject of HSC but am worried about how he will fit in at school and dont want to lable him by saying the wrong thing to his new teacher in september please help

Home Office Mum said...

Thanks for all the recent comments. It amazes me that people still find this post months after it was written but glad it can be of help.

To the last anon commenter, in the book there is a section that you can copy and give to teachers. I did that for my son's teacher. I said that I wasn't trying to tell her how to do her job, but just wanted to give her some insight into my child. She read it and has been far gentler with him. He has blossomed into a very confident little boy now.

Summer said...

I am a highly sensitive person, and I'm pretty sure my daughter is too. Parenting right now is exhausting, she is almost three and her brother is one.

Alison said...

My son is 5 and is very highly sensitive. Very early on I knew that he was different/special when at the age of 2 he was scared of the noise vehicles made as we walked down a street, at 3 years old he cried at his own birthday party as we all sang happy birthday to him and when he did swimming and football, he was unable to independently join the group of children and participate in the activities that were going on.

However on the otherhand, he had the amazing ability to get on with every child at nursery and became known for his caring nature by children and adults alike. He was able to read by 3, he has a fantastic memory and pays so much attention to detail that he is wonderfully creative and imaginative.

As a highly sensitive child, he has his particular needs which are challenging. This has been a long journey for me with its ups and downs. He has so much going for him but if only he would believe in himself. He is a perfectionist and sets very high expectations for himself. He has the potential to be so amazing but I can see so many problems occuring and pitfalls because of the lack of understanding of his needs by others - his teachers, his peers and some of his family members.

My biggest challenge at the moment is when he participates in sports. He expects to win every game he plays - he cannot cope with defeat of any kind. Also if he is practising a skill and he does not get it right - he falls to pieces! Although he does actually enjoy doing these sports and when he is not upset, shows exceptional ability in what he does.

So what should I do? The easy thing to do would be to stop his football and tennis however I feel that he has to learn how to develop strategies in order to help him deal with his emotions and these situations. As he gets older, will things get better? Any advice from anyone?

Home Office Mum said...

Alison, I would let him continue with his sport but just keep explaining that it's ok for things not to go perfectly. ASk him why he gets upset and then explain how it's ok to feel like that but to challenge himself to think of what things he did well in the game instead.

Anonymous said...

Having read the HSC book I realized with my first born, that my wife and I were in for a strenuous journey. My daughter is 7 and has improved a lot in that she loves to do more stuff independently but the same sensitivity to noise, sense of order etc has magnified. My son is now 4, and as a dad I feel pressured to force him into doing 'boy' like stuff to toughen him up but he cries and screams at drop off in the morning, he cried every class at soccer, he refused to go swimming and never got into the pool without crying..(by the way he had colic too and I amazed at how he can cry non-stop for an hour or more). My wife the highly sensitive one is more understanding and I do not wish to be hard with him, but having gone through this alone without support when I was a kid, being bullied, ridiculed etc. I do not want the same for him; thus the need to toughen him up. Perhaps he will learn on his own like I did and I should just be there for him when he needs me.Any comments appreciated. Thanks for your blog;

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you found out about your son. My daughter is HSC (like me). I never heard the term until recently but I knew from day one she and I were cut from the same cloth.

My parents did not understand me (not their fault). I am well adjusted and successful adult - your son will be too!

There are easy ways to help him. Be sure he arrives to school early and arrive at birthday parties 5 minutes before the other kids - so much easier for HSP not to walk into a crowd but to get settled before the chaos erupts around them.

Its ok to give him a break from things he hates (even swim lessons) my daughter didn't get off the pool steps until she was 5 years old. She hated swim lessons because the water was too cold but in due time (on her schedule - she has learned to swim). She is 12 and is a softball player - but she didn't play any sports at all until 3rd grade.

Now she just got a pallette expander - you can't imagine what that is like for a HSC. She cried and cried for weeks just at the thought of it. Now that is has been on a few days - she is getting use to it. It takes a lot of encouragement and comfort. (and it is really hard for a HSP like myself to actually cause someone physical discomfort).

Anyway, I'm just writing this to say you are doing a good job - and you will ALWAYS need to be aware of your sons differences and sensitivities. You will help him be able to feel good about himself and help him learn to advocate for his own needs.

Good Luck - its definitely a different journey with these kids.

Anonymous said...

It's been a desperate morning, so I did the thing I've never done...searched for a blog for SOMEONE who can understand. Can't tell my spouse, or Mom, or anyone.I've tried, no one "gets it". Mine is 9, a girl, and was diagnosed by a counselor (my attempt to survive this relationship)as Highly Sensitive last June. So, we did better for a stretch,meeting with a counselor weekly. But it got too expensive, and we stopped going, and now it's war again. So volatile! even armed with the knowledge that she is highly sensitive I can't seem to put up with the constant complaint that I don't say it right, or do it right, or care enough. I'm at the "I don't like my child" spot. I can't walk on egg shells my whole parenting existence. My other child is miserable by the fights, and ruckus', caused daily again. I don't want to buy one Christmas present for her- I'm so angry with her! I feel stuck. What can you do to allow the child to take some responsibility for their agitating words and actions? HELP!!

Home Office Mum said...

Hi Anonymous, you sound like I felt this morning. I am blamed for every little thing. My son has developed eczema but he refuses to use the cream that helps because 'he doesn't like the smell or feel of it' but I must miraculously make it go away and it's my fault for not achieving this miracle. It is so hard so I completely get where you are coming from. When things REALLY get me down I go to my absolute worst extreme - I imagine what life would be like if he was suddenly not there. It always reminds me that no matter how annoying it can be, life would be far, far worse if he weren't in it. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Home Office Mum. It hasn't been as bad since that day (anonymous Nov. 30), but we have our bouts still. You are right about the extreme worst scenario...I'll admit, I have done that before, imagined not having her, and I do renew my intent to parent w/love. My most recent decision is to speak up when she is insulting. She hates it, and yells at me, and tells me I'm hurting her feelings, but she is so abrasive I feel like she should know. We did work it out after the fact, but the feelings get hurt so easily. Thanks for the encouraging words

Amy Quinton said...

OMG - Just had the same eye opening experience as you... My son is 10 and I got the highly sensitive child book last week. Right now, I'm still going through the guilt of all the ways I totally messed up over the last 10 years not understanding where my son is coming from... and trying to absorb everything in the book so that I can 'get it right' is almost overwhelming in itself. Your story made me cry - it was so very reminiscent of exactly what we've been going through for the last 10 years. I do, on the other hand, feel such relief at having the answer as to 'why' these things have been happening - and it helps me have patience with my child - though there is still some anxiety (on my part) over what I know he is going to be faced with in the future - quite frankly I'm terrified over my son facing middle school in the next couple of years. Now, I feel some relief to see so many people experiencing this and have much advice to offer to help with the difficult times.

Home Office Mum said...

Hi Amy, it's been over a year since I wrote that post. Since then we moved house which meant my son had to change schools (to a much bigger school). I thought he was going to go into complete meltdown. But amazingly he has coped. He still cries often, but luckily for him, his teacher fully understands him and he's still young enough for the other kids not to pick on him. He is still massively frustrating, but knowing what the problem is really does make me more empathetic to him. Your son will cope too - as will you! :-)

Anonymous said...

So glad I found this page - it all makes sense now. My son is 6 and my biggest fear is how much he will get bullied or labelled a 'cry baby/jessie'. Such a horrible thought!

Mama Suture said...

My little boy (3yrs) has had very similar experiences to your own child's. Luckily, a trusted Child Health Nurse that us that he was HSC before he turned one and while it was always in the back of my mind to be aware of, we've only now really had to start acknowledging it more as he becomes increasingly overwhelmed. When given space, consideration of his needs and a loving sanctuary, he thrives. Thank you for sharing your experiences, we've learnt what a gift his sensitivity is and wouldn't have him any other way.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog when I googled HSC. I too, wept last night when I read the book and feel as you had felt, wishing I could go back in time and respond to my daughter in a more supportive way. My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD last year, but the diagnosis never sat quite right with me. I now realize that she is overstimulated in the classroom and sometimes at home. After reading the book, this mornings routine went like a dream, because instead of screaming my usual "the bus is coming in 5 minutes!" I whispered, "look at the time, darling, the bus will be here very soon". She still made the bus. I am so grateful for having found this book.

Greg said...

Phew. What a great article. Absolutely from the heart. It was a beautiful thing.

One thing I wanted to comment on was your insistence it was not a disorder. Personally, as a person with ADHD, I couldn't agree more with a perspective that my personality/brain/etc. are gifts that make me different, not someone with a "disorder". It was however EXTREMELY helpful to be able to finally view myself through the lens of ADHD. It sounds like that book provided you with that same appropriate lens for your child. And while it sounds like the book stopped short of labeling such children with any kind of disorder and the use of any medical term, it still provided a "label" of "Highly Sensitive Children" by which you could identify similar behavior patterns, identify possible causes and triggers, and also identify how best for you to deal with a child with this label. I would argue having your child diagnosed with a "disorder" of some type would do nothing different and would possibly have even more would just simply come with that unfortunate word at the end.

My grand point here is do not be afraid of a label such as is only a word, but it does come with wonderful answers that finally allow us and our children to understand so much.

So what I am truly getting at in the end here is that, much like earlier poster TORI's child, the symptoms you describe sound a TON like what is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The hallmark of this is a hypersensitive child. I have not read the book you refer to, but I am guessing if your child truly was exhibiting symptoms of SPD, it would be helpful to look at your child through that lens as there is a wealth of information out there on it and it is a bit of a more recognized term. The biggest reason this lens could help you is there are large benefits to be reaped for most children with SPD by going through Occupational Therapy in addition to the mega-important steps you have already taken.

I state all of this because I have a niece, nephew and a child of my own with SPD. My sister followed a process much like yours with my nephew. One of undescribable parental frustration and filled with people who think you are just describing a normal child and think you are just a whinny parent. My sister even have a principal threaten to report her to the police for aiding Truancy! All because he couldn't believe her child was different, and he couldn't believe it took 2 hours to get her child dressed and that is why he was chronically late...he was certain it was just lazy parenting. In the end, my sisters child was diagnosed with ADHD AND SPD (the two are often co-morbid), and through a combination of new parenting strategies, Occupational Therapy, and medication, her child has blossomed and become a completely new child.

I am so happy you finally found answers, and even more grateful you chose to share it with the world. Perhaps it will save others the incredible frustration and grief both you and my sister went through. Hopefully I may have helped a bit by pointing you in the SPD direction as well. Below is a link with SPD symptoms if you care to read it.

Home Office Mum said...

Thank you Greg - that is very helpful

Kenyan Mum said...

Thanks Home Office Mum, your article has been an eye opener. I have always known my 4 year old son is highly sensitive like me, what i did not have were the tactics to deal with the different situations.
All the comments have helped a lot and i will be working on them as from this evening when he gets back from school.
Be blessed!

Anonymous said...

I love this. I just got back from a restaurant dinner with by 20 month old and family. They all try to sneak up behind him and shout "peekaboo" or grab him to have tickles and get in his face. Then he cries and is done for the night. Its so hard. People just don't understand that he's not a "mommy's boy" or spoiled. Is there a way I can share this on facebook?

Home Office Mum said...

You can copy the link and post it to FB if you want to. Glad you found it helpful

Anonymous said...

I realised my son had issues when he cried over everything, it took long time, but I understand him now...problem is - how do you tell family and friends he is not a cry baby - but he is wired this way?

Danielle Fiore said...

wow!!!! This all makes more sense to me. My son freaks when a person comes on over the load speaker, she will not go in the water, screams then an hour later hes almost up to his knees. The past week we have had 2 birthday parties and all he did was cry for most of the time. it broke my heart. we can not go into a store with him freaking out saying what was that noise. screaming crying its heart breaking

Cece Gutierrez said...

My husband and I were just discussing finding new strategies for our 2.5 year old. My husband told me I need to stop yelling at him when I get upset or he is not listening. My son is extremely sensitive to noise, as am I. Especially TVs that are too loud. I find myself not enjoying my son at all, so something needs to change. This blog came to me exactly when I needed it.

I am going to order this book you mentioned tonight, since I saw that it has a chapter on HSC and parents who are also HS.

Anonymous said...

I too have a HSC child (7rs) and it was defintaley a light bulb moment when I started Reading the book 'Highley sensitive person'. Before this he would fustrate me when the teacher would say 'oh he was crying again today' but now I understand why he gets upset and I listen to him more so he can explain to me what he is feeling.Its so hard to hear that other children at school see him as the child who is always crying about something.It also doesnt help that his new teacher isnt very empathetic to my son's emotions and he is seen as a tell tale. Will need to have a word with the teacher ASAP. Its other peoples perseption that I am struggling with as my son is such a lovely boy and I worry he will be bullied.

susan said...

I have an 11 year old son who has always been sensitive. He was diagnosed as having ocd/anxiety disorder last year in school but after reading you blog I began to wonder if he is just highly sensitive. He has a hard time at school with all the noise mostly at recess- lunch- and recess where it is very noisy and busy. The kids have learned that if they pick on him up to a point he will melt down resulting in either tears or anger. It hurts my heart every time he comes home and has had a bad day. His teachers are aware of his diagnosis but that doesn't seem to stop the kids from picking on him and he won't tell on any of the kids as he doesn't want to be seen as a tattler. So hard sometimes. I just want to wrap him up in my arms all day and never let him go

Jenniffer Brightman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenniffer Brightman said...

My son is also 11 years old and is having a rough time in school. He comes home crying because he says the kids are mean and he feels very overwhelmed during recess and P.E. At night he can't sleep because he is thinking about school. He is currently on prozac for his anxiety. I am thinking about taking him out of school and trying homeschool the rest of the year. What do you think?

Michelle said...

I am just beginning my research tonight and I think your web site might be my "light bulb" moment. Thank you. My son is only 6 and exceptionally bright, but tactilely defensive to some degree and quick to anger, quick to tears and I have always said has a strong sense of justice. I am on here because while the school might be giving him gr 5 readers, they have set up his own cool down corner and the supply teacher approached me the other day saying she could him ferociously crying a few class rooms over before xmas so need to find some strategies to help with the tears. He can go from happy to emotional melt downs in 10 seconds…may be he is just too overwhelmed? Any strategies? Any reading suggestions???

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have found your blog very helpful that I had to share it with my loved ones. The ones who have been very supportive of my 7 year old son, who is highly sensitive. Every incident you mentioned here, I went through. I have a 7 year old and also a 6 year old, both boys. My husband and I went to see a Cognitive Behavioral Child Psychologist today. Our psychologist is going to provide us with tools and guidance in managing our 7 year old. Like you, I have spent so many nights in guilt. He surely picks up on my anxiety whenever I feel like a failure. Failure to be the best advocate for him, failure to react appropriately or say what's necessary and leave out what's not. Failure to understand and empathize. Failure to not care what other people think.

laura avery said...

Thanks for sharing this. You have described my 6 year old son to a T. He was also a fussy baby very colicly and then awful tantrums to the point i couldnt cope. Hes 6 now but emotionally more like a 4 year old, but very bright still. He s extremely happy and cuddly sometimes to the point of euphoric. Loud noise and too many people freak him out, as does not describing a day to exact measures. I.e I can not just pop to the shops to get things, I have to say , im going to the bank to get money so we can pop to the shops to get food, he doesn't understand we might need money beforehand. He's also extremely competitive even from a very early age of about 2? (when we his parents are not) And has a melt down if he can not understand things or get something right first time. Noise terrifies him , bangs or balloons are not good. He enjoys time out, not in the sense of punishment (i refuse to punish him for having issues) but because he enjoys time alone and i know he needs it to calm down and be happy . He's diagnosed witha sensory processing disorder, may be worth looking into

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've just discovered this blog after my 11 year old son had a meltdown at scouts last night. He felt as if everyone was picking on him so decided to run away. When I got there to pick him up I made him apologise to the leaders. He then sobbed for the next hour. He no longer wants to go to scouts, he hasn't wanted to go for a while, so I am giving in and letting him quit.
He isn't upset by risk, he's quite a thrill seeker, but is extremely sensitive to how other people speak to him.
He always thinks people are picking on him, and I think they do, purely because they know they will get a reaction out of him.
It is exhausting! He doesn't sleep well, if he has a big thing on in the week ie going to look round his new high school, he won't be able to get to sleep until midnight for thinking about it. But when the days comes, he can't wait!
Really unsure how to deal with his emotional state? How do I get him to not show his feelings at school so he doesn't get picked on more?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. My daughter is 7, in second grade and a wonderful student. She loves school, and we've had no real issues there. We have horrible issues at home and elsewhere with clothes "not feeling right", shoes not being tied just right, hair being too wet on her back after pool or shower, many many little triggers that as parents in a rush to be to school or anywhere on time become so frustrating. That I too hate myself when I lie in bed at night for not having the patience I need to have. Too many times we are telling her to hurry up and just deal with it because the world doesn't wait for tying of shoes 4 times until they feel just the right amount of tight. Also the bursting into crying for any noted unfairness with her (twin) sister, cousins etc. This ends up making her the "whiney" one and she feels slighted time and time again. Yet she can't seem to stop herself from the whining and crying. When she was younger she was more timid and didn't join in, but now that's she's older she does want to be a part of things, and there is so much conflict. Her sister tends to give in more times than she should so that she just doesn't whine. Discipline is hard because what I'm probably most hard on her about is the crying and whining. She just shuts down and we get nowhere, literally. Her sensitivity is being perceived as such annoyance and manipulation that I am fearful she is not a truly happy child. I need to do better. I downloaded the book on my Kindle, I am going to read it. Thank you for recommending and for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

I found your site because I am at my wits end with my 8 year old boy who can not deal with any kind of birthday party, event with loud noice or movie theatre. All which have occured within the last 24 hours! He reluctantly went to a theatre last night with earplugs in hand. I know and have known that I have a HSC. I was one myself. The difficulty I am having is how to deal with him in these situations to make it easier for him and for us. We always end up fleeing because he becomes inconsolable. This leaves me feeling like a failure, guilty, lonely and sad. I feel like my child is an outsider. He is the sweetest fellow, considerate and polite. He loves to draw and spends endless hours in his own imagination exploding. I know he's an introvert as I am and as his father is too but how do we support the introverts in this wild extroverted world? I've learned to adjust and it was a hard journey for me. I would like it to be easier for him. Just putting it out there. I will read the book that everyone speaks of about sensitive people and maybe that can shine some light on our situation.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Please be gentle with me. I have not posted on blogs like this before but I am desperate for some help. I have a highly sensitive 4 year old boy. I have only truely realised this in the last 2 months. I am 30 weeks pregnant with my second child (another boy!) My four year old and I are going through some very tense times. This time last year, his sensivity wasn't so obvious. He has never been in to loud noises, spicy foods, and he has always been very easily startled and overwhelmed in crowds and around new people he has always seemed "shy". But he used to be up for trying new things. Now, he won;t do anything out of his comfort zone...not swimming, not football, not climbing up anything high...I know this is awful to admit but I am getting so frustrated by it... I just don't get it 'cos last year he was always up for having a go at least, but now he just cries and refuses. He seems to be scared of everything and always says "I can't" or "I don't want to." I am reading the book "Highly Sensitive children" by Elaine Aron, but I just wondered if anyone has any advise as to how Ii can encourage confidence in my boy and get him to try new things without beign pushy. Incidently, I too am a highly sensitive person. Which is where my poor son gets it from. Are there any other H.S mums out there trying to raise confident HSCs? Please get back to me

Anonymous said...

I'm 16, female. When I was a child, I would easily get hurt by my parents' comments about me (which always happens). I was always silent and all things associated with a person who seems shy. Then, when I get hurt, I keep it all to myself because they would not understand. When I cry, I just cry silently. SO I grew up believing I was shy and not capable of doing things. My parents would tell me "stop being so sensitive". Som of my friends would tell me "you're just too sensitive.".

This makes me feel really awful, as if being sensitive is a bad thing that eventually, I started hating myself. As a result, I developed low self-confidence and esteem. At that time, I didn't know about "sensitive people". I didn't know such traits existed, no one told me about it. So when I was at an age were I was really curious about myself, I wanted to know what was wrong with me. Why people were hating my being "sensitive" and "getting hurt easily". Since my parents didn't know a thing about it and probably won't care, I turned to the internet as my source of information. I searched things about sensitive people and I saw myself in the descriptions. It changed my view of myself. I know I still have a lot to learn about myself and others.I just wish my family and the people around me would recognize, acknowledge and understand my being "sensitive" without me having to tell them about it. I wish they had the initiative and desire to understand my situation. I wish my parents were like you, I wish they had read that book and understood me when I was younger. THings would probably be different right now.

When I grew up ( grade school and when I and entered my teens and high school) it was really tough for me to deal with everything myself especially since I cannot rely on my parents (since in the first place, they didn't understand what I was going through). I was always the shy and silent kid who developed such a bad image of herself and couldn't try things out for fear of being bullied or failing and such.

Until now, nobody but myself knows about this. But I try my best to cope with things now that I am going to college and probably going to live far from my parents at 17 years old. Also, I realized that I don't really have any true friends since they don't understand. Yeah, that's about my story.

What do you think? I really would appreciate your response since you are the only person who has had an experience with a sensitive child. What can you advice me? DO I still have a chance to turn things around?


Home Office Mum said...

Hi to everyone who has posted on this. My apologies for not responding. This is a very old blog of mine and I don't check on it regularly. To the commenter on 25 November - my advice (should you see it) is to relax and not worry about it. I used to get myself super stressed out about my child not joining it. I felt I was failing, that he would be at a disadvantage to other kids. He is now almost 11. He is still sensitive but has overcome many of his issues. He is in the first teams of most sports at school and does well academically. He has a good group of friends and is growing in confidence. See your child for what they are: unique. Don't compare them to any others. They will become who they are meant to with gentle encouragement.

To Maria who posted last. You are just 16. I am 41 and I am still trying to figure out who I am. Try to love yourself for who you are, even if you don't fully know who that is yet. Be kind to yourself. This world doesn't really understand sensitive people. But you will find your tribe who do understand you. Try to forgive your family for not realising who you are. Some people just don't have the sensitivity to do that. You are blessed to have that insight. So use it!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is my grandson who is 5, I've raised since 4 weeks old. I too fear what's to come. At my age, patience is hard to come by. Please, you say you have advice? Help

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! So much like my DS. He has a meltdowns when we sing Happy Birthday on his birthdays. In toddler music groups all kids sing and dance but he will be sitting on my lap holding me tightly or near the exit door wanting to go out. They need no reason for meltdown all of a sudden. And punishment or shouting is a Big No for him.

jessicayessica said...

Thankyou so much this, it is me and my youngest child described here, I remember feeling so angry at Steve Biddulf psychologist and authour, for saying shyness is attention seeking, as I still cleary remember my feelings of sheer genuine fear as a child being coaxed to speak to strangers. My 3yr old is so clingy my claustrophobia has at times turned to rage and despair even though I empathise, I am not an athroposophist (waldorf steiner) but feel that this approach is best for these people , some souls are just born wary and need to be held, loved , encouraged, warned in advance and given rythm and routine as far as possible.its how I feel myself. I found my voice eventually and am now a trained nurse with a passion for politics, thiugh in my teens drink was a big threat it just provided instant armour and relaxation beware. We live and learn, you should be so proud that you now understand him xxx

jessicayessica said...

I would also like to say that so many enviroments and practices considered normal are just sooo horrid for babies and young children generally. primary colours, /tv , music , machinery , buggies/strollers pushing them through crowds and traffic literally in their face. noisy plastic toys with sinister synthetic voices , any one scared of public toilet/washroom dryers?, nurserys/daycare, swimming pools,i pads, tablets, smart phones, so much sensory overload, once you start looking it is common sense stuff to avoid for people finding their feet after leaving a womb. I personally think its time all and not just sensitive young children were allowed to be themselves in a natural space without adults or fake stuff in their face every waking hour, and guess what, thats what they do in scandinavia , till they 6-7 yrs old getting adult teeth.

Anonymous said...

I wish my parents had had a clue about this, they just went with whatever some quack or old maid teacher told them was wrong and pushed me into therapy or special ed classes or psychiatric child groups...they didn't know how to raise me and when you're a kid with nobody to mirror that part of you back or acknowledge it in anyway you just bury it and be 'tough' like they want. That just creates baaaad anxiety (terror) depression and OCD and I tried even harder to bury them cause i didn't want to get locked up in a rubber room for being a little lunatic and feeling even more ashamed of myself. I remember trying to tell my old lady that i couldn't imagine ever growing up and doing what other people do but i don't think it came out right, she didn't get me.I just figured i was all alone and really went off the deep end when i got to high school and had to go on psychiatric pills after starving myself into the hospital for six months. I sort of hoped to be dead by 20 back then, i saw no future as just simple stuff was hard enough for me. Being from a split family with no dad aggravated alot of it. I just lived in my head daydreaming.

I can't believe either something like this isn't well known, or maybe it is and we just stuff it out of awareness because we all need to be tough and strong and we don't like people reminding us of how hard it can be?

Public school eats this type alive, I do believe that. Messed up kids from their own messed up families taking it out on each other, all crammed together in an authoritarian atmosphere trying to mold them into good workers that follow orders. Little sponges suck it all up. Sick environment.

Sorry if this was inappropriate venting,
I'm happy you found this out for your son though.
Good luck.