Do you have a highly sensitive child? Have you ever even heard of the term before? I hadn’t until about six months ago. I have two highly sensitive children–one I’ve known about for a long time, and the other snuck up on me. You can go here to take a quiz to see if you might have a highly sensitive child in your life, and here to see if you might be highly sensitive.
Mary Kurcinka wrote the book, “Raising Your Spirited Child”. She coined the term ‘spirited’, and defines spirited children as: “… normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children.”
In reading these two books, I find the terms ‘spirited’ and ‘highly sensitive’ interchangeable, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll use highly sensitive child, or hsc.
There can be a wide variance in hscs–my two are the oldest and youngest, and have similar hsc characteristics, but overall very different personalities. There is a five and a half year age difference between them, and my youngest was(is?) a preemie, so he’s also a little like a wild card compared to his full term brothers.
The biggest hsc struggles in our house are:
* resistance to change–this is our biggest issue. Any and all change from the schedule or plan can bring on meltdowns. We’re constantly working on flexibility, and talking about how plans change, and we have to adjust and change too.
*attune to others’ moods–the hscs feed off of even the slightest stress or negativity of anyone in the house, especially the parents.
*overstimulation–right after school is prime time for hsc struggles. We have implemented an immediate snack/quiet time as soon as everyone gets off the bus, which helps.
*punishment–even the mildest reprimand can bring on a wide variety of negative responses.
*clothing–I’ve cut tags out of countless shirts (thank goodness so many now are tagless!), and it frusterates me to no end knowing that perfectly good clothing sits in the dresser unworn, because of some (seemingly) minute issue. (Like socks with uncomfortable seams). I’ve come to terms with letting my hsc wear or not wear what they want (within reason). There are enough boys in my house that all the clothing will get worn eventually.
Contrary to what connotations the words highly sensitive bring to mind, my hscs aren’t shrinking violets, particularly the baby. Being the youngest of a houseful of boys has taught him how to take care of himself very well.
Thankfully we haven’t had any behavior issues at preschool or in the church nursery, but if a playmate comes and snatches a toy out of his hands, he doesn’t burst into tears, he gets it back. (Yes, we talk about sharing a lot). He wrestles, argues and negotiates with multiple boys up to five and a half years older than him every single day of his life. He’s not shy.
Food issues are often a common factor of hsc’s, but at our house, the hscs are the best eaters, and my easy-going, laid-back kid is the picky one. Go figure.
I’m a highly sensitive person also, and as much as I would like to say that this helps me relate to the challenges my hsc bring to the table, the opposite is actually true. I find it difficult to deal with some of the hsc issues in my children, maybe because I deal with the same issue on another scale in my own life.
And my easy-going, laid-back kid? He’s also in the middle, and I’m terrified of him being the stereotypical left-out middle child.
Parenting hscs can be exhausting and frusterating. It’s also joyous and amazing. Learning how to cope with hsc issues can tilt the scale twords joyous and amaing more of the time. These two books have been invaluable to my house in smoothing the way for all of us to deal with each other better.
I try and read anything I can get my hands on about highly sensitive children, and I encourage other parents of hscs to do the same. Since there is such a variance in hscs, the information in one book may pertain to your family more than other hsc books. For example, both Aron and Kurcinka’s books are well written, informative, and helpful. But Kurcinka’s could have been written just for my sons–it has literally been life changing for our family.
Chances are there is a highly sensitive person in your family or in your life. Learning about this trait, and the positive and negative issues that go along with it can help you get along with them.