How Far Should Parents Protect Highly Sensitive Children From World News?

Another great discussion in the HSK community: this time about news lessons in schools which have an emotional impact on (highly sensitive) children, the aftermath of which parents clear up at home. Just how far should we protect our children from the realities of the world?

Highly sensitive children (and adults) process information and think about things more deeply than others. If they see images of the damage done by a hurricane they don’t just see destroyed buildings but also then think about the lives lost, dead children, grieving parents. They feel deep emotions and feel involved. News items are not just images that are seen and words that are heard and then filed away and forgotten about. They impact. They impact highly sensitive people (HSP) deeply. It’s why many HSPs choose not to avidly read the news; it’s why I asked my husband to stop sharing the world’s misery with me – (he’s a news fanatic). So what about our children? Where’s the balance between ignorance and protection?

How Far Should Parents Protect Highly Sensitive Children From World News?

What prompted the discussion was the clowns. The horror clowns. The bizarre phenomenon that started in the USA has spread its ugly tentacles to the Netherlands and for some strange reason that was deemed an item suitable for sharing in a classroom. Cue sleepless nights and terror for some children. I’m an adult and it’s not something that sits easy with me either. My children don’t need to be enlightened about this strange trend – and thankfully it’s not something that my son has been subjected to. But other parents ARE picking up the pieces.

Which we have done in the past with other topics. I had to go into school and explain how my then seven year old was terrified we were all going to be wiped out by ebola, after a news lesson on the subject. Sometimes it’s not what is shared but how it’s shared – and what is NOT shared or explained comprehensively enough.

My husband had a frank talk with the school after my son came home upset after a news lesson about the Paris attacks, explaining that there were numerous children crying in his class about it. The school next to ours chose not to follow the news lesson that week as they deemed the material too upsetting for the children. I couldn’t have agreed more.

And then there were the gorillas. My son learnt that they are endangered and pursued by poachers. Heartbreaking, he said. And it’s made him furious. He has thought up all manners of punishment for these people who needlessly kill animals for money. And he’s also pledged half his monthly pocket money to the Wereld Natuur Fonds. Because he cares. He wants things to be different. He’s nine.

And I think that’s where the border lies between sheltering our children from the realities of the world and sharing the truth with them – can they make a difference? Does sharing the news item help them understand a situation better or does it make them feel helpless and scared?

Tip: Simplicity Parenting book has an excellent section about sharing news and world events with children and worth a read.

“Parenting from a base of fear is more common these days that a generation or two ago because when something awful happens we are blasted on all sides with every tiny detail. But we can also choose not to drown in the details, to stay away from all the media surrounding us.” Happy Sensitive Kids – Getting Back to Basics: Simplicity Parenting

Tip: For those of you in the Netherlands with children following the nieuwsbegrip method of reading comprehension there is a Facebook page which relays the topic of the week so you at least know what may have been talked about.

Last tip: Here’s a list of news sites for children around the world by Expat Since Birth.


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5 Ways Living Abroad Impacts Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child 

Parenting abroad adds a whole new dimension to parenting a highly sensitive child (HSC). I know I’m certainly not the only one parenting in a country they were not born in (there are at least 26 of us who have put their parenting abroad stories down on paper for the book Knocked Up Abroad Again) but it does sometimes feel like you are on your own when everything is foreign to you and you are away from family.


Here are five issues I had to find my way around to be able to get to grips with parenting my highly sensitive children over the years as a Brit in the Netherlands.


I spend much of my day operating in Dutch and it’s a lot better now than it was even six years ago when the words hooggevoelig first reached my ears, uttered by my eldest son’s pre-school teacher.

Even when I put the word through an online translator I admit I was none the wiser. Learning about highly sensitive traits took much reading and research. Having to then translate what I was reading, which elements related to my child and what my child needed at that time in the classroom, was difficult.

There was lots of new Dutch vocabulary to learn quickly (like prikkels (stimulants) and emmer (bucket)) so that I could talk to my son’s teachers about his sensitive nature.


When your HSC is visibly struggling after his day at school you know to touch base with his teacher. But what if the issues are not school related? What if there are behaviours that are worrying you? What if you just need to feel there is someone there to listen to you?

Luckily for me the Netherlands has a good and wide base of youth services to support parents. I found my way around the various services, with lots of help from the consultatiebureau (baby wellness clinic) and got the support we needed at that time. I know others are not so lucky and sometimes that support is harder to find.

That’s also why I created the Happy Sensitive Kids Community Facebook group. Sometimes parents just need a pat on the shoulder, a listening ear and someone to tell them they know how it feels.


I didn’t go through the Dutch education system so I was not familiar with the academic structure nor the education culture or common practices in schools when my first born turned four and started primary school. I didn’t know what to expect – what’s ‘normal’ in the Dutch education system. Nearly six years on it’s still a learning process.

Many parents of HSCs choose to homeschool their children because the traditional school environment just doesn’t help their child to flourish. I found out that that is just not an option in the Netherlands. Homeschooling is not possible for our situation. These are the kinds of ‘surprises’ you stumble upon as you expat parent a HSC.


Culture has a huge impact when you are highly sensitive. Some cultures cherish sensitive and quiet traits, some don’t. In some societies being highly sensitive works against you. That difference  has a bearing on which tools a child needs to function well in society.

The Dutch are known for being direct and saying exactly what they mean – for sensitive folk that can sometimes feel uncomfortable, even hurtful. The expectation that someone will speak up if there is an issue doesn’t go hand in hand with a HSC’s nature, who usually wants to avoid conflict.

The social side of school life (Dutch children actually seem to fill their own calendars or so it feels) doesn’t always fit with a HSC’s need for quiet time, need for time to empty their bucket.

On the other hand the Dutch love for routine fits perfectly with a HSC’s needs.


In some countries the idea of highly sensitive is practically unheard of. In others it is accepted wholly and in some others the notion of being highly sensitive sits somewhere in between – some people are sceptical and others embrace it.

I’m lucky that I live in a country where knowledge and acceptance of highly sensitive traits is growing fast and it’s not hard to find a good list of resources to help parent a HSC,  including books in Dutch (such as Langmuts, Scrivo MediaElaine Aron’s Het hoog sensitieve kind, Mijn kind is hooggevoelig by Ilse van den Daele) websites (the LiHSK is a great place to start) and more and more coaches (like en Vie, to-taal, Floor) dedicated to helping HSCs and their parents.

Of course, there have been pockets of resistance and education establishments and workplaces in the Netherlands, just as in any other Western society, are often not an ideal fit with highly sensitive traits – but there are at least many ears open to the idea and the needs of a HSC.

The more awareness there is in society, the more support there will be in schools for our children who struggle emotionally in the traditional schooling environment.

Knocked Up Abroad Again Kickstarter project

If you are interested in reading more about parenting abroad in general then please check out the Knocked Up Abroad Again Kickstarter project which I am a contributor of. We are currently 80% funded with one week to go – so I would love your support. You can help by purchasing a copy of the book in advance through Kickstarter

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5 Ways to Help You Help Your Highly Sensitive Child

When you are parenting a highly sensitive child (HSC) you may need to do things a little differently. No child comes with a fool proof instruction manual but for a HSC you may find you can throw away all the advice in almost all of the parenting books you read. HSCs need their own manual and as parents it’s our job to slowly put it together. The good news is that with flexible and creative thinking, and a little patience, you can come to understand your highly sensitive child, and help them thrive.

5 Ways to Help You Help Your Highly Sensitive Child


Track the activities your HSC has undertakes in a day, and their reactions to them. Record their emotions and a behaviour on a daily basis. You may start to see patterns and be in a position to work out their sensory and emotional triggers – what fills their bucket? Are they more emotional after school on the days they have a gym lesson? Are they having lots of bad dreams? Are Tuesdays a particularly troublesome day for them? Patterns will help you pinpoint the why.

You can then plan accordingly, anticipate problems and help them avoid overwhelm by reducing the activities they take on in a day, talking to a teacher, or building in more downtime to their day.


Determine what helps your child calm down after a busy day at school, or a day of activity. HSCs tend to need lots of downtime in order to recharge from all the sensory input around them – even extrovert HSCs. Working out what helps them process their day, what helps them empty their bucket, will help you devise a list of tools to try when your child needs downtime. Consider tools that help them focus on themselves – breathing techniques, meditation, relaxation books  or CDs or music. See more ideas here.


A list of activities that helps your child calm their body and mind is of no use if you cannot find enough time in the day for your child to have downtime. Plan lots of free time in to your child’s schedule so they have time to ‘just be’ instead of continuously be doing something.

This may mean turning invitations down or dropping a regular after school activity (at least temporarily) but downtime really is vital for a HSC and you won’t get the best out of an over scheduled child.


Many HSCs need an outlet for the emotion and overwhelm they feel from all the stimuli they have faced. Creative expression and allowing their imagination to take hold often works well to calm their mind and get their emotions out. This could be in the way of journaling, dancing, playing a musical instrument, painting, arts and crafts, drawing, making up stories, moulding with play dough or kinetic sand. It could be building with Lego or Kapla.


HSCs seem to take on the problems of the world on their shoulders. They can become emotional about things outside the realm of their control, or even things that don’t directly affect them. This doesn’t make their feeling any less valid. They often can’t find the words to explain the big feelings they have. Take the time to listen to them and don’t second guess. What is going on in their mind is much bigger than the picture you see. Give your HSC your full attention and make the time to listen fully to them – the insight you will gain into what worries them and how they think will be invaluable.

Understanding and accepting the traits of your HSC is the key to parenting a child who is later prepared to accept their highly sensitive nature and be able to use the tools you have given them to function effectively in a world that isn’t optimal for HSCs (you only have to look at traditional schooling to see that the world isn’t put together in a way to get the best out of a HSC). As your HSC grows they will understand themselves better and be able to anticipate and meet their own needs better – but to reach that point they need our help.

There are more tips here to help you parent your HSC, and a free bucket printable activity here to help you understand your child’s (emotional) triggers and know when to build in downtime (or bucket emptying time).

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Help Is On Its Way – A Book Review

I have no idea where I read about Jenna Forrest’s painfully honest book about being a highly sensitive child, but I’m glad I bought it. It’s a fascinating and insightful read into the mind of a highly sensitive child.

“‘I swear, Jenna. You’re so sensitive they could put you down a mine instead of a canary,’ Mom remarked.” Jenna Forrest, Help is on Its Way

Help is on its way book cover

The emotions in this book are raw. It’s about growing up feeling out of place, with no one really understanding your sensitive nature.

“The stress of processing so much information at once makes my blood pump wearily. Escape seems necessary.” Jenna Forrest, Help is on Its Way

Jenna writes about life with her parents, her feelings as they separate and then divorce. She writes beautifully about her feelings, and finds a way to support her way through her youth with emotions that are at times too much to bear. She writes about the big things.

“It’s lurking existence sends me into that funk again, that grey mood that floods me with feelings too big to shoulder all by myself.”

And she captures the every day, ordinary things too, things people who are not highly sensitive wouldn’t bat an eyelid at. Things like forming circles and shaking hands with each other at a camp.

“Such forced contact with so many strangers gets me feeling antsy in no time.”

This is no easy lighthearted read, but it’s an important read. It’s a book we all hope our children would never be able to write.

Jenna is searching for someone to understand her, to know how it feels to feel things so intensely, to feel different and pick up other people’s feelings and care so much.

“What bothers me is that his heart is not detectable by my most discerning radar.”

Her childhood is a search for help. She finds Frank.

“How do I put my inner world into words?” she asks. How many highly sensitive people can relate to that question I wonder. A busy mind, racing all the time. Exhausting. Overwhelming.

She comes to learn that she needs to take care of herself, that it’s important to take a step back and look after her needs instead of everyone else’s.

“Before you can save anyone else, you have to first become a master at taking care of yourself.”

There is counselling and Jenna also finds help and comfort in her journaling.

help-is-on-its-way-book-review-quoteThis is a great book to read if you want to know how it feels to grow up as a highly sensitive person.

You can find this book on and or on or Book Depository.

Top Tips: 

  • Take your child’s feelings seriously and don’t dismiss them with comments of “You’re so sensitive.”
  • Listen to your child. Let them know you are a safe person to talk to without judgement.
  • Journaling helps. It really does. It can help your child (and you!) name their feelings and understand what is whirring around their mind.



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Is the Social-Emotional Development of Your Highly Sensitive Child Being Misread?

Have you ever been told that your highly sensitive child (HSC) is lagging behind in their social-emotional development? You certainly wouldn’t be the first parent of a HSC to hear this. But what if we look at social situations or emotional reactions from the perspective of a highly sensitive child? If we look through their eyes maybe we see something other than a delay in social-emotional development. Author Josina Intrabartolo (Scrivo Media), writer of many books on the topic of highly sensitive (including Long Hat which has been written especially for HSCs), explains how the social-emotional development of a HSC can easily be misread.

Is the Social-Emotional Development of Your Highly Sensitive Child Being Misread? Continue reading

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Highly Sensitive Children and Overnight Stays Away from Home

Highly sensitive children like safe, known and trusted places and people. They are often comfortable being in the company of a few and are homebodies. So what happens when they stay a night somewhere without their parents or guardians?

Well in all honesty I cannot answer that question from personal experience. My children wouldn’t willingly stay overnight without me or their father for all the sweets in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (yes, we are reading that book at the moment).

Highly Sensitive Children and Overnight Stays Away from HomeThe mere hint of an introduction to the idea ended in tears in our house. Even with us sitting downstairs my youngest is a terrible sleeper and he usually ends in tears at some point during the evening or night. Never mind suggesting he goes to stay the night at someone else’s house or a place where his mama and papa are not.

Continue reading

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Why This Mother of Highly Sensitive Kids Loves Her Slow Cooker

My slow cooker is one of the best things I have ever bought. And I am saying that with my ‘mother of highly sensitive children’ hat on. Really. Bear with me. It totally saves the day when kids come home with a full bucket from school.

Why This Mother of Highly Sensitive Kids Loves Her Slow Cooker

Most parents of highly sensitive children (HSC) will tell you that those few hours after school are the toughest of the day. HSCs are exhausted from their day in busy classrooms and an overstimulating environment. I have three HSCs and on most school days I am walking on egg shells with them. They need my help. They need me on hand to remind them how to empty their buckets. They often need me with them to stop them from bickering, arguing and taking their overwhelming day out on each other.

I learnt the hard way that stepping away into the kitchen to make dinner paves the way for bucket spillage that is hard on everyone, not least me. After all preventing a spill is easier than mopping it up…..

And that is where my slow cooker (or crock pot) comes in. I get everything ready whilst the boys are in school and then put the slow cooker on. When we need dinner it’s there and I can be wholly present for my children when they come in – at a time they need me most.

A slow cooker is a great tool for those days when you know your child will need your help. You can use the free Happy Sensitive Kids bucket activity to help you plan ahead so you know when getting everything ready in advance will really pay off.

(For recipe ideas check out my Pinterest board or treat yourself to a slow cooker recipe book. This is a slow cooker recipe book I use regularly if you like spicy food and curries and one. If anyone has a recommendation for a good crock pot recipe book then please shout!

Over To You: What tools do you use to help you be fully present for your children when they come home with full buckets?


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