Dear Society, Please Let Our Sensitive Boys Become Sensitive Men

I think that being a highly sensitive male is tougher than being a highly sensitive female. I may be biased as I am raising three boys but it seems to me that many traits we associate with being highly sensitive don’t go hand in hand with society’s expectations of male behaviour.

Like wearing your heart on your sleeve. Like finding the world around you overwhelming. Like needing lots of downtime. Like finding contact sports too much. Like avoiding the rough and tumble of school playground games. Like letting tears flow.

Let Our Sensitive Boys Become Sensitive MenSociety expects boys to react emotionally different to girls. Boys learn early on what happens if they behave differently than the male stereotype that is thrown at them from every side. And they live with those feeling into adulthood with sometimes frightening consequences.

And that’s a shame. If you ask me, the world needs our sensitive boys to grow up to be sensitive men. Now more than ever. Just think what a different world it would be if our highly sensitive boys became adults who are not afraid to show their emotions, and stand up for the things they so passionately care about. Just imagine.

This is a topic close to my heart, as the mother of three highly sensitive sons how could it not be? It’s the subject of my latest article published by the fabulous Mamalode.

You can read ‘Let our Sensitive Boys Become Sensitive Men’ over on Mamalode now. The responses I have had to the article tell me I am certainly not alone with this plea to society – and maybe together we can shake up attitudes to boys showing emotions our highly sensitive boys so desperately need.

Together we can spread the word that society’s current expectations of males are not okay. And they need to change.

Posted in My Articles, The What, The Why | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Do You Make the World a Little Quieter for a Highly Sensitive Child?

If you are raising a highly sensitive child (HSC) then noise is probably a hot topic in your home. One of the primary challenges is keeping sensory stimulation at a manageable level, and noise is a huge component of this for many HSCs, particularly in school. So how can you help quieten the every day world of your HSC?

One way is through the use of noise reducing headphones (or ear muffs or ear defenders as they are also known). There are a number of situations where headphones can help a HSC – not just in the classroom but during parades, festivals, shows and concerts, or a trip to the cinema, during firework displays or motor races or even whilst you are using a vacuum cleaner or a hairdryer, or whilst a sibling is playing music in their bedroom.

Alpine Muffy Headphones

All three of my sons regularly use headphones in school. The school has a limited supply, but by their own admission they are not particularly effective at shutting out much of the classroom noise. So we went out and got our boys their own headphones.

Out latest search was for my youngest son, who recently turned five. He is in an infant class (group 1 & 2 combined), which involves lots of playing, lots of different activities going on at once in different corners of the classroom, and as is inevitable with a class of four, five and six year olds, there is sometimes more noise than a HSC can handle.

alpine-muffy-black-packshotMy oldest two sons use headphones we got from the local DIY store but these are a bit big and bulky for my youngest so he tried a pair of Alpine Muffy* earmuffs instead. These have been specifically made for children so are smaller in design than the other headphones we have in our house. They fit him perfectly as the colourful striped headband is adjustable, and it’s easy enough that he can adjust it himself.

 

He says they are comfortable, and the design makes the headphones attractive (colourful stripes), so he’s eager to put them on when he needs to. He can still hear voices (importantly his teacher’s) but the louder noises (in my son’s own words ‘the screaming and the shouting of the children) is subdued.

The headphones fold up compactly and come in a cloth bag so are easy to carry around, and they are protected and keep clean when he puts them away in his school drawer. Importantly they are also robust, which in the hands of a five year old they need to be.

How Do You Make the World a Little Quieter for a Highly Sensitive Child?

“Protects the ears from harmful noises and loud music. Also very suitable for increased concentration in school.” Alpine Muffy

I attended parent’s evening last week and my son’s teacher actually brought up his headphones. She relayed that they really help him and he uses them a lot for when he is doing writing or drawing tasks. She said that he uses them to shut himself off from the world around him, and give his classmates a signal to leave him alone for a while.  That’s good going for a five year old – my heart melts that he already has such an amazing insight into his own sensory needs. Long may it continue.

I am delighted to tell you there is an Alpine Muffy Earmuff to give away over on the Happy Sensitive Kids Facebook page (open to residents of some European countries – see Facebook for full terms).

You can find Alpine Muffy headphones on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in a variety of colours.

Alpine Muffy Headphones

*Alpine Hearing Protection provided me with a pair of Alpine Muffy Earmuffs for review purposes. I received no compensation for this post and all views are my own or that of my five year old.*
Posted in HS Tools, The What | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

18 Great Books for Highly Sensitive Children

 

The giving season is approaching fast and as far as I’m concerned books always make for great gifts to give and receive.

Great Books for Highly Sensitive ChildrenHere are some of my and the Happy Sensitive Kids’ Community reading favourites.


Long Hat is a Hero

Long Hat is a Hero by Josina Intrabartolo

Recommended age: 4 – 8

Translated (by me) from the popular Dutch Langmuts series, Long Hat is a gnome who happens to be highly sensitive. Long Hat struggles with some of his highly sensitive characteristics, until one day he realises just how handy it is to be able to hear, see, smell and notice things more intensely than the other gnomes. A beautiful book written specifically with HSCs in mind and one that will have your child uttering in astonishment, “Long Hat is just like me!” (UK) (NL)


Continue reading

Posted in HS Tools | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If Ever There Was a Time to Make a Difference, It’s Now

The blog post I had planned for last week seemed suddenly inappropriate and irrelevant, overshadowed by events. It was a week that shook many of us to the core, even those of us that do not live in or anywhere near the USA. Highly sensitive people feel deeply and process deeply, but this week high sensitivity is not a requirement to be processing events deeply. Many are asking how and why.

If Ever There Was a Time to Make a Difference, It's Now

I know many of you reading are in the USA and I know there are many of you who are struggling right now to give last week’s events a place.

When things happen that you can not make sense of it’s tempting to throw your duvet over your head and never come out again. But come out of your hiding place you must. Move forward you must. Don’t retreat for long.

 

“Sensitive people feel so deeply they often have to retreat from the world, in order to dig beneath the layers of pain to find their faith and courage.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Go ahead and retreat from the world for a while.

Enforce a media fast.

Pamper yourself. Take care of yourself.

Hold your children tight.

Lose yourself in a book.

Gather up your family and spend time together.

Journal. Write about your feelings. Rant. Rave.

Scream.

Reflect.

Dig deep and acknowledge your emotions. Accept your fear, your sense of discouragement, your anger. And then let it all go.

Because there comes a time to move on.

Resurface and come back into the world. You are needed here. More than ever.

If ever there was a time to dig deep and find your faith and courage, it’s now.

If ever there was a role for the highly sensitive members of the population, it’s now.

If ever there was a need for compassion, empathy, understanding and deep thinking, it’s now.

If ever there was a need for a dislike of conflict, it’s now.

If ever the conscientious had a role to play, it’s now.

If ever there was a need for deep processing, it’s now.

If ever there was a need for emotional intelligence, it’s now.

If ever there was a time for being bothered by chaotic scenes, it’s now.

If ever there was a need for people to be the change they want to see, it’s now.

If ever there was a need to show that hate doesn’t have a legitimate place in our societies, it’s now.

If ever there was a need to make a difference, it’s now.

Now.

Posted in The What | Tagged , | 1 Comment

7 Reasons Your Highly Sensitive Child Struggles with Gym and Swimming Lessons

Does anyone else deal with tantrums, meltdowns or outright refusals to participate when it comes to the weekly swimming lesson?”

It’s a common question asked in groups of parents of highly sensitive children (HSCs). Many of us face struggles around getting our child to swimming lessons or have to deal with the aftermath of school sports lessons on a HSC, in particular those held in a gym hall. My youngest two are notably more reluctant to go to school on the days they have gym lessons.

From personal experience I can tell you that just mentioning swimming lessons in our house make my toes curl – I will be glad when they are over for all three sons! But at the end of the day it’s important that kids can competently swim – especially when you live in the Netherlands surrounded by canals…….so we need a way to cope.

7 Reasons Your Highly Sensitive Child Struggles with Gym and Swimming Lessons

Even the most sporty, active HSC can visibly struggle with the idea of gym or swimming lessons –  it’s not about the actual swimming, climbing or running about – it’s more than that.

Changing Rooms

If you are the parent that regularly takes your child to swimming lessons you probably know first hand that the changing room, where the swimming or gym lesson experience begins, is a hive of activity and a sensory nightmare: noise, bustling of children and parents for space, odours, emotions, invasion of personal space. It’s chaos in a confined space. And incredibly unsettling for a HSC.

One of my sons has his school gym lesson directly after lunch so I go with him to the changing room. Man oh man. I understand his reluctance to be there – it’s crowded, noisy, and busy. Some children use the opportunity to scream, for the sake of making noise and every parent or teacher that enters the space goes immediately into scold mode.

We have looked for a way to reduce the sensory overload for him so he now gets changed at home and just slips on his gym shoes in the changing room – then he waits in the hallway outside of the changing room until his class is called into the gym.

Tip: use individual cubicles where possible and arrive ahead of the crowd (or after the crowd is even better if at all possible) and then wait in the quietest space you can find.

Gym Halls and Swimming Pools

Once a child comes out of the changing rooms they are faced with the size of the gym hall or pool – a huge space especially for a child in the infant classes in school. And it’s a room stuffed full of activity everywhere you look. That in itself can be overwhelming for a HSC.

In a gym lesson it is difficult for a HSC to maintain an overview of the space they are in – every lesson there is equipment in a different place and the activity they are expected to do is different. HSCs like to know what to expect and to be able to picture the activity coming up. The unknown is scary and the predictable is safe.

And then there’s what goes on in a gym and a swimming pool……

Noise

The acoustics of a swimming pool serve to amplify any noise; the same applies to a gym hall. Both are large spaces which reverberate noise. And there is of course a lot of noise in pools and gyms as children squeal, shout and run/splash about.

Noise is a common issue for HSCs. Lots of noise causes a sensory overload and make HSCs feel uncomfortable, even irritated or upset. Furthermore, HSCs often experience noise as being louder than their counterparts experience it (see my post about noise in the classroom for more on that) – so the pool and gym are certainly the perfect locations for a noise overload.

Tip: look into off-peak lesson times, small groups or pools and swim schools who understand the sensitivities of HSCs.

If you know gym and swim lessons cause overstimulation note these activities as bucket fillers and leave the rest of the day as quiet as possible. 

Smell

Swimming pools smell of chlorine. Changing rooms smell of sweaty socks. Gym halls smell of sweaty bodies. There are certainly more pleasant places for the nose to be so bear in mind this factor could also make your HSC feel uncomfortable.

Performing

The nature of a swimming lesson or a gym lesson means there is an expectation that your child will perform. How they do a swim stroke or a jump is monitored, ‘criticised’ (in the eyes of a HSC) and advice to improve is given. In many cases children are working towards a swimming diploma – a test. Some children perform better than your child, which makes them even more critical of how they are doing – particularly if your HSC is a perfectionist, as many HSCs are. Many can not take a compliment well so even if they are given encouragement about how well they are doing they may not believe it.

A HSC is conscious that all eyes are on them and a common trait of being highly sensitive is a feeling of stress when being observed – HSCs perform less well when they are being watched because they are anxious about how they perform. In short, every lesson feels like an exam situation and a chance to fail.

Tip: make sure your child is ready for swimming lessons. Some children are just too (emotionally and physically) young to start and feel lost as a consequence. We delayed starting lessons with our sons knowing that they wouldn’t cope from the age of four, when it was actually possible to start.

Teachers

Gym teachers and swim instructors speak with raised voices in order to be heard by the group. They can also come across as strict because of safety considerations. There’s no messing about in a pool or gym hall! These are both things that can make a HSC feel insecure and distrusting of a sport teacher. I have lost count of the number of times my sons have come home with the announcement “the gym/swim teacher seems nice but is way too strict” and they need a few lessons to get used to tone and volume before they build up a positive image of their teacher.

Danger

7 Reasons Your Highly Sensitive Child Struggles with Gym and Swimming Lessons

Last but certainly not least, HSCs are often more cautious than non-highly sensitive children – observing before taking action, so swimming pools and gyms are a minefield to a HSC.

Danger lurks in every corner and every activity. There is equipment to clamber up and over. There are balls flying around. There are rope burns to endure. There are climbing frames that are high. Things to jump over. So many things to fall over or off. They need time to observe, see that it is safe and feel confident to give things a go.

Tip: talk to the gym or swim instructor and explain how your HSC feels. If understanding is shown to your child they are more likely to attempt things – knowing that they have a safe place to go (the teacher) to if they need it.

But there’s good news too….

The good news is that the more a child gets used to these environments, the less issues they have with their lessons and that usually occurs as a matter of course as a child gets older. Patience and understanding is needed – it can take months.

There are lots of positive sides to swimming and gym of course. Aside from the obvious development of gross motor skills and coordination, your child has the chance to stop thinking for a little while and be active instead. Physical movement can be a great bucket emptier.


Posted in The What, The Why | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy 2nd Birthday Happy Sensitive Kids!

The Happy Sensitive Kids blog is two years old today – I know because a Facebook memory popped up in my timeline. I thought maybe a celebration of two years of this blog is a good moment to reflect and let you know what the future holds for Happy Sensitive Kids.

I started this blog for a reason, and it’s a reason that is still valid two years later. Being a highly sensitive child is not always easy, and neither is parenting a highly sensitive child, so it is still important that we keep spreading the word about highly sensitive traits and the impact being highly sensitive has on a child so that we get the support we need – particularly in schools.

“The world we live in is not ideal for highly sensitive people; it’s busy, noisy, rushed and those that shout loudest get heard. Those that shout loudest drown out the thoughts of the highly sensitive amongst us…”

happy-2nd-birthdayThere is more awareness of the highly sensitive trait now than a decade ago but there’s so much more to be done. And since starting this blog I am so thrilled to have come into contact with a host of wonderful people with the same aims as me.

Like Leila of Sensitive and Extraordinary and My Quiet Adventures.

Like Karin Monster-Peters of Highly Sensitive Parents.

Like Jamie who wrote Understanding the Highly Sensitive Child: Seeing an Overwhelming World Through Their Eyes.

Like Josina Intrabartolo of Scrivo Media who writes books that help highly sensitive children and their parents.

Like Petra Kessler of To-Taal Coaching for highly sensitive adults/children in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Like Janneke van Olphen who organises workshops for parents who are themselves highly sensitive or who have children who are highly sensitive in The Netherlands.

Like all of you who keep coming back to the blog.

Like all of you, nearly 1400 of you, who are a part of the Happy Sensitive Kids Community Facebook group, who offer your wisdom and share your stories day in and day out. Together we are stronger.

So where to now? I am currently working on a book which I hope will see the light of day next year. I will continue throwing articles out into the world to spread the word (like these on The Good Men Project, Bonbon Break and Mamalode). I am going to keep growing this community and raising awareness about highly sensitive children so that these children can thrive, and not just survive.

In short, I am going to keep going! Thank you all for your amazing support.

Posted in The What | Tagged , | 3 Comments

How Much Should You Expect a Highly Sensitive Child to Change to Fit in a Non-Sensitive World?

Many highly sensitive children struggle with too much stimuli at once. How far should we as parents go to help them reduce the stimuli they have to process?

In Elaine Aron’s words highly sensitive people are:

“….more easily overwhelmed by ‘high volume’ or large quantities of data arriving at once.” Elaine Aron: The Highly Sensitive Child

In essence, a highly sensitive person processes information more thoroughly than others – not just in their head, but with their whole body. They notice much more in their environment that others.

how-much-should-you-expect-a-highly-sensitive-child-to-change-to-fit-in-a-non-sensitive-worldIf we think about a highly sensitive child and their typical day in school and their typical after school activities it’s clear how much information (visual, auditory, smell, tastes, activity, emotions, incidents) they are processing in a day. And easy to understand that this is too much for their bodies to handle. Emotional outbursts are a consequence, and an understandable release when you really understand what being highly sensitive means. Continue reading

Posted in The How | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments