It’s possible that your highly sensitive child (HSC) is showing little enthusiasm for their return to school after the summer break. Sharing the virtues with them of a return to a routine and structure will probably not be enough to win them over, despite it being a valid positive.
Time and time again in the Happy Sensitive Kids forum it’s clear that school presents a specific challenge for HSCs because of:
- Noise in the classroom.
- The constant changing of activities.
- The pressure to perform.
- Not knowing what is coming up that day/week.
- Trying to please a teacher.
- The inability to deal with a teacher’s harsh tone of voice or showing of anger or displeasure with something or someone.
- Dislike of conflict or classroom politics.
- Repetitive lessons, instruction or study materials which fail to challenge a HSC. Many HSCs are extremely bright, good students who pick things up quickly- something that is not always recognised because they also get easily overwhelmed and lose focus and concentration.
Sitting with your child’s teacher early in the new school year can help them understand your child and their needs right from the start. Don’t assume that information from the previous school year is passed on succinctly to the new teacher – remember that your child is just one of many children a teacher needs to get to know. Don’t assume that the tools and methods that were successfully implemented in a previous school year will be automatically applied in the new school year. At the start of a new school year it’s often best to be THAT parent!
Plan a discussion with your child’s teacher around:
- Your child’s particular sensitivities – explain what overwhelms them in the classroom: noise, visual stimuli, emotions, information overload, lots of activity around them, the raised voice of a teacher.
- How your child feels about coming to school. Many display negative emptions about attending school. Being upfront with your child’s teacher can help them help your child – after all a teacher is the expert when it comes to educating your child. Fresh ideas are always welcome.
- Your child’s seating arrangements in the classroom. A HSC can easily be overwhelmed sitting in the middle of the classroom and may be better suited to sitting at an outer desk. Humming from the computers may be annoying, the white board too bright and next to the classroom entrance may prove too distracting. Your child’s sensitivities will help your child’s teacher understand where best to place your child.
- Giving your child the space, time and opportunities for quiet moments. HSCs need quiet time to recharge and that applies in school too. Think about noise reducing earphones, moving to a quiet space in the hallway to complete a task before rejoining the class, a reading corner or a library area, running errands to get your child away from the busy class for a few minutes.
- Recognising when your child is lacking challenge. A HSC is easily stressed and finding the balance between staying interested and challenged but also being able to perform under pressure is difficult but important. Many HSCs dislike going to school because of the environment but are actually eager to learn.
Planning a follow up sit down with your child and their teacher can also be beneficial. A teacher can instantly discuss ideas or tools with your child and your child immediately knows he or she is being taken seriously, which may help them settle in the new classroom.
As far as home goes you can also help your HSC by giving them the time and space to talk out their school day and providing them with the opportunity to wind down and empty their buckets. Often a small thing gets built up in a HSCs mind and talking about it can really help them get perspective. Most of all, help your HSC take the start of their new school year one day at a time……….
Posted in The How
A highly sensitive child generally needs more down time than other children. Finding ways to help them empty their bucket after a particularly busy day or after their school day is key to restoring their emotional balance.
With that in mind I got myself a copy of Lorraine E. Murray’s Calm Kids (Help Children Relax with Mindful Activities) (US Amazon link here).
My youngest son will soon turn four. In the Netherlands this means he can start at primary school.
He currently attends a peuterspeelzaal for two mornings a week. He’s well aware that he’ll soon be going to school every day like his two older brothers. He also knows that the class he will spend his first two years of school life in is ready and eagerly waiting for him.
He’s currently busy with wennen, a few hours before he actually starts to serve as an introduction to his teacher, his classmates, his classroom and how his days will look in school.
There have been tears. There have been bursts of anger because he doesn’t want to go to a new school. Through the eyes of my highly sensitive three year old all that change is bad, scary.
“Te spannend!” he shouts through his tears. It’s too scary. Too much for him to handle.
Twenty percent of children are highly sensitive (HSCs). These children are emotionally tuned into the world around them and have a highly reactive nervous system, which struggles to filter out unnecessary sensory input.
They experience their environments intensely and are easily overwhelmed; their heads fill up quickly from processing everything happening around them. Emotions spill over and HSCs in particular quickly feel out of control, ending in a complete meltdown.
Luckily, there are ways to help your highly sensitive child handle their emotions better and stop them spiralling out of control.
It’s time for the third post in the parent interview series about schooling a highly sensitive child. This week I talk to Tara who is in Canada. She removed her son from a funded state school in order to homeschool him instead.
HSK: Why did you start looking at alternative schooling arrangements for you son?
Tara: My son missed a lot of school because he simply refused to go. We thought it was a physical illness so we had a bunch of tests done to try and figure out what it was. All tests came back negative so we realised it was psychological. Continue reading
In the third part of the ‘Schooling and the Highly Sensitive Child’ interview series I spoke to Lucy* about her decision to move her son out of the public schooling system in the United States to a private school in a different state. Lucy is a school psychologist, who had always agreed with the public school system and the curriculum, until her own child started going through the education system. She sums up her views on the public school system by saying:
“I’m not so thrilled with it. I have really begun to question everything about traditional schooling, why we teach what we teach, and how to best prepare our young people for their futures.”
When my youngest son was born my eldest had been in school for just a few months and he was struggling. I also had a toddler at home. There were sleepless nights, there was physical exhaustion, silent reflux, the realisation just what raising highly sensitive children meant, an unsupportive school and not much of a support system around us – most of our support came from the Dutch youth services and the baby wellness clinic.
They were tough years. The Dutch call those years tropenjaren – years that take it all out of you, exhaust you, make you wonder how you will get through them.
And then one day you come out the other side. You don’t even necessarily realise you’ve come through it at the moment it happens, but when you look back you see that you have survived those difficult years with your sanity, more or less, in tact. In my case the realisation came when my youngest started school.
“Each morning, I let myself back into an empty house and I am greeted by silence. No one runs to the front door to throw their arms around me to mark my homecoming.”
I’m Never Alone for Long – Mamalode
I had entered into a whole new phase of motherhood that nobody warned me about.
And so you will too.
Learning that your child is highly sensitive is the first step to understanding what that means for your family. It’s the first step for enlisting the help you need. It’s the first step on the path that leads to the ‘other side’ where parenting is easier and you feel like you might just have some inkling that you know what you are doing. At least a little bit.
And one day you will look back and realise you have given your highly sensitive child the tools he or she needs to cope better in a world that isn’t designed with them in mind.
You can read the whole story in my latest article over on Mamalode – I’m Never Alone for Long.