A few years ago my family started using the bucket analogy. I’m not sure where it came from anymore, but I do know that these days we talk about buckets every day. Every single day.
Since discovering that highly sensitive is part and parcel of my family we have tried to talk about what that means with each other, and what we need from each other to feel okay at home and, where relevant, in school.
That meant being able to talk to a four year old about being highly sensitive in a way that he could understand. And so the bucket was born. (See here for a printable bucket activity to help your HSC.)
We explained to our HSC that everything he hears, sees, touches, tastes and smells ends up in his invisible bucket. Every interaction he has with a classmate or the teacher, every experience he has, gets thrown into his bucket. At the age of four he had no filter. He couldn’t determine what experience, taste or sight was worth holding on to, and what needed to be thrown away. So everything that happened to him during the morning at school went into his bucket. And he brought that bucket home with him at lunchtime.
Sometimes so much had happened in a morning that his bucket would overflow. That meant tears. It meant he’d be overwhelmed. It meant he couldn’t carry his bucket anymore.
And so we would spend lunch time emptying that bucket by talking about his morning, helping him determine what could be thrown out, what he could let go of. Playing with lego, listening to calming music, a relaxation CD, a story – all things that helped him empty his bucket.
If he had managed to empty his bucket out, a least half of it, then he’d go back to school. If not, we’d spend the afternoon working on getting the unnecessary stuff out of the bucket.
Four years on, our bucket analogy is going strong. The words, “Go up to your room so you can empty your bucket,” are uttered every day.
My middle son (now four and looking more and more like he is following in his older brother’s highly sensitive footsteps) also expresses how he feels in terms of how full he is, or how full his bucket is. He’s picked up on us using it with his brother and made it his own too. In fact, I also have a bucket now – and I make very clear to my children when that is dangerously close to filling to the top.
I’ve talked about the bucket approach in other posts before and people have contacted me to say they have adopted it and it works for them too. It’s something our highly sensitive children can grasp and work with. And when they are so young, unable to express their feelings adequately, it turns out that the bucket is a tool that really helps them.
Yes, ok, outsiders and onlookers sometimes give you strange looks when you start the bucket talk outside the home, but it’s like a little family secret – which makes it even more special for the kids.
So join us, become a bucket family today.
Time to share: what tools do you use to get your young HSC to talk about how they feel? What tools do you use to help your HSC learn to filter the world around them?