Labels on our children feel uncomfortable. It feels like we are allowing our children to be saddled with a label that will be hard to get rid of in the future. There is another way: share your child’s instruction manual with teachers and other professionals involved with your child.
Sticking a Label on A Child In School
One mother of a highly sensitive child (HSC) just started primary school shared how her child was struggling in the classroom. There were tantrums and tears at home. The teacher was being less than understanding about her daughter’s need for quiet time to recharge. She failed to grasp just how overwhelming the school environment was for her daughter.
She hadn’t talked to the school prior to her daughter’s first day about her being highly sensitive because she hadn’t wanted to label her child before she had even set foot in the classroom.
An understandable standpoint.
Professionals Look for Labels That Fit
Parenting a HSC is a bumpy road. Many of us have faced a child psychologist who needed to stick a giant fluorescent label on our child’s head, in order to help further.
I knew that my son’s behaviours were caused by him being highly sensitive. Nothing more, nothing less.
Yet, I had to watch a specialist going down her own route doing autism and intelligence tests on him. it was annoying and frustrating, as well as hard hitting on the wallet.
A child psychologist had to rule out behavioural labels such as ADHD, ADD and the idea of him being highly gifted before we could move forward.
It took months of painstaking appointments and tests when we were already at the end of our tether. The end result was that all other labels were deemed ‘unstickable’ on my son and we were left with ‘highly sensitive’. We were eventually referred to a specialist in highly sensitive children. The long way round for sure.
Some Can Not See Past a Label
My son’s first school didn’t like the idea of ‘highly sensitive’. The words ‘tree hugging’ and ‘clairvoyants’ were mentioned. The teachers couldn’t see past the label to the little boy underneath and his needs.
So I know all about the hesitancy of using labels. I understand why sticking one on your own child feels uncomfortable. Why it feels risky. And so at his new school I approached the issue differently.
Hand Over an Instruction Manual
Instead of seeing myself sticking a label on my child’s forehead, I envisioned myself presenting an instruction manual to the teachers of my child.
We don’t think twice to inform a school of dietary or medical requirements for the wellbeing of our children. We shouldn’t be afraid to also share the less tangible needs of our children.
Share The Specifics of a Child’s Needs
Letting my son’s new teacher know that he regularly needs time out in a quiet place so he can recharge (or empty his bucket as we put it) helped her form a picture of how he reacts to the classroom environment.
We told her that he is overwhelmed or distracted by noise or busy activity around him. He is thrown by a break in the normal routine.
We explained that he is emotionally tuned in to others so could become inexplicably upset by a classmate falling and hurting herself, or emotionally unsettled by a new classmate who is feeling unsure and upset about his new surroundings.
We made her aware of how he may behave and why, without throwing the entire ‘highly sensitive’ book at her. We concentrated on the specifics and not the general.
His teacher was then able to suggest ways she could work with my son to ensure he gets the time out he needs. She suggested headphones and gave proper thought to where he sits in the classroom. She’s aware that if they have had a busy morning, or undertaken an activity that differs from the norm, he may be more tired than normal and he will need the time and space to settle himself. In short, he has her full support in the classroom without having a ‘highly sensitive’ label stuck on his head.
All Highly Sensitives Are Different
Highly sensitive children are individuals too, with different traits and different needs.
Under each so-called label there is an individual child with needs that differ to that of another child with the same label.
Presenting your child’s needs or behaviour triggers doesn’t have to feel like using a label if you keep the information relevant and unique to your child.
In the same way we read the instruction manual for a new electronic device to understand how it works, it is important for those that care for our children to have some idea how to get our children to ‘operate’ at their best and this shouldn’t be sacrificed because of a wariness of labels.
There has been lots of discussion about labelling our children. Negative labels feed negative behaviour. Negative labels damage our children.
Parenting books tell us how to turn negative labels into positive ones. It’s a nest of vipers for many parents and we have become wary of stereotypes.
The truth is that in some cases a label is a fact of life. To get professional help, for example, a label needs to be established. It’s a necessary evil. But it doesn’t mean as a parent that you have to use the label if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Maybe we should concentrate on sharing the uniqueness of our children, sharing what makes them who they are, how they experience the world around them. That way we can avoid the stigma of a label, and instead present their teachers and caregivers with a helpful, individual instruction manual that helps them do their job, and ultimately get the best out of our children.