Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child Means Becoming an Expert Planner

‘Spontaneous’ and ‘ad hoc’ are often words missing from the vocabulary of the parent of a highly sensitive child. At least that’s how it is in my house.

Highly sensitive children need plenty of downtime, especially in busy periods. That means that cramming the family calendar full of activities and events will result in overwhelemed, grumpy, tired, anxious children. Buckets spill over.

Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child Means Becoming an Expert PlannerA friend was telling me about all the after school activities her daughter is involved in, leaving one afternoon after school free and one unplanned day at the weekend. The rest of her week is scheduled with music lessons, sports and activities. My head was spinning just listening to her. There is no way I could schedule my sons’ week like that. We would all be climbing the walls by Wednesday. Maybe Tuesday. We’d be residing permanently in Melt Down City.

It made me realise just how much planning is needed for our little family to thrive. No, scrap that, to stay sane!

I need to meticulously plan our family’s weekly activities. Carefully. I know that a day in school is already enough for my children most days, let alone a few more hours on top doing something else, no matter how much fun it is I know we’ll be picking up the pieces the next day if we don’t tread carefully.

When it comes to planning things at the weekend I have to look at what is already happening during the week. Is there something that already throws them out of their usual routine? Have they had a mad week at school? If so, then the weekend needs to stay calm to help them get back on track.

Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child Means Becoming an Expert PlannerIf their bucket is full then emptying it is always the priority before piling more in. We are more than aware of what happens if we ignore a full bucket.

It doesn’t mean they never do anything after school, but plans are made always with a get out clause or the option to postpone for a little while. Sometimes an ad hoc play date is just what one of my sons need after school – a run around or playing on their bikes with friends actually empties their bucket, rather than fills it. It’s always a judgement call I guess but I do know I have become an expert planner – judging how far an activity or outing will fill my children’s buckets and scheduling accordingly.

It means sometimes that I make myself unpopular with not only my sons but with extended family because we don’t say yes to every request, nor do we pop over to family every weekend, as was once expected of us. It’s just the way it is – it’s how the five of us get the best out of each other as a family.

To be honest, as a highly sensitive parent this suits me just fine. Spontaneous and ad hoc throw me off kilter too. It’s fine once in a while, but at the end of the day all the planning my family needs helps me stay grounded too. It helps me plan the filling and emptying of my own bucket……

Over to You: How much planning do you find yourself doing as the parent of a highly sensitive child? Do you prefer going with the flow or scheduling as far as possible? Share your tips and stories with us!

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About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. I was born in Britain but live in the Netherlands. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
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11 Responses to Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child Means Becoming an Expert Planner

  1. Jen says:

    The title alone made me want to scream, “YEAH!” It’s so true. Plan for the day. Exit strategy plan for holidays, birthday parties, etc. Constantly leaving room for the plans to change because it’s a day he’s overwhelmed.

    Feels so good to not be the only one!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Laura says:

    My kids do the planning for me. Most of the time after daycare they’re happy to just stay at home and play together. I’m always very careful not to overload their schedules and marvel at some of the other kids who are always doing something. I need some downtime too so I understand my kids very well about it, but sometimes it would be fun to be able to be a bit more active and not turn down requests all the time. I suspect some parents may think that I mollycoddle my kids since I’m so protective about bedtime etc. but they just really need to be in bed by a certain time or the next day’s no good. But there are exceptions and it’s hard to estimate sometimes when is a good time for a late visit and when not…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this post, Amanda. It’s exactly what I’m doing too and it’s such a relief to read that others do the same! I felt guilty for many years, that I didn’t have the energy other mums have, and that I wasn’t able to do more with my kids. Only when I discovered that there wasn’t anything wrong with me (and that I was a HSP), and that there were many other mums like me, with HSC, I started to actually enjoy this freedom and the right to say no, to not being so “active” all the time. I think we all are active too, in our very personal way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ofamily2014 says:

    Love your posts. Always reasurring to read. It can be so hard when your kids friends parents do not understand

    Liked by 1 person

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