I asked Leila Boukarim, author of the new book All Too Much for Oliver and founder of My Quiet Adventures, why she decided to write story books specifically for highly sensitive children. Here’s her answer……
“Our beautiful, highly sensitive son was born in November, 2009. It wasn’t until after my second was born three and a half years later however, that I discovered my eldest was highly sensitive.
Up until that moment, my husband and I had struggled with feelings of frustration and incompetence. We knew our child was okay, but couldn’t quite understand why the most trivial of tasks had to be so challenging, and at times even impossible.
Soon after our baby was born, we became completely isolated from the world. It didn’t take our friends long to stop calling because we just never showed up to anything we were invited to. Get togethers were too much for our little one; the mall was too crowded, birthday parties were too loud, the pool was too wet, the snow was too cold… For the first three and a half years of his life, our son simply could not be around other children because they were too unpredictable for him. He screamed if anyone walked up to him or said “hello”, which happened a lot because he was a cute baby.
The most difficult part of it all was the fact that we felt completely alone. It felt like no other child on the planet was like ours. We had no one to talk to about this, and if we ever tried, we would just get blamed for having “spoiled” our son.
I will never forget the moment I stumbled upon Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Child. I will never remember what I was looking for online, but I will never forget the comment I read written by a relieved mother:
“I thought my daughter was the only child who hated birthday parties!”
Those were the words that led me to the book that changed our lives. For the first time since he was born, I could finally start seeing things from my son’s perspective.
Once we knew what we were dealing with, we stopped focusing so much on our own situation and rather tried to see and feel the world the way our little one did. Everything changed. Our approach changed; our tone changed; our attitude changed. Most importantly, our expectations changed.
When you stop expecting your child to be like most other children, to hit every milestone on time, to be the “normal” child most parenting books tell you about, situations become much easier to accept. When you begin to understand why your son will scream when even the people he loves come over to visit, it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. When you know he is so overwhelmed with emotions much too big for a little person, your focus shifts from how embarrassing situations might be to how you can help him learn to live with his sensitivities and start enjoying the world.
We noticed early on with our highly sensitive boy that his books served as an important source of inspiration. When things got particularly rough, he would often walk over to the bookshelf, pick out the book he needed, and sit in his room looking at the pictures when he was younger, and reading it when he was a little older. When our son needed confidence, courage, time to collect himself and recharge, the right books always helped him with that.
Unfortunately, the “right books” can be very difficult to find when your child is highly sensitive. As I wrote in my post about finding the right books for highly sensitive children, “once a book or concept or plot or character is analyzed and dissected to an extent it wasn’t designed to reach, the curious, sensitive little mind gets filled with serious questions that are difficult to answer. Anxiety takes over, and the point of the book is completely missed.”
In an effort to help my son find the confidence he needed to face the world, I wrote a story about a little boy who slowly learns to live with his sensitivities. Much to my surprise, when I read this story without pictures to him, he sat through the whole thing and then asked me to read it again. And that’s when a little idea led to the creation of My Quiet Adventures about two years later.
My Quiet Adventures is a small team of mothers of highly sensitive children, who create picture books for highly sensitive children. When I started on this journey, I worried about finding the right people to help me with my first book, All Too Much for Oliver. I worried that the illustrator or the editor or the beta reader would miss the whole point of this story. How lucky I was that all the people involved not only got it, but were passionate about it.
With one book on Amazon and two more in the works, we’ve come a long way from the picture-less piece of paper we started with. We’ve taken the first step towards helping 20% of our children feel less alone by letting them know they are not the only ones who struggle with things that seem to come naturally to most.
“The aim of our books is not to “correct” sensitivities. That would not only be impossible but also very unfortunate. Our goal is to give highly sensitive children characters and stories they can relate to and give them the courage and inspiration they might need to overcome difficult situations.”
That is our mission statement. It is what we believe in and work hard to achieve every day. Our team and accomplishments so far may be small, but every time we hear of a parent who is happy with what we’ve done, or of a child who felt a little stronger after having read our book, we feel like we’ve changed the world!”