I spent 90 minutes in my youngest son’s class helping a group of seven children make paper lanterns to use for a neighborhood walk after their Christmas dinner.
I already had a lot of respect for teachers. I really did. Now, my respect is off the chart. After only 90 minutes in a classroom of 28 children I was exhausted. Wiped out. My head throbbed from the noise, the activity, from little people constantly striving to grab my unwavering attention. To say my bucket was full by the time I left the classroom would be painting a rosy picture.
It gave me a real insight into life in a classroom – and I really believe it is something that every parent should do! Having spent a little time in a classroom it’s easy to see why my children come home from school with full buckets almost every day. There is so much going on in every classroom, it’s really not surprising that highly sensitive children leave school with buckets that slop over the side. Even as an adult in the classroom it was exhausting.
The second thing that sank in is this: that lonesome teacher usually doesn’t have three parents helping her out. She’s usually handling that class full of four, five and six year olds alone. Wow. No extra eyes or hands to help her out. Everything that happens is down to that one solitary teacher.
And she has a parade of parents each morning relaying the things that have happened with their children, and why they are not quite themselves and what to watch out for. She listens intently whilst numerous parents hand over virtual instruction manuals for their children as they join her class, as they start school for the very first time.
So, what I am saying is this: make it as easy as possible for a teacher to understand your child’s needs. Be specific. Give examples.
Many of us parenting highly sensitive children end up sitting often one to one with our child’s teachers. Commonly on the table for discussion, for example, is the fact that our child is overwhelmed by a regular school day by all the activity and sensory input around them and then releases that ‘overwhelm’ at home. Often you have an emotional volcano on your hands at the end of a school day, a child that doesn’t equate to the quiet one sitting in the classroom all day. It’s often hard for a teacher to understand how different your child is at home because often highly sensitive children are model pupils in the classroom, who show nothing of how they are really feeling. Especially when your child is just one of many children in a classroom – the reality is that quiet children don’t draw attention to themselves and you as a parent will need to advocate for them.
So by all means, tell the teacher your child’s story but try to go beyond that – relay the specifics to your child. What possible signs could a teacher spot to indicate that your child is overwhelmed? How can a teacher recognise your child’s emotional distress? Perhaps your child seeks out a quiet space, withdraws, gets teary over something that seems trivial. Inexplicable angry reactions could indicate overwhelm. How can a teacher see that your child is not feeling okay?
What actions could the teacher take to help your child in the classroom? Go armed with examples and answers when you talk to your child’s teacher. What works at home to help your child feel inner calm? How can a teacher get your child talking about how they are feeling or what they are experiencing?
If raised voices upset your child, let the teacher know that. If your child responds better to gentle correction let the teacher know that. If your child is a perfectionist, share this information. The more specific the better.
Help your child’s teacher understand the why and what of your child’s sensitivities so that they can help your highly sensitive child blossom in their classroom – I know for sure that he or she needs all the helping hands and eyes they can get!