Being the parent of a highly sensitive child (HSC) can be exhausting. You have to be one step ahead, constantly thinking about events coming up, planning days so as to avoid sensory overload for your child, learning what to say no to.
My eldest HSC is at his best when there’s a routine to stick to and things are predictable. That means not letting him stay up later to celebrate an uncle’s birthday twenty kilometers from home – and shielding him from the criticism that generates.
It means giving him advance warning of any changes coming up, or events that are not every day occurrences.
It means thinking twice before agreeing to every play date after school, or family visit at a weekend after a particularly busy week.
Parenting a young HSC means always being on your guard, trying to see the world through younger eyes, listening with younger unprotected ears, trying to anticipate sensory triggers in a child’s environment.
As my child has grown, so has his awareness and own defences. But he is still learning. Until he has mastered using the tools at his disposal to operate successfully in a world that wasn’t designed for the highly sensitives among us I have to help him in his environment and with his schedule to to find his own balance.
Parenting a highly sensitive child is like providing cover for a tortoise whilst his shell grows strong enough to protect himself. It’s also about knowing when to withdraw that cover.
It’s tiring not always being able to be spontaneous, but it’s necessary.
It’s sometimes difficult to think of creative solutions to sensory overload problems.
It’s not easy finding the balance between encouraging my son to take enough down time and ensuring that he doesn’t feel banished to his room to be alone.
It’s a challenge to make sure he reaches out and makes friendships whilst his natural instinct is to be cautious around new people and places.
Encouraging without pushing is an essential parenting skill for parents of HSCs.
Sometimes parenting a HSC amounts to walking on eggshells. It’s always about adaptation, planning and acceptance.
Dear friend, family and stranger, being the parent of a highly sensitive child is often tough in ways you can’t see. And my family and I could sure use your understanding, support and most of all, your acceptance.