Village or Town – Which is Best for a Highly Sensitive Child?

A rural village or a busy town? Does it matter where a highly sensitive child (HSC) grows up? It’s important to consider the role their living environment plays in daily life.

It was a question posed in the Happy Sensitive Kids community – do HSCs cope better with village life than living in a big town? Some people are clearly city folk, others prefer a more rural setting. It’s a topic I have personal experience of as I have parented HSCs in both environments.

Moving to a Village

Last summer we moved from a town with a population of around 125,000 to a village of 750 people, give or take a few. We moved from one of the most densely populated provinces of the Netherlands to one of the least. We moved out of a built up area to a rural community.

Has it made a difference for my three HSCs?

In short, yes.

Village or Town - Which is Best for a Highly Sensitive Child?Has it been the miracle answer that made life perfect?

Of course not.

Why We Chose to Leave Town Life Behind

We were lucky enough for life events to come together at just the right time to enable us to really shake things up.

My husband was working for an international organisation in The Hague, where he had been for eleven years. He was working on a contract basis and that was due to end in May 2017.

At the beginning of 2017 we assessed job options open to him. One option opened up the possibility of moving house, something we had wanted to do for years.

We wanted more living space; when we moved in there was just the two of us, but that had grown into the five of us.

The boys’ school seemed to be growing by the week and class sizes had become a problem for my sons and teachers alike.

We wanted more green in our living space but the trees were coming down around us.

We wanted peace and quiet but the population around us grew and the noise too.

We started looking at commutes and where it made sense to live. We landed in an area in the east of the country.

We started looking for a new home. The second house we saw was the one. Miles away from where we lived and a world apart too. The rest, as they say, is history.

We have now been in our ‘new’ home for seven months.

The Positives of Village Life

Let’s start with all the good things that living in a village has brought to family life with three HSCs.

School

My sons go to the village school. There are around 75 kids split in three classes. Even under those circumstances (i.e. three groups in one class) there are fewer children in each class. Each child is seen. Each child is treated as an individual. Each child has attention. And my children have had their learning needs identified and their teachers have responded to those needs. It makes a huge difference for a child to know that they are seen. It’s a boost for their self-confidence.

This positive isn’t necessarily about life in a village – it’s about smaller scale schooling. That works for my HSCs.

Nature

We are lucky enough to witness a spectacular sunset through the trees at the end of our garden most evenings where we currently live. We had to head to the beach to find open space to see that properly where we used to live.

We are surrounded by fields, farmland and woodland. We leave our house on the bikes and are immediately surrounded by nature – green, beautiful and peaceful.

An owl flies over our garden at dusk every evening. Bats make their nightly outings from a big tree in our garden.

Most mornings the loudest sound around us is that of birdsong and the neighbour’s cockerel.

Every trip out we see birds of prey at the side of the road or circling over head. The boys come home from school full of excited chatter about a ‘big bird’ in the tree on the school playground.

That works for my HSCs. It works for me.

Social Life

My eldest joined the village football club within a couple of months of moving here. It was a huge (but pleasant) surprise for us when he declared he wanted to play football in a team. It was something he absolutely did not want to consider in the past.

For those of you who have also struggled with after school activities for your HSC, you will get that this was a huge step forward. For those of you who have also dealt with a screaming child in a changing room before a try out lesson for judo or swimming, you will get that this was an amazing turn around.

The reason why it was something he suddenly wanted to do is that the team is comprised of children he goes to school with, children he knows. The football club is literally at the end of our garden.

Village life means that the social group is relatively small and faces become familiar quickly.  We lived in our previous home for fifteen years, yet there were people living in the same street who were complete unknowns to me. And there were those who only crept out of their house to shout at the boys for playing too loud……..

This small scale, friendly community works well for my kids and me.

Space

We desperately wanted more living space, and we found that for sure. We have more space to live in, more space around us, and more space for the boys to play in. And it’s a safe space, away from traffic and built up streets. The boys have more freedom and a larger area to venture out to independently. That helps so much with their self-confidence and their sense of identity.

It’s also built in space for bucket emptying. My eldest will often grab his bike from the shed and head off out after school just to clear his head. And I know he has the space and safety to do that.

Sense of Community

Where we currently live there is a real sense of community – there has to be for a village to thrive. There is a village hall with a rich variety of clubs and associations.

Kids get involved in the wider community. A great example is that the older children in the primary school help out in the village hall with the weekly gathering for the local seniors. It was my son’s turn to help out this week – and he loved getting involved and helping out. He was positively beaming when he got home. The children are involved with the older residents of the village on more occasions and that is great for kids and seniors alike.

It gives a sense of belonging, and satisfies the need to be doing something to make a difference – something many HSCs have.

The Downside to Village Life

Making Friends

The village population is small. The school population is small. The pool for friends is small. Luckily, many HSCs prefer one or two close friends to a huge group of people to hang around with. However, finding a connection with those chosen few is harder with a smaller group of potential candidates. It’s something to bear in mind.

After School Activities

All three sons play football in the village (but even that may change soon as there are not enough children to keep the teams going next season) but for the other activities they participate in it means venturing further out – with unknown children etc. You might have to do your homework to find the right activity for your HSC in a location that works.

 

And Last But Not Least

One other thing I guess – everyone knows everyone’s business. So I am told in any case……

The other point is that HSCs need time to process change and moving is of course one of the biggest changes they can go though. There are some tips on moving with a HSC here, but bear in mind that they can also be far more resilient that we give them credit for.

Right now I can’t think of any other issues we have personally stumbled across to date but if I do I will update this.

So Village or Town?

I wouldn’t move back to the town where we lived for love nor money. Village life suits us. But is it the answer to all the issues that being highly sensitive throws at us? No, it’s not.

My children still come home from school with full buckets. It just happens less, and we have school support when the boys are struggling. They also have more opportunity to get out into nature, into the peace and quiet, to empty their bucket.

My sons still have outbursts because they are overwhelmed or their heads are whirring from the day’s activities.

They still seem to catch every virus going and take longer than their classmates to shift them and get back on their feet.

They still take words uttered carelessly to heart when they shouldn’t.

They still doubt themselves and need reassurance that they’re doing great.

They still need help to step out of their comfort zones every now and then.

But it is all less often.

And I see that they are growing in self-confidence as each day passes.

I am reminded of David Dobbs theory about orchid children. My HSCs are absolutely flourishing in their new environment. I have no doubt about that.

Life has not suddenly become perfect because we moved to a village, but in our particular case it is certainly a step in the right direction.

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About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
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