5 Ways a Highly Sensitive Child Can Empty Their Bucket in School

Imagine a child putting every sound, feeling, sight, emotion and experience of their school day unfiltered into a bucket. What comes home is an overwhelmed child struggling to get their full bucket home before it spills over. Wouldn’t it be better to give a child the chance to stop that bucket from filling in school? Here are five ways every highly sensitive child can empty their bucket during a school day.

5 Ways a Highly Sensitive Child Can Empty Their Bucket in School

A Bucket for a HSC

I first started using the analogy of a bucket with my eldest son when he started primary school. That was eight years ago and the idea of the bucket lives on in our home. You can read all about the idea of giving a HSC a bucket here: We’re the Bucket Family.

A bucket is a great visual tool that a young child can understand to help describe their emotions. They can easily tell you when they feel that their bucket is full, or nearly full.

Give A Highly Sensitive Child a Bucket

Tip: A Bucket Activity to Help Highly Sensitive Children Manage Overstimulation (with free printable)

Buckets and School

School classrooms are overwhelming places to be for a highly sensitive child (HSC). It’s not just the activity of other children around them, but a classroom is also filled with objects and the walls are covered in artwork or brightly coloured posters shouting out information.

Sometimes there’s a substitute teacher.

Some days the class celebrates a child’s birthday.

Or there’s a guest in the classroom.

Each day is different.

Each day in a classroom is a minefield for a young HSC, who is as yet unable to filter out the stimuli that they don’t need to put in their bucket.

If a HSC doesn’t get the chance to empty anything out of their bucket during the school day the result is a child with a full bucket. Overwhelm may not always be obvious but over time you will recognise how your HSC behaves when their bucket is full.

Tip: Read 6 Signs Your Highly Sensitive Child is Overwhelmed (aka Their Bucket is Full) to help you recognise overwhelm.

A HSC will often keep it together at school, showing little or no sign they are struggling. It’s a common issue with HSCs and getting a teacher to understand there is a problem is not always straight forward. Once a HSC is over the threshold of home, back in a safe environment where they can be themselves, a child drops their bucket. And out spills the emotions and experiences of the day.

Carrying that full bucket around all day in school is exhausting.

5 Ways to Empty a Bucket in School

1. Stepping Out of the Classroom

Schedule in breaks at set times of the school day so a child can leave the busyness of a classroom and sit somewhere quiet. My son’s teacher made a pictogram for his desk as a reminder to step out of the class at two moments of the day.

Running an errand for a teacher can also provide an opportunity to step out of the classroom.

A HSC will not always know themselves when their bucket is getting full so preemptive measures help. Even a couple of minutes is helpful, so long as a child knows where they can go and is assured that that space is available to them at those scheduled moments. The danger is that a HSC that has to scout around for a quiet space, or who finds their usual space occupied, will become more stressed by this ‘time out’ than by staying in the classroom.

2. Space to Concentrate

A classroom can be highly frustrating for a HSC that has to concentrate on school work (maths exercises are a good example). A HSC is easily distracted by activity around them, even slight activity that doesn’t even register with other children.

Frustration fills a bucket quickly.

Think about ways to help a HSC concentrate: noise reducing headphones, listening to music or nature sounds with earphones, a wooden study cubicle around their desk, or working in a quiet space outside of the classroom.

3. Reading Nook

Does the classroom have a cosy corner or a reading nook or a play tent where a child can sit and escape with a book? Make the most of these kind of spaces! If there isn’t such a nook in your child’s school then suggest making one. All kids can benefit from a quiet reading corner.

4. Think About Gym Lessons

Gym or sports lessons are notoriously difficult for a HSC. Before the physical exertion even starts there is the noise in sport halls that echoes and reverberates. The changing room is a hive of activity and noise (not to mention overpowering smell).

My middle son was in a class of 35 and gym lessons were a huge issue for him. Ear plugs made the world of difference for him.

Tip: read 7 Reasons Your Highly Sensitive Child Struggles with Gym and Swimming Lessons 

5. Using Recess to Empty a Bucket

It’s important to get outside during a school day and the simple act of moving from the classroom to the playground can already have an emptying effect on some HSC’s buckets.

If physical activity, such as playing with a ball, climbing or running around, is a bucket emptier for your HSC then speak to your child’s teacher to see if they can encourage such activity at break times.

If your child is helped more by quiet time then look at options away from the crowd in quiet spaces outside.

Tip: There are 101 bucket emptying ideas in the Happy Sensitive Kids book, now on sale as an e-book from Amazon. You can grab a copy of “101 Ways to Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Empty Their Bucket” from Amazon stores worldwide for the special intro price of only $2.99.

101 Ways to Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Empty Their Bucket ebook cover

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Once you understand which activities serve as bucket emptiers for your child, the easier it is to guide your child and their teacher during the school day so that your HSC doesn’t come home with a full bucket.





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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