Supporting Parents of Highly Sensitive Children

One of the greatest challenges of parenting a Highly Sensitive child is to soothe our own angst and worry. A concern that is often voiced by these parents is not feeling confident in dealing with the daily challenges that confront kids who seem to feel everything in ‘overdrive.’

Supporting these families begins with a two-step approach.  The first is to help parents become more conscious of their own emotions so they can approach solutions from a place of calm and trust. An adult who is dis-regulated cannot authentically help a child in need. Yikes! This means we actually have to work on ourselves. Most parents (and teachers) would rather give advice than look at our own ‘stuff!’ 

The second is for adults to gain the skills that actually help a highly sensitive child feel safe in a world that often becomes ‘too much.’ While building this competency is not hard, it takes willingness and patience because it is a process— like learning how to become a fine artist. It can be tricky and messy…  and worth every imperfect moment!

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Do You Parent/Teach According to Harvard’s Standards?

The Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education suggested to the class of 2016 that there are 5 essential questions you should regularly ask yourself. He noted that if you get into the habit of asking these questions you have a greater chance of being successful and happy.

He was posing these suggestions to people who have spent time at Harvard preparing to transform education in ways both large and small. I absolutely agreed with everything he said and I want to take it a step further. You see, he told these graduates that there is no higher calling than the field of education. There is a higher calling and that is being an educator who also bridges the gap for parents.

When we, as educators, forget that our students are not just learners of a subject, but beings destined for their own unique greatness we become trapped in a tunnel of teaching ‘to a test,’ to a ‘field,’ to a curriculum.  We can be the models who remind parents that the present moment is as important as achieving a future goal.

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The Highly Sensitive Dog

One of my new years resolutions was to walk more.  Since I live in a warm climate I could not use the excuse of cold weather to stay huddled inside. So there I was, one recent brisk winter morning, wearing my wide brimmed hat and sunscreen, all set to carry out my resolution.

As I rounded a corner I heard the soulful wailing of a dog. It wasn’t a usual bark; it sounded like it was coming from deep inside the animal’s soul. The depth of the crying sounded an alarm in my own heart and I found myself thinking that anyone who hurt an animal to that extent should be reported to authorities.

I felt like a detective, paying close attention as I passed each house, but I couldn’t identify the direction from which I heard the almost continuously wailing.

As I turned down a walking path I noticed a couple way in front of me with three German Shepherds. Within a few moments I heard the soulful crying again and saw that the man and woman had brought the animals over to a grassy knoll. The man kneeled next to the dog that was in despair.

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The Pause to Check System

The idea for this blog article came to me at a recent holiday party when I over-heard a conversation between two moms discussing how they were going to handle going to Christmas at their in-law’s houses. One mom lamented that the house is traditionally filled with bowls of sweets and decorated with breakables and treasured holiday-themed trinkets that her young son can’t help but touch. “He loves his grandparents,” she sighed, “but he doesn’t want to go to their house because he is scolded so frequently.”

This interchange brought up a memory of when my nephew was about a year old and he came to my house for the first time. Since I work with young children I knew that it was up to me to create an environment where he would feel happy, safe to explore and want to come back.

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The Gift of Trust

The holiday season is in full swing and this is the time of the year I find myself cringing as I observe parents in ‘high gear’ as they unintentionally put stress on themselves and the rest of their family. While the authentic desire to create some kind of magical holiday celebration is usually the impetus to the endless chaos of shopping, baking, cooking and decorating, many families wind up enduring stressed out days leading up to the big event.

Just yesterday, as I walked out of the supermarket to my car I watched a parent screaming at her two children to stop whining and asking for things. The three of them looked miserable as they passed the bell ringer who was cheerfully wishing them a “Merry Christmas!”

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