I am suddenly realizing that we are a highly sensitive family. DH and I both have always been HSPs, DS (4.5) is, and I assume DD (1.5) is too, though it's hard to say for sure.
What I am wondering is if there are any others with an entire family in the HSP classification, and if there's any wisdom to share for family relationships and dynamic.
DH and I both get pretty easily flustered by DS, and we find our tone of voice getting a bit snappish more often that I'd like. We also both seem to need to withdraw/retreat when there is tension or too much wildness in our space. How can we be better about staying calm and patient and loving, rather than getting short with our son? Since I'm suddenly realizing ow very sensitive he is in certain aspects, I'm becoming flooded with shame and regret about how he's probably been feeling about our reactions to him. We don't ever aim to make him ashamed of himself, but try to help him be more aware of those around him and their need for space/safety. His exuberance is beautiful, but can be so exhausting. But he's young, and it's not like he's a problem child or anything. It's not his fault that his parents are also just easily overstimulated.
My realization of being HS, and the flood of childhood memories that come with is are really intense, and it makes me want to start all over from scratch with my whole family and see them with new eyes. I can't reverse time, but I definitely hope Ic an get past my own "selfish" needs for space and distance or find better ways to get that without ever shutting others out. As an HSP, being emotionally shut off from a loved one can be downright debilitating, and can cause soooo much stress and anxiety. It did for me, at least. The term "cortisol flooding" comes to mind. I think we all get a little too much of it around here from our reactions to one another. We need to learn some good, effective ways to manage ourselves and nurture one another ASAP.
Thanks for the space to let this out, and I welcome any and all wisdom/ anecdotes/ advice. For the record, we are an unschooling, AP, GD family.
I'm not HS nor are my kids, but I wanted to respond to your words:
" I can't reverse time, but I definitely hope I can get past my own "selfish" needs for space and distance or find better ways to get that without ever shutting others out."
I want to say that your and your husband's need for space or distance is not "selfish", if it is a true need. Everyone has a different temperament, and it sounds like you and your DH may have a greater need for quiet and serenity than your son has (at this stage of his life).
I think we all parent (or in our case, mother) from our whole selves. If you are a person who needs a certain amount of quiet to continue to function in a healthy way, then you need to take care of that as much as you can.
So, how to balance that with a bouncy young boy? Try and teach him how to be calmer and more self-contained, and provide outlets for the bounciness.
If he needs to be rambunctious, hand him a skipping rope and teach him some skipping rhymes. Then when he needs to expend that energy - encourage him to use it for (say) 3 minutes. "Skip as well as you can while doing the skipping rhyme while I admire you. Then mama will have 10 minutes of quiet time while you look at picture books. Then you can show me how fast and well you can skip again".
If you as a family are all easily over-stimulated, then seek ways to keep things calm together. Keep music soft, have regular routines as much as you can (routines can be very soothing). When my kids were young, any toy that came w/ a battery, I removed the battery. I hated the loud sounds that so many kids toys made.
But don't, in your eagerness to be a kind mother, start seeing your own needs as illegitimate, and your children's desires as over-riding. The old "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" has a grain of truth. If your needs remain unmet, how can you mother or partner with strength, calm, and joy?
Thank you, skreader, for your thoughtful response. Today, I was at the end of my rope after an exhausting week. We're talking verge of tears, deep anxiety, barely breathing, pain deep in my core. I asked my husband to take the kids for the morning so I could have some space to clean and be alone. I listened to my "focus music" to calm down (mix of electronica/lounge/spa/hip-hop that helps my brain reset and reorganize) and deep cleaned the main living space of our house. Within 30 minutes I was fully lifted out of my PMDD cloud and into domestic bliss. It was EXACTLY what I needed.
I so wish I were better at recognizing my needs before hitting crisis mode, but this experience helped me get past any guilt of getting the everyone out of my hair and to get into my zone to return to my better self. AAAHHH.... So delightful to be myself again. It is probably quite difficult for DH to understand how strenuous it can be for me to spend literally 99.999% of the kids' life with them- as a SAHM, homeschooling and nursing. I know he gets easily frazzled coming home to meet their needs, and weekends he ends up doing a lot of one-on-one with our son while I mind little DH for nap time and such. This, also, doesn't help him get the full perspective of what my every day life is like. Someday soon, he will get more of a taste, once he can have longer bouts with both kids together, and might have a better understanding of/respect for it. I know his job is taxing, but there are ebbs and flows to it and some flexibility to play frisbee with friends for lunchtime or regular trips to Home Depot for supplies with his buddy/co-worker. To me it sounds pretty dreamy sometimes, but there is a lot of pressure in his work. He doesn't listen with empathy very well, as much as he likes to show me the bright side when I vent. I appreciate his reminders that we have a pretty sweet life with much privilege compared to many, world-wide. But sometimes I just need to be hugged and hear him say, "That must be rough, honey.", as I try to say when he vents about work. I need to tell HIM that, so he knows I'm not asking him to fix my troubles.
I really appreciate being reminded that my need for quiet alone time is a very real need, and I hope to not reach crisis mode before I give it to myself next time. DH is no mind reader, and I need to make sure he (being highly sensitive) does not feel like it's HIM that is somehow in the WRONG for my needs not being met on time. I never try to make him feel that way, but have really come to see how that is his go-to perception of my discontent when it appears.
Sounds like you're working things out. I too sometimes have to tell my hubby I just need him to *listen* to me, hug me, and say that he loves me and there is NO need to try and fix things.
That said. maybe you and DH can work on a schedule. I know that I used to come home from work sooner that DH and when he vgot home, I immediately wanted to *talk* and share and be adults together. It took me a while to realize that he needed de-compression time too.
So, if your DH needs that, but you also need some alone-time - maybe you can schedule that in. If he usually gets home at 6:30, maybe 6:30 to 7:15 could be his decompression time and then he can take on kid duties while *you* have alone-time?
I know it's rough. Sometimes, when the kids were 4 and 2, my DH and I vied to see who would be the privileged one who got to do the dishes. The "loser" would have to take the kids out to play - which was often more tiring and less satisfying than having quiet time to accomplish a finite task :)
Also, given your needs, are you sure that home-schooling is right for your family? It may very well be; but I know that I would not have been a successful or happy home-schooling mama.
My family is like yours... All HSP. Unschooling, etc (consensual living). We just had our fourth baby two weeks ago, and the NOISE from the children is unbelievable! Being HSP means being sensitive to all these stimuli, but also to the sweet children, as you well know! LOL. I make huge mistakes daily, but I do practice forgiving myself and lots and lots of explaining things, especially to my two older boys (10 and 6).
I explain that I regret grouchily demanding they go outside instead of sharing that I am overwhelmed, can they take it down a notch? They receive that well, and imitate in like fashion.
Constantly showing compassion for ourselves and others. Actually, it's very hard, but we encourage each other on our best days... Grouse and complain on our worst! Always with the understanding that this moment always holds the capacity to change with the energy we're all putting in.
I think being all HSP is a huge advantage bc you all understand each other.
Most people don't understand this life, and are quick to suggest time away. I prefer being with my family (for the most part, LOL). They energize and inspire me. Most especially when I am "failing". When I render myself vulnerable, I feel they rise up in unexpected ways.
This is just our experience.
Also, I enjoy a lot of Glenn Harrold hypnosis on my iPod when it is all too much!
Thanks for the replies! I have been more aware of DS's need for big spaces to run and play. Playgrounds just don't cut it, since it tends to divide us up with DS wanting attention/companionship, but DD being too small to really be free on the bigger playscapes. It always ends up being me pushing DD in the swing while DS begs for attention. We've found a huge field at a local city park where we can kick and throw balls and DS can run run run far away without getting into danger or out of view. This really satisfies his need for big movement and loudness without making me crazy or feeling guilty about constant behavior reminders. The freedom for us all is just remarkable. We also enjoyed a trip to our local jumpoline park. Rather than being a bouncy house place with lots of division and too many kids, this place is full of actual trampolines in open spaces where we can all have fun without hurting each other. Now that swimming season is upon us, here in central Texas, we'll have yet another great space for freedom and fun in the many free local pools! I can feel all that discomfort lifting so much now, and I realized I just had to get us out there earlier in the day, and for longer periods of time. Now both kids settle in for a late afternoon nap so easily and happily, and I get my much needed downtime without being completely drained from "over-parenting" all morning. YAY!!!
I'm so happy to have stumbled across your post! I have only just discovered about HSPs and I'm not sure if my DH is, but I am and my older child definitely is and I think my little one may be too. Everything you wrote resonates with me. I haven't any wisdom to share but I know exactly what you mean in wanting to go back and start over with a new level of consciousness. I'm sure my older child would be a different kid if I had had more awareness of a) my own needs and of my inability to respond when I'm overwhelmed and what triggers that and how to avoid or cope with those situations, and, b) that he has his own similar set of needs and is easily overwhelmed and that when he's not cooperating it's often because he's hit his threshold and is in lockdown. I find it ironic that my own situation has in the past prevented me from responding more helpfully to him, but I'm grateful for the awareness and understanding I now have of both of us and my little one and we can all relate so much better now. I have two books on my bedside at the minute - one is by Elaine Aron and the other is Ted Zeff. Lots of insight in them for helping my son navigate through the very rough and loud world of boys he has landed in.