Coping for the Highly Sensitive Parent - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 02:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Are there any HSP moms around? I'm referring to the term coined by Elaine Aron for people whose nervous systems are more sensitive to subtle stimuli. She says that about 15% of the population is high in the trait of sensitivity. To give a brief description, HSPs (highly sensitive people) are more easily overstimulated and overwhelmed than most. On the other hand, they are also tuned in to useful information that others tend to miss, like nonverbal cues. For instance, I am super-sensitive to noises that my husband can't hear and get very aggravated in noisy environments. I am also highly attuned to how other people feel, which can be a plus and a minus. If you're not sure whether you're an HSP and you'd like to learn more, I suggest checking out the website. It offers a free assessment that tells you whether you are an HSP or not?

For those of you who are HSPs, I'm interested in whether you feel that parenting has been different for you than it is for others who are not highly sensitive. It has always been quite a task for me to reap the advantages of my sensitivity and to manage my life so that I don't become overwhelmed, which happens rather easily. What, if any, benefits do you see in being an HSP and a parent? What drawbacks? Any particular coping mechanisms you've developed to manage?

Mom to Punchkin (15 mos), falling deeper in : with DH everyday
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#2 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 02:51 PM
 
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Yup, that's me. Part of my coping is focusing on the computer so I can ignore the overwhelming stimuli in the rest of the house. When the TV is on, I really need to withdraw and easily lose track of time then turn around and realize it's much later than I wanted to get to bed/get the kids to bed and the house isn't cleaned up yet and I can easily fly off the handle.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18, and Jack, 12
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#3 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 03:00 PM
 
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I am a beginning to realize that I, as well as my son, am highly sensitive. Noise really bothers me. It was really hard for me when DS was a baby because he cried a lot and I couldn't handle the sound. Anything high pitched, continuous, loud really bothers me. I love quiet. Some people like to have a TV or radio on all day. I can't stand it. It is hard for me when DS and DH play loudly together. I have to leave the room most of the time because the noise drives me crazy.

I am highly sensitive to scents as well. We are chemical/scent free in our house for this reason. DS is sensitive to these things too. I have a hard time in public because the smells really get to me.

DS used to have a lot of sensory issues with clothing. He was bothered by tags, scratchy material, holes. He would freak out if something had a hole in it and would have to take it off or if it was someone else, they had to take it off or he would not look at them. It was odd, but fits with sensitive children.

I think it is hard to parent as a sensitive person because sometimes you just can't get away from the things that get to you. I find that I tire out easier because I get over stimulated and then my body just shuts down. I take naps a lot and need a lot of quiet time. DS is the same way so it helps from that aspect.

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#4 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 03:24 PM
 
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Yep, I'm an HSP. It's affected me, not just as a parent, but in careers too. Not to the point of dysfunction, but to the point where things bothered me greatly and added undue stress on me. For instance, my job in forensic science, I was too attached to what I did and I was troubled a lot by my work, and quit after 5 years, even though I was quite successful at it. My colleagues, however, just ran along just fine, handling the stresses of the job with relative ease. Most of them are still there today. Toward the end of my stint there, I was having panic attacks, that oddly went away when I got a different job.

But as a parent, sound is my trigger. And visual clutter. It sets me on edge. I'm constantly shushing my kids and other people's kids. When I'm tense, the sounds of normal kids playing/arguing etc has the potential to set me off. It's imperative I remove myself from it. It's also the reason I soon get rid of electronic toys if someone gets them for the kids.

I tend to not be as sensitive to smells but it could be because my parents were smokers (I'm only guessing). I AM incredibly sensitive to cigarette smoke and can detect even a small waft of it.

Oh, and I have an HS child. We have had our share of clashes, before I started understanding the needs of the HSP and had more respect for her sensitivities as well as mine.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#5 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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Add me to the list....and it's pure chaos here.
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#6 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 06:56 PM
 
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I'm just going to throw this out there...

I've looked at my dd's "symptoms", and have tried to find out what her "problem" is. I've thought she has behavior problems, emotional disabilities. I even took her to get evaluated by my state's early intervention program. She refused to participate (did I mention she's also highly introverted, and I didn't realize that either because she didn't behave introverted around me).

You know what I'm concluding the further I dig (and this is literally like...today), is that I have two dds showing signs of giftedness, my eldest and my middle child (my youngest is too young to really tell, but she really is different than the other two).

Overexcitabilities are very common in gifties (is that even a word????). I'm moderately gifted, dh is moderate to highly gifted. My children have all been overly alert as children.

I'm learning there is more than a casual link between giftedness and emotional intensity.

I'd guess you'd qualify as gifted, given your academic career. I would venture a guess if your or your dh is gifted, your son will also be gifted. So the key to success is realizing the importance of emotions yours as well as your child's while looking for helpful techniques and offering understanding and support.

I'm really beginning to understand my dd in a way I didn't before. I'm so excited about it.

http://www.roeperconsultation.com/Ar...the_gifted.htm

Another book you might like is The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. It's an eye opener to introversion (something I also suspect you are - gifted people tend to be introverted). Your child may or may not be introverted, but it really is an interesting read.

I'm just speculating right now on your behalf, but consider it as a possibility. At any rate, I do believe with mindful handling, there is a way to turn these apparent negatives into positives, as the HSP shows.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#7 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 07:41 PM
 
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I'm highly sensitive. I'm also introverted. What a combo.

I can really resonate with the noise sensitivities. I've been sitting home all day in a completely quiet home while the kids are at school and dh has been at work. It's been blissful. That's all going to come to an abrupt halt in about 15 min.

The worst noise for me is when dh watches some sporting event on TV -- I can't handle that "haaaahhhhahhhhhh" spectator noise in the background, and then the commentators yelling above the noise when something happens. I might as well be chewing glass.

I think the hardest part about being a highly senstive parent for me is dealing with the emotions of children. I can get worked up in about 2 seconds flat when there is a "crisis." Not a real emergency, but one of those where when one of the kids has a melt down over something not tragic. Too many events like that in a given day really drains my energy. I don't feel like extending too much of myself when it's been "one of those days." DH is not highly sensitive (and he's extroverted,) so he doesn't get that sometimes I just can't do any more when it's been a tough day. My ds is highly sensitive (and introverted) and dd might be highly sensitive, but I'm not so sure. She's extroverted, so we have a lot of interesting dynamics in our home.

The best part about being highly sensitive parent is that I can quickly assess a situation and know what will make it better for the dc's. My dh says that I'm always about 2 steps ahead of him.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#8 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 07:46 PM
 
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This is really revolutionary to me. I mean I've read about sensitive children and consequently knew about sensitive adults. I figured I was a very sensitive child and consequently a sensitive adult. But to have it all layed out like this is wild for me. Virtually everything is me. It's me entirely. I'm kind of overwhelmed by it, actually.

But then in the back of my mind I think, well, are these traits general enough that they just pick up on some common personality traits in our society and put them together so a significant proportion of the western population can come together and feel like they belong somewhere. Because afterall, aren't we socially taught to want to belong?

I want to believe it because it speaks so true to me, but I guess that deeper, complex inner life seeks to know more. I will do some research on counter opinions, as I'm sure there are some.

Thank you so much for this.

As for coping... I don't do it well. I do retreat and tend to be known as a loner. I love being anonymous. My marriage is breaking down for all the reasons listed in the hsp in love section of her website. I don't think I'm cut out to be married. But I so want to be with someone who gets it like I do... someone who feels life like I do.

hmmm..
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#9 of 88 Old 01-24-2008, 11:00 PM
 
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Me too!
I also am sensitive to noises, to smells, and I have had anxiety/panic experiences. I also am very optimistic by nature and find the positives. I find that I trust in my intuition in a way that others' in my life can't comprehend. I have this sort of sixth sense that I can almost read peoples' minds and I'm a great judge of character. Luckily my partner and my son both seem to be this way, so we all "get" each others' sensitivites and we spend a lot of time at home being quiet or hiking through the woods. My partner is even more sensitive than me!

*Liz* : mountain mama to DS 12/04
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#10 of 88 Old 01-25-2008, 12:50 PM
 
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I'm highly sensitive, too. And an introvert. Having 3 kids is hard. It's just not always possible to get away from what bothers me, so I have had to learn to cope.

I have trouble with noise (too loud or too many noises at once-like when everyone tries to talk at the same time), chaos, too much visual stimulation, crowds, being touched too much or having people in my space too much. I have trouble with the kids' meltdowns-I get can get worked up very quickly when they meltdown, it's just so...overwhelming.

I like earplugs. If the kids are noisy, I turn off any noisy objects (radio, tv, other) if I can. I do a lot of deep breathing. I try to keep the house uncluttered (but this is a huge challenge for me, and I often don't really keep it uncluttered). When the kids are really clingy/close, I need to take breaks to get some physical space. Routines help us all, by taming the chaos.

I have a highly sensitive child too.

There's a book called Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world that I like, and have gotten some good coping strategies from.
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#11 of 88 Old 01-25-2008, 01:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgreen View Post
This is really revolutionary to me. I mean I've read about sensitive children and consequently knew about sensitive adults. I figured I was a very sensitive child and consequently a sensitive adult. But to have it all layed out like this is wild for me. Virtually everything is me. It's me entirely. I'm kind of overwhelmed by it, actually.

But then in the back of my mind I think, well, are these traits general enough that they just pick up on some common personality traits in our society and put them together so a significant proportion of the western population can come together and feel like they belong somewhere. Because afterall, aren't we socially taught to want to belong?

I want to believe it because it speaks so true to me, but I guess that deeper, complex inner life seeks to know more. I will do some research on counter opinions, as I'm sure there are some.

Thank you so much for this.

As for coping... I don't do it well. I do retreat and tend to be known as a loner. I love being anonymous. My marriage is breaking down for all the reasons listed in the hsp in love section of her website. I don't think I'm cut out to be married. But I so want to be with someone who gets it like I do... someone who feels life like I do.

hmmm..
I understand your skepticism, but these have a lot to do with personality traits that have been studied, not new things that have just been pulled out of the air.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_sensitive_person

Brain research is being conducted all the time that helps gain understanding to personality traits. There are certain physiological differences in introversion and extroversion. There are different pathways that are involved with introverts and extroverts. It's very interesting to see how biology and temperament intersect.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#12 of 88 Old 01-25-2008, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmcmommyto3 View Post
I understand your skepticism, but these have a lot to do with personality traits that have been studied, not new things that have just been pulled out of the air.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_sensitive_person

Brain research is being conducted all the time that helps gain understanding to personality traits. There are certain physiological differences in introversion and extroversion. There are different pathways that are involved with introverts and extroverts. It's very interesting to see how biology and temperament intersect.
Thanks for this! I'm diving right in there to learn more. On the wikipedia page there is a paragraph about hsp students. I'm a grad student and my profs are always saying that I need to speak more in discussions. Well, I sure have a lot of really interesting thoughts going on in my mind during discussions, but I just never feel capable or really all that compelled to try to verbalize them. That was a very comforting paragraph for me to read. I've been convinced I am not a worthy grad student because I can't partake in discussions very well.

Thanks so much!
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#13 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 12:36 PM
 
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I am a teacher and HSP. I love my kids, but I hate their cartoons and garish noise toys. I like them, but I hate the cafeteria, the bright, angry colors everywhere (Blood-red, lime green and screaming yellow). I like soft pastels and quiet colors that don't upset me. I can never tune out smells. I like calm meditative work that the children enjoy and aren't overwhelmed with. I never liked recess as a kid, all the screaming and running around.

Working with so many people and unable to ignore anyone's distress is tricky.
For years I thought I was touchy, weird, and I'm not ruling out controlling. In my guided reading groups, I use highlighting tape for every tricky word in their little books. They love that fancy tape, and they do remember the words well, but guess what? I only like to use blue and green tape because red is too angry. I have a red lover who requests the red tape, but I feel like I am still snapping at her just by putting red tape down. That she requested.
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#14 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 02:12 PM
 
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I am. For me I get easily overwhelmed when there is a lot going on at once. I am effected by the emotions of people around me and pick up on non-verbal cues easier then the average person. I have a hard time with things such as being in crowds, even a crowded grocery store is too much for me to handle. I have a rich inner life. It used to drive my mom crazy that I could just lay in bed for hours daydreaming. I was very athletic and played softball and soccer but could not perform during the games, I would get too nervous under the pressure of being watched. I also was a swimmer which was a perfect fit for a HSP (you can't hear anyone or see anyone when you're in the water, practice also gave me a lot of hours to just think). I have always been described as very sensitive and when I was younger I was very shy. DD is aslo a HSP. She is only 20 months old but it's very clear to me. How it manifests, we shall see. DH is too but in very different ways. he is sensitive to things like taste, smell and detergents and tags in his clothes. He can read people very well.
DH is gifted and so am I even though I was an underachiever. I think dd is but she's so young it's hard to say for sure. I do think as a pp mentioned that being highly sensitive is related to giftedness at least in some areas.
As far as how it effects my parenting...
I get overwhelmed by the crying and constant demands and not being able to have time to just relax and think. It also is helpful because I can relate to how she is feeling and can stop a meltdown before it happens. We are so in tune with on another, it's almost like we can read each other's's minds.
Being a hsp is both a blessing and a curse. It can be very hard but has a lot of positives as well.
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#15 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 05:07 PM
 
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I think it's one of the reasons we ended up with only one child. I like quiet and downtime and I hate schedules. I hate crowds and noise and too many people talking at once.

Luckily dd was the perfect fit for me as a parent. She was an alert and independant child even as a baby. I was really afraid I wouldn't get as good of a fit the next time
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#16 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 05:50 PM
 
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Wow, this is me. I am super sensitive to light/colors/sounds. In fact, when job hunting the first thing I look at is the lighting and colors of an establishment...I cannot be in a place with garish colors or bright lighting. I'm senstive to the way certain fabrics feel, some just feel so icky to me...they totally creep me out.

I also have super duper hearing and a crazy sense of smell.

"Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen." Ralph Marston

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#17 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 07:21 PM
 
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I am a HSP raising two HSP. Thankfully, my dp is not. Which helps when I am having a hard time. I am a much better parent, imo, than I would have been if I were not sensitve.
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#18 of 88 Old 01-26-2008, 07:47 PM
 
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Im an HSP, as is my ds.
I was the only one in my family of origin. They continue to refer to me as having a "mental illness," although I most definitely do not. They just cannot understand that me being so incredibly different from them does not make me ill, lol.
When I became a mother, I had this beautiful experience of being so in tune with my child that he never cried to be fed or changed, etc. I kept him a bassinet the first few weeks before I became confident that he could sleep in my bed. I would wake up in the night and look at him just as he opened his eyes or started to root. While I had prepared myself for sleepless nights and a hard time, we had NONE of that.
Then he started to walk and say "Unt to!" (I dont want to, his NO) and things got harder. especially once he started talking from the time he woke up until he finally passed out at night. It is still this way. Sometimes I tell him to PLEASE just be quiet a few minutes and I admit I have told him, more than once, to SHUT UP, during times of extreme stress.
He got an unsatisfactory grade in PE and so I went to school during that period to see what is going on in there. OMG about 200 kindergarteners in a gym yelling and running and throwing beanbags, and kids crying, and myriad little girls coming to hug me HOLY MOLY! I had planned to volunteer during this period and my son wants me to come back but I cannot do it!
It has definitely affected me in working- I worked at the Waffle House once and wound up breaking down in tears more than once on a busy shift. My last job worked really well for me as I didnt have to deal with the public, but I did wear my sunglasses all the time in the flourescent lit lab. It bothered my boss, but I would get a headache if I had bare eyes in there!
Mostly for me, though, it's sound. MY dp- not an HSP- is a yeller. When he gets angry and yells, I retreat. He doesn't understand and says "Go run off and hide." It is very hard for us to understand each other and harder still to get along.
I smoke to get a moment to myself. I go outside and ds cant come. This is terrible and I badly need to give up smoking but I know I need the escape.
I do not deal well with stress and overstimulation and people, and tend to be a hermit.
The positives are being able to read people, to see through their facades, to know what is really going on. It is almost like having a sixth sense- I find people dont like to admit to the truth if I present it and I have doubted myself alot. But often some truth is very clear to me despite its being suppressed or denied by someone else. And still, I am very tuned in with ds and know what is bothering him and usually how to help.
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#19 of 88 Old 01-27-2008, 12:49 AM
 
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I am a highly sensitive person too.
I'm glad to know that other HSPs are here at Mothering too!

In high school I met my friend Robin we clicked right away and she explained the HSP concept to me. Years later I got the book and WOW I was blown away and wished I'd bought it right away.

I can be overstimulated by lights, sounds, smells, touches, colours, sights, etc. I also get overwhelmed when there are too many people or too much going on. (Going to the Air Canada Centre once for a concert almost drove me out of my skin. There were so many people there and all I could think was that if there had been a fire we would be trampled as everyone tried to escape.)

Living with DH can be quite the challenge at times. He is a mechanic and often loud and unaware of how jarring the noises he makes can be.

I am very sensitive to other people's feelings and especially their facial expressions.

In public school I was tested a couple of times for being gifted. I don't think they had the information then that they do now. The teachers (for the most part) just didn't seem to understand me.

Being an HSP parent makes a huge difference. I am affected so greatly by my love for my girls and wanting to do the best for them.

I've been incredibly careful when it came to choosing babysitters and teachers for Hope (not that I got to pick her teachers in public school!). I'm sure because of this some people might see me as overprotective. I truly understand how incredibly important these people are as role models in a young child's life and do my utmost to make sure they are nurturing instead of stifling.

Having an HSP friend is tricky. Some times/moments we can totally relate to each other and at other times/moments we trigger each other.

Most people are either left-brained or right-brained. I am centre-brained. So is my friend Robin. I have this theory that being HSP means you are centre-brained. Is anyone else on this board centre-brained and HSP?
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#20 of 88 Old 01-27-2008, 10:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmcmommyto3 View Post
I understand your skepticism, but these have a lot to do with personality traits that have been studied, not new things that have just been pulled out of the air.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_sensitive_person

Brain research is being conducted all the time that helps gain understanding to personality traits. There are certain physiological differences in introversion and extroversion. There are different pathways that are involved with introverts and extroverts. It's very interesting to see how biology and temperament intersect.
Thanks for that clarification kmcmommy. I am a personality researcher (of sorts) and felt I should be able to respond to that post but couldn't think of a clear, non-academic answer.

I knew I couldn't be the only HSP mom out here. I identify with so much of what has been said. I have always found it difficult to manage as an HSP, especially since I'm also an HSS (high sensation-seeker; Elaine Aron talks about that combination in her book). Becoming a parent has added a new dimension. I generally can't just retreat when I get overwhelmed, as I was once able to do. In a way, it has forced me to honor and appreciate my sensitivity more since the costs of getting overwhelmed will not only be borne by me, but also by my family. I have found it particularly difficult to deal with working and parenting. Even having cut my work hours back drastically, it is hard to make time and space to retreat. I envy those hardy mothers who work full-time, cutting back on sleep and food and whatever else the human body normally needs. I can do none of that. I'd break down after one day of less than 8 hours of sleep and skipped meals! I just can't function day-to-day on the slowly health-eroding behaviors that are so common among Americans. On the other hand, I am glad my body forces me to take care of it. I think that's one reason why people always think I am much younger than I actually am.

I think that attachment parenting has helped me to cope better than other parenting styles more widely practiced in the U.S. No way could I stand to lie in bed listening to my baby cry himself to sleep. Something in my gut rebels against that. He is a high-need, super-energetic person. Keeping him close most of the time has kept him calm. Like a PP, my son never cried when he was with me, as an infant (he cries plenty as a toddler, unfortunately). And it's not like he was the type of baby that just doesn't cry. He'd unleash with his father, but I think I was just able to anticipate and respond to his needs very well.

The parenting research is pretty clear on the fact that sensitive, responsive parenting is one of the most important determinants of children's attachment and well-being. If that's the case, it seems that sensitive moms can have an advantage as long as we manage the downsides that can lead us to becoming overwhelmed and withdrawing or lashing out.

I'll share a few of the ways I cope:
  • Get up well ahead of DS in the morning to ensure I get some quiet time
  • Take DS on long walks or runs in the stroller or backpack so that we can both have some time with nature (being outside always calmed him)
  • Go to bed with DS to ensure I get enough sleep (The downside is that I get absolutely no time in the evening with DH, but I'd be no good without sleep. DH is usually wiped out anyway, wanting his own quiet time. He's also an HSP.)
  • Leave the TV off when DH is not home and have him wear wireless headphones when the TV noise gets to be too much
  • Sleep with white noise on always
  • Take at least a few minutes each morning to breathe and stretch

Despite those things, I'm still working on the whole concept of actually capitalizing on my sensitivity rather than just trying to manage it. A really good resource I have found is http://highlysensitivesouls.com/assessment.htm . She offers an assessment of whether your sensitivity is working for or against you. I wasn't surprised at the results, but it was a good reminder that I could actually benefit from being an HSP rather than just "managing". There is also an e-mail newsletter available at that site that I have found helpful, a little something to draw my attention back to where it needs to be.

Thanks to everyone for sharing! I hope to hear from others.
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#21 of 88 Old 01-28-2008, 01:35 PM
 
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Do you think Highly sensitive people are more prone to depression? I have struggled with depression throughout my life and so has DH. I worry that DD will too. Just curious if a lot of HS people struggle with this. My guess would be yes. Just curious.
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#22 of 88 Old 01-28-2008, 02:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you think Highly sensitive people are more prone to depression? I have struggled with depression throughout my life and so has DH. I worry that DD will too. Just curious if a lot of HS people struggle with this. My guess would be yes. Just curious.
The book "The Highly Sensitive Person" discusses this. Based on her research, she says that HSPs are no more likely than non-HSPs to be depressed unless they have had traumatic childhoods or childhoods during which they were made to feel "less than" because of their sensitivity.

Personally, I have tended toward depression, and I did have a pretty awful time as a child. DH, also an HSP, does not struggle with depression at all, and he has sanguine memories of his childhood. I have known other HSPs with stable upbringings who didn't seem to have problems with depression.
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#23 of 88 Old 01-28-2008, 04:15 PM
 
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The book "The Highly Sensitive Person" discusses this. Based on her research, she says that HSPs are no more likely than non-HSPs to be depressed unless they have had traumatic childhoods or childhoods during which they were made to feel "less than" because of their sensitivity.

Personally, I have tended toward depression, and I did have a pretty awful time as a child. DH, also an HSP, does not struggle with depression at all, and he has sanguine memories of his childhood. I have known other HSPs with stable upbringings who didn't seem to have problems with depression.
Very interesting. I do need to read that book. My family, especially my mom and sister have alwasy looked at my sensitivity as a weakness and something that I should just get over. "You need to toughen up" was something I heard frequently. I hope that just understanding it and being able to see the positives in it will help to make things different for my dd. I'm going to get a copy of that book asap.
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#24 of 88 Old 01-28-2008, 04:40 PM
 
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Thanks for that clarification kmcmommy. I am a personality researcher (of sorts) and felt I should be able to respond to that post but couldn't think of a clear, non-academic answer.

I knew I couldn't be the only HSP mom out here. I identify with so much of what has been said. I have always found it difficult to manage as an HSP, especially since I'm also an HSS (high sensation-seeker; Elaine Aron talks about that combination in her book). Becoming a parent has added a new dimension. I generally can't just retreat when I get overwhelmed, as I was once able to do. In a way, it has forced me to honor and appreciate my sensitivity more since the costs of getting overwhelmed will not only be borne by me, but also by my family. I have found it particularly difficult to deal with working and parenting. Even having cut my work hours back drastically, it is hard to make time and space to retreat. I envy those hardy mothers who work full-time, cutting back on sleep and food and whatever else the human body normally needs. I can do none of that. I'd break down after one day of less than 8 hours of sleep and skipped meals! I just can't function day-to-day on the slowly health-eroding behaviors that are so common among Americans. On the other hand, I am glad my body forces me to take care of it. I think that's one reason why people always think I am much younger than I actually am.

I think that attachment parenting has helped me to cope better than other parenting styles more widely practiced in the U.S. No way could I stand to lie in bed listening to my baby cry himself to sleep. Something in my gut rebels against that. He is a high-need, super-energetic person. Keeping him close most of the time has kept him calm. Like a PP, my son never cried when he was with me, as an infant (he cries plenty as a toddler, unfortunately). And it's not like he was the type of baby that just doesn't cry. He'd unleash with his father, but I think I was just able to anticipate and respond to his needs very well.

The parenting research is pretty clear on the fact that sensitive, responsive parenting is one of the most important determinants of children's attachment and well-being. If that's the case, it seems that sensitive moms can have an advantage as long as we manage the downsides that can lead us to becoming overwhelmed and withdrawing or lashing out.

I'll share a few of the ways I cope:
  • Get up well ahead of DS in the morning to ensure I get some quiet time
  • Take DS on long walks or runs in the stroller or backpack so that we can both have some time with nature (being outside always calmed him)
  • Go to bed with DS to ensure I get enough sleep (The downside is that I get absolutely no time in the evening with DH, but I'd be no good without sleep. DH is usually wiped out anyway, wanting his own quiet time. He's also an HSP.)
  • Leave the TV off when DH is not home and have him wear wireless headphones when the TV noise gets to be too much
  • Sleep with white noise on always
  • Take at least a few minutes each morning to breathe and stretch

Despite those things, I'm still working on the whole concept of actually capitalizing on my sensitivity rather than just trying to manage it. A really good resource I have found is http://highlysensitivesouls.com/assessment.htm . She offers an assessment of whether your sensitivity is working for or against you. I wasn't surprised at the results, but it was a good reminder that I could actually benefit from being an HSP rather than just "managing". There is also an e-mail newsletter available at that site that I have found helpful, a little something to draw my attention back to where it needs to be.

Thanks to everyone for sharing! I hope to hear from others.
Thanks so much for the link and for the very thoughtful and thought provoking discussion. I just filled out my assessment, but wonder if I'm going to have trouble getting results, as I have a yahoo email account. I can predict what it's going to say, because even though I have acceptance for who I am, I'm rather short on the self-care and self-soothing aspects.

I keep thinking I'm liking your perspective on things quite a bit. I was where you are with regards to the work/home thing a while ago. I tried so hard to make it work, and failed miserably. I was letting my family down and my job and myself. I didn't want to walk away from my job, but as it was, I just couldn't make it work. Maybe if I only had 1 child, but I got pregnant so soon after the first that it totally tipped the scales. I may not have quit if I only had one.

Because I'm determined to know my kids better than my mom cared to know me and my siblings, I'm studying personality too. It's partly because I have children like me, bright and sensitive, but since I don't have great coping skills, I didn't have any idea how to teach them good coping skills. AP for infants worked pretty well, but it wasn't until toddlerhood and preschool that I realized AP isn't enough (and AP totally made sense for me in the infant-early toddler stage, even as my family all warned me to "put that baby down" from day 1 - phooey on them). But as my dd2 got to middle toddlerhood (about 3), I needed to find other answers because there was something going on with her that I didn't understand at the time.

Dd2 would have these horrible meltdowns over seemingly benign things. For a while I was going down the wrong track, thinking something was "wrong" with her (I thought maybe she had Asperger's or some other social development/personality disorder), and it was creating a really destructive dynamic (because sometimes I mistakenly thought she was just being stubborn on purpose, or people like my family would just try to pass judgment). Until I dug a lot deeper, got the HSChild and The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child and realized she was an introverted HSC with very few coping/self-soothing skills. She's one that needs to be taught, and I'm the one to have to teach her them. Only, my mom never taught me how special my gifts were, or the challenges that went with being an introverted HSC (and of course at the time, it wasn't even in possible to know much about parenting aside from word of mouth techiques), she just spent my childhood and early adulthood trivializing my whole experience.

It's been a very long journey, and I have a way to go to help dd2. But she is much better than she has been in a long time. And I respect her feelings a lot more than I used to (even though I really need to invest in earplugs, because sometimes she's unhappy and I'm not in a very receptive mood for her expressions of unhappiness).

Anyway, this is for me, the greatest blessing I've gotten from quitting my job and trying to work harder at understanding my children. I'm becoming really in awe of who they are because I'm not trying to force them into something they are not. And I have the luxury of time to do be able to do that.

I know I'm prone to dancing on the edge of depression, because I forgot the simple things like self-care and taking time to figure out what it is that restores me (and I'm finding out that it's not a job at the moment, but it is being creative, and having a sense of direction, and most recently, I have an outlet for all my wayward thoughts. I started a blog, and I'm pretty excited about it - once I get more on it, I'll probably put it in my signature). My family still influences how I feel about myself, particularly because they still don't get it. They still don't understand who I am and why I choose to do things differently (and why I value people over things). They don't have a complex inner world that totally consumes them at times like I do. They think rather narrowly, and it has put me totally in another dimension from them.

Fortunately, my kids are like me. I get them and they will always have that support I didn't get. Because I'm taking the time to find out about them, learning as I go, but getting closer to the answers every day. It's absolutely wonderful!

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#25 of 88 Old 01-28-2008, 04:46 PM
 
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Very interesting. I do need to read that book. My family, especially my mom and sister have alwasy looked at my sensitivity as a weakness and something that I should just get over. "You need to toughen up" was something I heard frequently. I hope that just understanding it and being able to see the positives in it will help to make things different for my dd. I'm going to get a copy of that book asap.
The words I heard all the time were "You need to get your head out of your a$$"
That sentiment is something my girls will hopefully never ever have to hear.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#26 of 88 Old 01-29-2008, 10:58 AM
 
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Me! I look forward to reading all the advice in this thread. Yesterday I had an overload and since I had seen this thread it reminded me of what was going on (crazy playdate in morning, crazy new swimming lesson complete with overheated pool area, screaming and running off 3yo, noise, touching . . .).
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#27 of 88 Old 01-29-2008, 12:14 PM
 
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This week is really challenging to me. I work from 6:45-12noon. Then I have errands to run, drop off an elderly lady so she can visit her DH in nursing home, go back to work from 2:45-5. Go home, make supper and get stuff ready for DS's birthday this weekend.

By the end of the week, I know I am going to be at my wits end. I don't normally work from 2:45-5, but I am filling in for someone on vacation. It is for an after school program at school. 50 kids yelling and goofing off......AAAAAHHHHH!!!!

It is truly enough to drive me crazy, but I am trying to make it easier on myself. DS and I will take a nap after lunch so that I can have a bit of a break and some quiet today. May try to put off some of my errands until the weekend.

Hope, check out my life at http://thethriftyqueenspeaks.com
 

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#28 of 88 Old 01-29-2008, 12:50 PM
 
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double posted.


 

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#29 of 88 Old 01-29-2008, 12:53 PM
 
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i am definitely a highly sensitive person.. have been since a kid. it is hard finding people to nurture that side of a person. fortunately i have. an ex-boyfriend of my mom's that is a hsp and a counselor, a family friend, and my husband. without them being there for me, i'd be lost!

noise doesnt really bother me though. if i had to go back to work, i would think about teaching kinder. i love their chaos. it is so innocent and pure. well at least for most of them.


 

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#30 of 88 Old 01-29-2008, 02:01 PM
 
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Okay, can I just say I totally suck at conflict resolution? Because I'm an HSC and easily get overwhelmed with chaos and noise, when my 3 girls start fighting over ANYTHING, I start getting really upset and want it to STOP RIGHT NOW! And sometimes the yelling escalates, because it's me adding to the ruckus.

And I love my dd2, but her voice just grates on me. And she never, ever stops talking. I try to honor her need to talk, but often I have to reign her in, "indoor voice, shh, calm down".

I feel badly about that, but being sensitive to sounds, and introverted too, I just want peace and quiet and can't get much of it.

I'm about to tear this house apart to find earplugs...dh used to have tons, now they can't seem to be found.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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