Tips/Resources for Raising a "Highly Sensitive" Toddler - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 07-01-2006, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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So, I'm really not into labels, but as my DS gets older (he is 26 months now), I am recoginizing some personality traits that some define in a "highly sensitive child." I see his gentle and sensitive manner as something wonderful to nuture and cherish. I love and really want to encourage the way he explores his world so carefully. (Our time at the park is spent touching the different types of bark on the trees and watching the ants crawling on the sidewalk, rather than going up and down the slide). But, his personality also raises questions for me about how I can be the best parent to him as he struggles with transitions to new places or activities, or gets frustrated easily, or gets his feelings hurt easily, etc. (I certainly know some of this is just par for the course for a two year old, too).

I'd really welcome any ideas, resources, books, etc. Any thoughts??

(I'm sure there are past posts about this issue, but today I can't seem to figure out how to search this forum like I've done in the past)
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#2 of 5 Old 07-02-2006, 12:05 AM
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Hi. They've disabled search because of too much traffic.
My dd is like your son... I think. She's also what I must learn to no longer call "anal."

It is great that she'd never run into the street and stays close to me when we are out in public. She's a great kid to just go out for coffee with! Its not the parenting experience I was expecting, though. I was expecting to have gates up around my house and chase her down in restaraunts and clean up after she painted herself with her food. Instead, I walk into the living room and if she hasn't been attached to my leg or helping me with a project, I'll find the books, stuffed animals and whatever else I left laying around neatly sorted and lined up along the coffee table or wall. Its very nice... but it does worry me. I worry about her difficulty to cope in chaos, imagine her having anxiety attacks in school and concern myself way too much about her gross motor development. And other things, but... well mothers worry, right?

But I have found that when I relax and show her that I have complete confidence in her, she often does to. None of this is advice, just what my dd has taught me (if I were to sum it up, I'd say she taught me to shut up.) I am there for her if she asks, but must remember not to come to her aide when she's frustrated if she doesn't call me. Often her grumbling and whining has nothing to do with me and I must remember that, which is difficult since just last year I was the center of her universe. If I can demonstrate that I trust her to decide when she needs help, she trusts herself too. And she'll take on bigger and bigger challenges (even the slide!). I am also learning her rhythm when it comes to warming up. When we come to a new situation, I have learned to first explain where we are and what's going on. Then I watch silently with her. She may finally comment, or just start to grin a little. We talk a little more. Then I can say, "do you want to try ___?" She's usually ready then. If no, then we watch some more and I may start to involve myself in a way that doesn't push her into it at all. If I push her, she'll lock up. If I'm casual about it, she relaxes and gets curious.

Peers have influenced her quite a bit lately. If she sees another kid - often a slightly older kid doing something, she'll try it and even get messy or silly or whatever one would expect from a toddler. Often it's the next day or so, but it happens. (Of course I can find things to worry about with this too, but moving on.) She has a small group of friends that she feels very comfortable with and they can often bring the "kid" out in her better than I can.

But for the most part, I just feel blessed for having such an amazing person in my life and excited to see where she goes from here. And thankful for the lack of trips to the ER.
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#3 of 5 Old 07-02-2006, 04:00 AM
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Do you know the book "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Elaine Aron? I highly recommend it. If for nothing else than to validate that this is a perfectly normal trait. But she has some nice tips too. I'm also reading "The Hidden Gifts of the Introvert Child" which is pretty good too.

Our son is 5 and is definitely 'highly sensitive' in many ways. What I've learned from him (OK, and from myself as I fit that label to some extent as well), is:

-Give him his own time as much as you can. We too spent most of our time when he was one and two exploring, examining and noticing etc. Our second isn't as observant, and I actually miss those kinds of walks.

-Make sure you offer him chances to climb and run with your support. Ds wasn't very adventerous on his own, but if I was there, he WOULD try things, and did enjoy climbing, sliding, etc if we took it slowly.

-Don't avoid new experiences with him because you think they might be difficult. Just be prepared to be there and support him through it. Try them a couple of times before concluding it's not his thing.

-Watch the level of stimulation -- we can't do too many things in a day. Ds is a lot happier (and I am too) now that dh has an mp3 player and the radio isn't on at home all the time anymore. Until recently, we couldn't go to really, really busy places without difficulty. (He has, alas, recently discovered Chuck E. Cheese's via classmates' birthdays. Chuck E. Cheese is my idea of hell!)

-Give him lots of time to warm up. I can't tell you the number of times where we were at a function of some sort and I was beginning to despair of his joining in or playing at all, and then just as I was ready to leave, he warmed up. Generally it took 45 minutes or more for him to warm up to a new situation.

-Give lots of time for transitions. My kitchen timer is my favorite parenting device for ds. We set it for EVERYTHING when he was little so that he would know what to expect. (This is the child who wanted to know when the sun was coming out from behind the clouds!) We'd warn him and say "when the timer beeps, it's time for XXX". When we're out, I give a 5-3-1 minute system of warnings (with some flexibility on the 'minutes' if I've misjudged readiness to switch).

-Talk about emotions, label them, role play them at times when he's not upset. Label your OWN emotions as you go through them. "I'm feeling tired and out of patience right now" "I'm really having fun!"

-Talk about how he's learned things. Our ds gets easily frustrated and I find that it really helps just to note that "gee, last year you couldn't pedal at all, but you practiced, and now you can ride up the hill!"

-Do everything you can to keep other people from labeling him as 'shy'. Our son does not speak to strangers. Period. He takes time to warm up to friends and family. If someone asks him something and he doesn't respond, they will often say "Oh, you're shy?" I will always respond "No, he talks a lot when he knows people" or "He just takes a bit of time to warm up" or "He likes to watch a bit before he dives in". He's NOT shy. He's quite comfortable with other children and plays well with them. But adults insist on labeling him as shy. :

-Enjoy (and write down!) the gifts that he has. Our son observed at age 2: "Moon has no doors." and then a few minutes later "Planes have doors." He noticed at 16 months the fact that the publisher's mark on the spine of books is the same as it is on the back of books. I can see him working on the concept of unexpected things now - when he plays fireman, the fires are 'scheduled'. "Another fire in 3 minutes!" he'll announce as he runs to get his boots and hat on.

I've seen our son blossom in so many ways recently that it's clear we took the right approach in following his lead, with some gentle nudging along the way. He'll now talk to and play with unfamiliar children. We were at a function not too long ago and he watched for about 2 minutes and then ran off to join the kids. Best of all, he's comfortable with who he is!

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#4 of 5 Old 07-02-2006, 02:07 PM
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thanks for these great ideas LynnS6
I would really second the idea of lots of warm up time
really my dd spends almost an hour of time to warm up to newpeople and places - eg. a different playground or even a change of some sort such as my friend having a new slide in her garden ..........other children don't seem so phased by such things but dd needs to absorb the difference and feel comfortable with it before she will explore - so don't push this, just stay with it is my advice too
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#5 of 5 Old 07-03-2006, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much. I did just order the book "Highly Sensitive Child" simply to help, not to define. Again, I really cherish DS's personality, so this is truly about me. I want to be sure I have all the information I can to be the best possible mama to my little guy!
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