Highly Sensitive Child, What Would You Do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 02-21-2011, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure if this is the best place for this question or not.

 

My 3.5ds is I believe Highly Sensitive (as is my husband). He's a wonderfully sweet, happy, intelligent child and seems to be developing normally in all ways. My concern is about socialization and classes. W go to a fabulous Music Together program which is a parent/child class. He loves that class but doesn't ever get out of my lap- which is fine. We also have been going to a class at The Little Gym. We have gone to that class for about a year and a half and it has been a parent/child class. In this class he really doesn't like the group time, never wanted to participate or do any of the activities during group time. When the time came for free exploration of the gym, he loved that and would explore freely unless another child came too close or wanted to use the same equipment he was using. Then he moved away, letting them go first and not really wanting to try the equipment if anyone else was around.

 

Now that he is 3.5 we are going to a Sports Skills class at The Little Gym, where he is supposed to go in by himself and I am supposed to sit outside the room behind a glass wall where he could see me. It's a very small class and I think the teacher is very nice- calm, gentle voice, very patient and animated. My son will not go in by himself. So they let me come in and tried to encourage him to participate- not forcing or anything- and for the first class, ds was hesitant but willing to try. About halfway through the class, they move from the mat area to the area with equipment and when that happened, I could see the panic starting in ds eyes. He became more fearful and didn't want to try anything. After class, he said he had a good time.

 

Next class, was less successful- he did not want to get out of my lap at all and didn't want to try anything and cried or was on the verge of tears the entire time. But again after class, said he had fun. I thought that perhaps he might have a different reaction if my mother took him, so we tried that last week. He said he didn't want to go so both my mother and dh ended up going. DS refused to go in by himself and so DH went in and stayed with him the whole time. He didn't try too much and was reluctant but apparently didn't cry the whole time. 

 

Typing this out it sounds awful and feels like I already know the answer to my question, but I'd like your input. And his crying is not hysterical, fearful wailing, just calm crying, with reassurance from me the whole time. I have not tried to leave the room at all, because I feel that would be too much for him to handle.

 

My question is this: Would you continue to try this class and figure that he will adjust given more time or would you say that he's just not ready for something like that and withdraw from the class?

 

He's an only child so far and I am a SAHM. We don't really do any sort of playdates and he's not around other kids much, mostly because he hasn't wanted to be! Same thing will happen at the playground, although it's getting better. He plays just fine until another child gets close then he typically will get upset and want to get close to me again. He has one friend from music class and plays just fine with her as well as a friend next door who he enjoys(although we don't play with him much). 

 

My husband and grandmother are concerned about him because of his lack of desire to play around other kids. I sort of feel like he just doesn't want to yet. I've seen that when he feels like playing with another child he does fine. So I'm not sure what to do or think. Can you give me any wisdom, insight or BTDT stories? Thank you!

 

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#2 of 9 Old 02-21-2011, 01:21 PM
 
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At 3.5 I would just take him out. It doesn't really sound like he's ready for a class with mom in the room with him. My guess is he's more shy than anything and is still at a point where he'd rather just not do something then work through the shyness.


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#3 of 9 Old 02-21-2011, 03:37 PM
 
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Mother of a highly sensitive, slow to warm up, introvert here: Take him out.

 

Ds had exactly the same problem at exactly the same age. He was OK (not great, but OK) with parent participation classes. He tried a Daddy-me soccer class, and it was fine. The next one "up" where he was supposed to do it alone was a disaster. Anytime any child would come close to him, he'd either freeze or run the opposite direction. He was a hazard on the floor. After the first day, he was reluctant. After the 2nd, he refused to go without dh on the floor. After a major power struggle (which ds won, of course), dh brought him home. Dh's mother (I love my MIL) gently suggested that ds wasn't ready for that kind of class. We pulled him out.

 

Ds is 9 now. He's not the most social of all kids, but he just spent the night at his best friend's house. He plays soccer in the fall, he tried basketball for the first time this year, and is giving baseball one more try. He liked baseball a lot, but is afraid of the kids pitching. (Let's face it, they're not that accurate!). The best thing we did was to NOT sign him up for a lot of things in preschool. We didn't try another soccer class until age 6 and it was much better. He played soccer in 1st grade, didn't want to in 2nd, but did again in 3rd. In 3rd grade, we added baseball. This year he's got one sport a season. He's liked by the kids on the teams, when they notice him. Mostly, he just quietly participates. That's OK. He steadfastly refuses to do music (it breaks my heart, the child can pitch match perfectly!). But I know I can't force him. The world needs quiet, sensitive introverts too.


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#4 of 9 Old 02-21-2011, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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MusicianDad, thank you for your response. It confirms what I was feeling.

 

And Lynn! I'm so happy you responded. I was hoping you would. I've read many of your posts and really wanted to solicit your input. So thank you. I do feel like he's not ready to be in a class alone and that is ok with me. I just wanted to make sure that I was not hindering him in any way. I try to be really respectful of his temperament, it's just hard not to question yourself or compare your child to others when your own family is questioning what you're doing. But in typing out my question, it seemed so clear that I should pull him out of the class and try something else. He told me this morning that he wanted me to take him out of the class. So I guess I should trust him to know himself. I try to do that in other areas. 

 

Lynn, do you have any suggestions for how to help him engage with other kids? I'm not planning on sending him to preschool and will probably homeschool. But I would like to give him the opportunity to develop friendships in ways that are comfortable for him. Thanks again for your input!

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#5 of 9 Old 02-22-2011, 11:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by angelandmisha View Post 

Lynn, do you have any suggestions for how to help him engage with other kids? I'm not planning on sending him to preschool and will probably homeschool. But I would like to give him the opportunity to develop friendships in ways that are comfortable for him. Thanks again for your input!

 

Hmm... that's a tough one. Our ds was in daycare 3x a week from age 2 1/2. He had forced 'interaction' because of it. Although to be honest, he didn't really interact much with the other kids until he hit 4. His sensory defensiveness, introversion and preferred learning style all made him want to sit on the sidelines and watch, and then go do his own thing. (We did eventually get occupational therapy for his sensory issues, but I think plenty of kids have the highly sensitive nature our ds did without needing OT -- he just got a double whammy.)

 

I guess my recommendation would be to find a homeschooling group, or other group, and become a regular member. Our son needed lots and lots of exposure to the same people before he felt comfortable with them. He got that at daycare (we kept him there through kindergarten because I knew he needed a more sheltered atmosphere with people how knew him), and he gets it at church still. It took him 2 1/2 years at public school to find his niche. He wasn't unhappy, he just observed. He's still quiet. The #1 comment we get on his report card (after what a sweet child he is) is that "we'd like to have him contribute his ideas more".

 

The only other advice I can give is, after he's older, to encourage him to try out activities. We did that with ds, and it's helped. We didn't start that until he was 6-7. Then we'd say "You can try this for X amount of time and if you don't like it, you can quit."  If he REALLY didn't want to (such as music), we'd back off. If he was interested, but not sure, that's when we'd push.
 


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#6 of 9 Old 02-23-2011, 05:11 AM
 
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My son sounds very very similar in temperament. We basically can't do any kind of class because he will sit completely frozen in my lap the entire time and refuse to participate. I've found as he's getting older that in the community there's an expectation that by his age (almost 4) that he should be dropped off. I will not do that and he's not ready, so when he is ready for a class I'll look for something that we can participate in together. Honestly, it's been an emotional journey for me to accept DS as he is filled with moments where I feel frustrated and like a complete failure. The biggest thing I've learned is to balance pushing DS a little and knowing when to walk away. I personally tend to walk away quickly from an activity that isn't going well, so sometimes I have to push myself to keep us involved.

My son is who he is. He's shy, won't sing or dance in front of other people, really doesn't care about socializing at all. I think it's hard to have an introverted kid, because you as a parent have social needs, or maybe you're extroverted (I personally am introverted so we're a good match at times) and because there is a ton of pressure from society to "socialize" your kid, whatever that means. I've given up on all the pressure - he'll meet his needs when the time comes and that time is clearly not right now. I trust him.

As for his social needs, we are unschooling so I really want to develop a community of kids around us. We're doing that through a small AP homeschooling co-op we attend once a week, and to my surprise, it's working out well. It's probably the first thing DS has gotten something out of, but there is a high level of comfort with the environment and the kids (we've known them all for about two years). We're also pretty involved in our local attachment parenting group, so that provides some social opportunities, and some of us are working on taking classes as a group so we can maintain our parenting goals of being present.

Oh, and having an other kid has helped. DD is only 6 mos but the girl is so much more social than DS. I truly see now that it's personality on his part, and it's nice to have a kid who might actually enjoy going to music class here and there. She'll push him as well, so it's good.

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#7 of 9 Old 02-23-2011, 06:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you! I do think the hardest thing is pressure from others. I can easily see that this is just how he is, it's just hard to not question yourself when everyone else expects him to be some other way. It's nice to come here and affirm how I'm feeling. I've also been feeling like another child would help, too. We've wanted more than one all along, but I guess I've been a little nervous as I'm now 42. And I've only just now started really feeling ready to try to add to our family. DS has also recently started saying that he would like another Ian(his name) and that we should put another car seat in the car. It's been pretty cute.

Again, thanks for the input and encouragement to trust myself and trust my child. I can see he's not ready for this class and there's no need to continue as it's causing increasing amounts of stress. Thank you!
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#8 of 9 Old 02-23-2011, 09:05 AM
 
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I would take him out of the class.  It sounds like just being around a bunch of other kids is enough for him to deal with.  Having to deal with that without a parent right nearby is just a bit more than he can handle right now.  I would continue to look for activities that are parent/tot, or even something less structured (playdates, playgroups, playing at indoor or outdoor playgrounds, etc).


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#9 of 9 Old 02-25-2011, 10:26 PM
 
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Mom of an introverted, highly sensitive DS here as well. I could have written your original post regarding the way your DS handles being in a class like that. My DS1 was just like that in Gymboree around the age of 2 1/2-3yrs. It took trying 3 different teachers before we found one that clicked with him and wasn't too loud or pushy or just all around too stimulating for him. Once we found a low-key teacher, he loved the free explore time during the class, but when it came time to do the parachute, bubbles or group stuff, he was having none of it. And don't even think about getting him to hug that life size Gymbo doll. ;)

 

After a while, he started to not enjoy the class, was asking to go home 10 minutes into it, so we dropped the classes. 

 

I know how hard it is when the people around you are questioning your choices or "encouraging" you to socialize him more. The reality is, it doesn't matter how much or how often you put him into social settings, he is still going to be the same person. Exposing him unnecessarily to situations he doesn't like won't make him social, it will make him uncomfortable and anxious. You are doing the right thing by listening to him and reading him so well. Stay strong and try to ignore all the well-meaning input. The best gift a highly sensitive child can receive is a parent who understands them, doesn't judge them, accepts them for who they are, just as they are. Your DS has that. :) 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post

At 3.5 I would just take him out. It doesn't really sound like he's ready for a class with mom in the room with him. My guess is he's more shy than anything and is still at a point where he'd rather just not do something then work through the shyness.


It might be that this is true, or it could just be that her DS doesn't enjoy being around all those other kids. When you are an introverted and/or highly sensitive person, large crowds, loud settings and chaos can override an experience enough for it to just not be worth the effort. 

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