Categories
Parenthood

7 Strategies for Parenting a Sensitive Child

Parenting a sensitive child is no easy feat, trust me. I have one. B (5) is the kindest, sweetest child and I often ask everyday what I did to deserve a child as amazing as him. He will often write me little notes, or bring me gifts from the garden. Always looking out for W (7) and striving to be as helpful as possible when the situation arises.

BUT he cries. He cries A LOT. He cried from the moment he was born and he hasn’t really stopped. Okay, a slight exaggeration but he would cry as a toddler when he didn’t want to walk and I ‘fixed’ it. B is now 5 and today alone he has cried about 8 times, over what I feel are small, easily solvable situations, and I am yet to ‘fix the problem’. He doesn’t know why he cries, I don’t know why he cries. He just does and it can be frustrating, which is why I have put together the 7 strategies I employ for parenting a sensitive child.

1. Keep Calm

Have you ever heard of the phrase “adding fuel to the fire”? My parenting approach is to NOT do that. I’m maybe successful 97% of the time, I’m only human, but it works. Shouting at a child who is crying or upset, is not going to help the situation at all. In fact, research shows that shouting at a child can raise their stress levels and cause changes in their brain structure. These sorts of changes can lead to mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood. Read more here.

By being calm and lowering the temperature of the situation, I find that it can be resolved a lot more quickly, easily and calmly. That’s a win in my book!

2. Work Together

This depends on the situation/child, but as an educator and a parent I’ve noticed that children cry when something goes ‘wrong’. This is an opportunity to work with them, showing them how to fix the problem or clean up the mess. Or provide a learning experience on the logical consequences of crying. I would near more hands to count the number of times B has missed out on an activity/experience due to crying. Where I have maybe had to remove him from the room/session in an attempt to calm him down. Only for him to realise that he’s missed out and the crying to start all over again! He is still grasping the idea that the harsh reality that the world will keep on turning, and it won’t stop just because he is crying. It is also an opportunity to…

3. Provide Reassurance

In my experience, sensitive children are anxious children. They can be the sweetest, kindest child you ever meet and yet extremely anxious about anything and everything. B is a complete perfectionist, he wants everything to be exact, following the rules and if it’s not…the frustration unleashes (mainly onto his brother). Providing a child with reassurance and building their confidence is key for any parent, but it is imperative for sensitive children. The older B gets, the quicker he is finding his voice (several weeks vs. several months) and so this is my bit of reassurance for you: it won’t last forever.

4. Explore Emotions

Help your child learn all about the different emotions we can have. As a home educator we actually made it into a mini-project. We watched Pixar’s Inside Out, wrote film reviews and played an interesting version of musical statues. We explored emotions in a fun educational way, so that the children can recognise the emotions they are feeling themselves and also recognise them in others.

I also use our magnetic mood board, that allows a child to change the expression of the character to match theirs and then we talk about it.

5. Talk Together

This is a chance to talk about the WHY and the HOW, with your child. Note I stress the ‘with’. You need to talk together, to find out what works for them. NOT what works for your.

  1. WHY are they upset/angry/anxious/distressed etc.?
  2. HOW could they communicate that differently in the future?

Crying because they can’t reach a favourite toy, ask what they think they could do instead? Perhaps ask an adult for help. Maybe delve deeper into why they didn’t ask an adult for help, or why they didn’t feel able to ask an adult for help. Do they need a confidence boost? Did they actually attempt to ask for help, but you were distracted/busy and dismissed them? This is also an opportunity for you to work out how you could do better for your child.

6. Be Proactive

You should know your child by now, you know what triggers them. For example, I know that B LOVES to sing. But if anybody asked him to sing, or looked at him while he was singing, he would start to cry. He really, really hates the feeling of having a spotlight on him. Knowing this, I would be doing him a disservice if I didn’t notify his teachers beforehand. It would be unfair on him to feel singled out, and it would be unfair on his teachers and peers to have to ‘deal’ with his tears in an avoidable situation.

7. Give Space

My goal has always been to raise independent, autonomous children and that sometimes means allowing them to be in control of the situation. They can talk to me when they’re ready, instead of being forced into a conversation when they are still emotionally vulnerable. By giving them space it also means they can contribute more meaningfully to a conversation as they have been given the time to work out their feelings and what’s triggering them.

Yesterday, I made a pun with B’s name and he cried. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me as he was sad and needed some space. A few moments later he asked for a cuddle, he still didn’t want to talk but he needed comfort. When he was ready, he explained that he didn’t like his name being made fun of or changed. I apologised, because I believe in modelling behaviour and treating children as unique individuals with thoughts and feelings. The issue was resolved as he was able to take the time to reflect before confidently expressing himself.

These are all strategies for parenting a sensitive child. You may find articles on discipline, punishment or control (the parent/adult having control over the child). However, I personally believe that when a baby or child is crying they are trying to communicate something. Instead of punishing or silencing the child, we should encourage them to work through the feelings. Help them to recognise their emotions and express themselves confidently. However, if you have concerns that there may be something else going on with your child, then you should contact your doctor.

Advertisements
Categories
Parenthood

Life after lockdown

As lockdown restrictions ease around the world, I’ve been reflecting on the things I have learned during lockdown. However, I can’t help but wonder what life after lockdown will look like.

Earlier this week New Zealand announced success in their strategy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Last week schools in England ‘reopened’ to nursery, reception Y1 and Y6 pupils, despite government advisors saying and test and trace system needs to be in place before allowing pupils to return.

While Morocco has extended its state of emergency to July 10, with limited ease of restrictions. I look to other countries in search of what life could look like after the lockdown is lifted. I’m almost certain, however, that it won’t be returning to ‘normal’.

*schools have been open to children of keyworkers and vulnerable children. As well as providing online lesson and educational support for home learning throughout the lockdown.

Life after lockdown: What about the kids?

As parent of course, my focus is on what’s next for the children. As a parent I am perhaps mindful of outcomes for children during this global pandemic. After 3 months of complete isolation, and with limited contact to the outside world. I am extremely concerned about the mental health impact on my children.

I myself collapsed in exhaustion after a brief (necessary) meeting. I was out of practice. Smiling, laughing, actively listening – and it drained me, a neurotypical adult. So who really knows what the isolation and sudden reintroduction to society will do to our children? We won’t know immediately, but we can know what it could look like for our children. We can look to countries in Europe and Asia, that eased restrictions already.

Back to School?

Heartbreaking images of a French primary school playground, shocked parents all over the world. In China (where the virus was first identified), clear partitions separate students from their peers during lunchtime. Face masks are mandatory and students sit feet apart. This is not the educational future any parent imagines for their child. Separated from their peers, isolated but not alone.

What about the home educators? Or the parents who have decided to give home education a go after their experience during lockdown. Where will we go and what will our children do while large social gatherings are banned? We are instead forced to consider our options and weigh up the pros and cons, under government guidelines.

Socialising after lockdown

Before the lockdown, the children were attending a small homeschool co-op, just outside the city. It consisted of around 5-6 other families, depending on the day. A very small social circle which is now a health risk (numbers wise). I have been considering the best way to reopen our social circle once lockdown restrictions allow us to do so.

Do we create our own social bubble and trust that eveybody will stick to it? In the UK, gatherings of no more than 6 people are advised. Meeting up with families with 2 or more children would quickly bring us over the limit. We also have to consider where we are meeting and how we are travelling (public transport carries risks). As well as how long should we meet for before introducing others into our social bubble? All of these will depend on your government’s guidance and I have created a handy little checklist (below).

For me, I will of course wait for lockdown restrictions to be eased. I will take my time reopening our circle, encouraging my children to reconnect with their friends via Zoom or WhatsApp. Initial meetings – I imagine – will be relatively short, fraught with cires of ‘don’t touch!’, as well as copious amounts of hand sanitiser. I am actually at this moment (through a friend) getting reusable fabric masks made for the children. While I’m not sure if face masks for children will be a legal requirement. I am always nervous about anything that affects the lungs. Both boys have suffered in that department, and as a result don’t deal with viruses too well. They are improving with age, but it’s not worth the risk to me.

Regardless, while I cannot say for certain what life after lockdown will look like for everybody. I have no doubt that you will do the best for your family by: