Seven Reasons Not to Compare Your Highly Sensitive Child to Anyone

“Why is my child different?”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve compared your child to your friend’s child, the child at the playground, the child next door, and worst of all, your child’s sibling.

We all know it’s not right, but sometimes we really can’t help it. We compare to reassure ourselves everything is okay or to prove to ourselves that things are not. And what other reference do we have than other children?

For a number of reasons, my husband and I have caught ourselves too many times watching other children in awe as they climb trees or jump into a pool, completely carefree and with such ease you can’t help but conclude that this is what all children are built for. Splinters, bruises and water up their noses mean nothing to them. Because, we tell ourselves, they’re kids. And that’s what kids like to do.

Too many times we have wished our child could be a little more like those other children.

And way too many times, we have compared our son to his little brother, who, since he was born, was so different from our eldest in the way that he behaved, the way he took risks, and the way he was around other kids, just to name a few. It was something we weren’t used to, and so it naturally gave way to many unfair comparisons.

Even though we will still sometimes do it secretly, my husband and I have learned through the years that one of the worst things you can do to your child—and yourself as a parent—is to compare your child to other children, or yourself to other parents. This is obviously true for all children, regardless of whether or not they’re highly sensitive. Nevertheless, I do find the topic especially relevant to highly sensitive children because we generally resort to comparisons when we feel our children stand out in ways we—or others—perceive as negative.

I know it’s easier said than done because we naturally tend to look to the world around us for differences and similarities to better measure and understand what we know. But before you compare your sensitive child to another—and then make judgments and set expectations based on that—consider the following:

Seven Reasons Not to Compare Your Child to Anyone

Highly sensitive children tend to be perfectionists. This means that while other children might be drawing, painting, building, using scissors, or playing an instrument, yours might still be perfecting her skills before she shows the world what she can do.

Highly sensitive children are cautious. Climbing, swimming, swinging from trees, and going up and down the stairs might be second nature to most kids. Yours, however, is assessing the risks of those physical activities other children enjoy so much, and calculating his every move, trying very hard not to get hurt. And really, is that such a bad thing?

Highly sensitive children have a lower threshold of pain and discomfort. Yes, it is frustrating—perhaps even a little embarrassing—when our children seem to “over”react by wailing uncontrollably over minor scrapes, bumps and bruises, while other kids seem to be able to pick themselves and dust themselves off, moving on to the next thing as if nothing happened. Although it feels like our sensitive little ones are exaggerating, chances are they’re not. They do feel pain more intensely and will react accordingly.

Highly sensitive children have rich and complex inner lives. Too often, I feel like I’m talking to myself when I try to say something to my highly sensitive child. It almost feels like he’s not there, and the blank look on his face doesn’t help. He will later demonstrate that he was very much “there” by repeating every word I’d said and then giving me his deep analysis on the matter. Even though it feels like the lights are out, there’s actually a whole lot going on in there.

Highly sensitive children are like sponges. Their thin skins will allow everything to affect them. To make things worse, they can pick up on the subtlest of changes in their environments—including those changes in your attitude, tone and facial expressions. When you start to judge your children based on what you see in others, whether you like it or not, your child will know something’s up, and the result won’t be good for her confidence and self-esteem.

Highly sensitive children are very hard on themselves. The last thing they need is for you to be hard on them.

Everyone is unique, highly sensitive or not. Because children are all different, regardless of the similarities they might share, the will behave differently, feel differently, think differently and even develop differently. As a parent who has once freaked out about every little difference she noticed and every milestone that wasn’t reached “on time”, I learned the hard way that as long as my child is learning, developing, and not hurting himself or anyone else, there’s no need to worry.

Needless to say, parenting a highly sensitive child comes with some very specific frustrations, some of which can be very isolating. But parenting in general is usually a frustrating and challenging thing, no matter what our children are like. And always keep in mind that the child you see at the playground, next door, and in your daughter’s classroom may not be the same child at home. In other words, you’re not with those other children all the time and have no idea what happens when you’re not watching. I can grantee it’s not always as peachy as it seems.

Our highly sensitive child, from day one, has shown us such wonderful things in the way that only sensitive children can. The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s been magical in so many ways, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter how much easier it could’ve been.


 

As a side note, I want to add that comparing our children to others can sometimes help us point out serious issues which need to be dealt with. Comparisons on their own are not necessarily a bad thing. However, it’s when we start judging our children or asking them to be more like other kids and less like themselves, that things can turn very sour and real damage can be done. I hope I was clear about that in my post.

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. We can all learn so much from each other!

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Sensitive the Sequel

The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

Last September, something big happened!

Fifteen months after Dr. Elaine Aron announced her “big project”, she presented the world with a movie that would change the lives of manyUp until the release of Sensitive – The Untold Story, sensitives around the world were coming together, forming support groups and communities, letting each other know they weren’t alone, and trying, each in their own way, to shed light on what it means to be highly sensitive. There have been blogs, news articles, books and podcasts all of which have contributed to the increasing popularity of the topic, something many of us couldn’t even imagine might ever happen just a couple of years ago.

And then, on September 10, 2015 there was a movie! This character trait we’d been talking about for so long, while struggling to explain to others what it meant when we ourselves didn’t quite understand, was on the big screen!

Now, say what you will about the power of movies versus books, but having someone watch a documentary about a trait you desperately need them to understand is probably more doable than having them read a 350 page book. Presenting a friend, relative, teacher or caregiver with something that is so visually appealing will more likely guarantee you get your message through. Nothing will ever replace books as a source of information, but as the director of Sensitive – The Untold Story, Will Harper, said during his visit to Singapore, the movie will drive more people to read the book they need to read. The movie is a catalyst, helping to speed up the reaction we desperately want, leading to changes we desperately need.

When Diana Harper, the producer of the documentary, contacted me in October, asking me if I would be interested in being in the “next film”, I had to read the message a few times before it sank in. There were two aspects of this news that were thrilling to me: one, that there would be a sequel dedicated to highly sensitive children and two, that we were going to be in it.

Diana and Will Harper in Singapore; makers of Sensitive the Movie

Diana and Will Harper (producer and director of Sensitive – The Untold Story) in Singapore

I remember when that first movie was in the making, a significant number of people, including myself, were already asking for a movie that would focus on raising and caring for a highly sensitive child. After all, it’s with our children that it all begins. It is at that point that we can do things right and prevent problems they might otherwise have to live with for the rest of their lives. It is schools with impossible standards and teachers who are quick to judge that we need to convince. It is friends and family who point fingers and give unsolicited parenting advice we need to bring to our side. As adults, we can fend for ourselves; we’ve had time to live with and understand our sensitivities (to a certain extent, anyway). Our children however are still trying to figure out why they seem to stand out from the crowd, why they can’t seem to enjoy things all their friends do, and why no one else seems to find this world so overwhelming. It is our job as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, to help them understand themselves better, and to try and make this world a more accepting place. And what better way to do that than with the help of a catalyst, a documentary featuring parents with real stories about their sensitive children, a tool that can convey a strong and important message in sixty minutes.

This is a good time for sensitives. It wasn’t long ago that my husband and I were completely alone and hopeless, wondering what we were dealing with and whether or not there was anyone else out there going through the same thing. And today, we are part of a nice big, supportive community of people in the same boat, in a world that is a little more understanding and little more open.

And after the release of the sequel, who knows where we might stand. But we can already feel the changes the first first film has led to. We can hear the message louder now. We know more highly sensitive people now. We hear more stories told candidly with less shame now. After having the pleasure and honor of getting to know Will and Diana Harper, the talented, ambitious and passionate filmmakers and beautiful people behind this change, I know that a project of such importance couldn’t possibly be in better hands.

Sensitive the Movie: A sequel in the making focusing on Highly Sensitive Children

Luca and Will: The beginning of a great project!

All I can say at this point, now that my wishes for a documentary about highly sensitive children are coming true, is that I have high hopes for the impact ‘Sensitive The Movie’ will have on the  world our children grow up in, the schools they go to, and the people in their lives.

Does the release of this next movie mean schools all around the world will finally acknowledge the fact that some kids just function better in different settings? Does it mean highly sensitive children will no longer be misunderstood and treated unfairly? Will this movie put a stop to unrealistic expectations from parents and relatives who push their kids to be like everyone else?

I can’t say for sure, but I certainly can’t wait to find out!

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Movie. This one will focus on raising and caring for Highly Sensitive Children (Elaine Aron)

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

The film makers are calling for submissions of stories from parents of highly sensitive children! Here is the announcement from their latest blog post on Sensitive The Movie:

We are currently on the search for more families with inspiring stories about raising a Highly Sensitive Child, the obstacles they had to deal with, and what they might have done (or wanted to do but couldn’t). If you have a story you’d like to share with us, and would like a chance to be featured in the film, please email it to us in 500 words or less at info@sensitivethemovie.com with the subject line MY STORY.

To read more about the sequel that is currently in the making, and about Will and Diana Harper’s visit to Singapore, click here

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“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.” – Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, a country with a rough history and little hope of a brighter future, people have grown skin far too thick for their own good. On closer look however, one can see how a people can evolve in that direction, having little time to stop and consider the things in life that don’t have a direct impact on the now; having been forced to move fast and think fast, and fight constantly to get through every single day. Placed in this sort of situation, where practically nothing comes easy and the most basic requirements for comfortable living can’t be taken for granted, it becomes easier to understand why the general attitude towards sensitivity is, well, not great.

Suck it up, son. It's no big deal. - Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, people are expected to get back on their feet again right after they’ve been knocked down. They’re expected to brush things off like they never happened. “Suck it up” (or man up / toughen up / get over it / pull yourself together) and “it’s no big deal” are things we say as often as “hello” and “goodbye.” Dwelling on something that may have hurt us or crying over disappointments is simply unacceptable. Whatever it is, you pick yourself up and keep going. That’s how it is. We don’t question it. We simply try to do what is expected of us.

But for those of us who are more sensitive than most, those words can be damaging. For those
of us who thoroughly process input (whether we like it or not), who feel much more deeply about the events that occur in our lives, and who require more time to collect ourselves after a difficult time, those words can leave scars that run deep.

Last year, we went back home for the holidays. During one of our family outings to a lake near my parents’ town, there was a young family standing close to where we were, feeding the ducks. At one point, the father climbs up onto a ledge for a reason that is beyond me, while his son, who must have been no more than four years old, pleaded with his father to get down while crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking, but what happened next was even worse. The father laughs at his son, stays up on the ledge a little longer, pretending he might fall over into the lake. He then jumps back down, tells his son “it’s no big deal,” picks him up and puts him up on the ledge where he panicked. The mother, carrying a baby, thought this was hilarious and laughed while her son begged his father to put him back down.

No one looked at these people like what they were doing was heartless and somewhat criminal. No one looked because to them, it was no big deal. Nothing happened. No one fell. And besides, boys aren’t supposed to cry anyway.

I suppose when a real threat a people has to constantly face is war, sensitivity is not the strength a country is looking for. Sensitivity might even be looked at as a major hindrance during a fight. I can’t even begin to imagine being thrown into a battle and have to watch people die all around me. I simply can’t.

But then again, without people who do over think and over analyze and over feel, how are things ever going to improve? When nothing is a big deal, what in the world would drive us to change our situation for the better?

You had a car accident, you say? So what?! An emergency C-section? Get over it, you both made it! Someone flicked you off for no reason? Big deal!

You’re worried too many trees are being chopped down? Too much garbage and pollution? Too much violence? Too many animals on the brink of extinction? It scares you that the planet might be in trouble?

“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.”

That’s what we tell our friends, family, colleagues, and worst of all, our children. If nothing is a big deal, if we’re taught to repress every feeling but anger, how is anything ever going to change? If no one cares about a thing, who’s going to fight for peace? For human rights? For gender equality? For sustainability? For the planet?


 

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti


 

Unfortunately, this is not just something I witness back home. It’s something I see everywhere. Boys are expected to behave like men—whatever that means—and fathers, mothers, teachers, strangers don’t hesitate to point that out.

As the mother of two boys who cry whenever we pass by workers pruning some trees on the road (because “they’re cutting off too much”), I can only say that it fills my heart with pride and joy to see such young people  care so deeply about what goes on around them. It is true that parenting a highly sensitive child can be frustrating at times, but is asking our sensitive boys to ‘man up’ the solution?

My highly sensitive son, on his sixth birthday last month, asked his friends to help him support a charity his chose himself instead of bringing him presents. He cried for about forty five minutes after we read The Journey Home, a picture book about how some endangered animals might one day join the dodo if we don’t do something, and decided to support a charity that helps the planet on his next birthday.  For a school project, his Christmas wish (as we saw it up on the classroom wall during his Christmas party) was for there to be no more war in the world so that people would stop dying and getting hurt. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is, we have very little to do with the opinions he has and the plans he comes up with. That’s all him. That’s the way he is.

And in my opinion, that is the way all “men” should be.

A six year old supporting a charity on his birthday instead of receiving gifts - The way all "men" should be

Too often, I hear of mothers complaining that their husbands don’t understand, or won’t accept their highly sensitive sons. A great book every parent of a highly sensitive boy should read is “The Strong Sensitive Boy” by Dr. Ted Zeff, in which he interviews thirty highly sensitive men form five different countries, demonstrating the factors that had the biggest impact on these individuals growing up, such as relationships with fathers, school, making friends, sports, just to name a few. Reading these men’s stories and finding out what helped and hurt them the most is not only moving, but also helps to open the eyes and hearts of fathers ̶ and mothers ̶ who may be trying to “toughen up” their sensitive boys.

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Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories – My Guest Post on Happy Sensitive Kids

Amanda van Mulligen, one of my favorite bloggers, asked me to guest post on her blog, Happy Sensitive Kids, which is an absolute honor!

Amanda is the mother of three highly sensitive boys and a brilliant writer. She asked me to tell her why I decided to write picture books for highly sensitive children which required me to go back to a time when I didn’t know what “high sensitivity” was; a time when my husband and I felt painfully alone in our struggles; a time when worry and doubt consumed us.

Head on over to Happy Sensitive Kids and read our story.

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories

PUBLICATION DAY IS HERE!

My Dearest Readers,

Today was one heck of a day. It was nerve-racking. It was exciting. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Today was publication day!

Our picture book for highly sensitive children, All Too Much for Oliver,  is finally available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. We have worked so long and so hard to make this happen, and it’s finally happened.

All Too Much for Oliver - Picture Book for the Highly Sensitive Child

My son reading All Too Much for Oliver

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The creation of a picture book for highly sensitive children

A couple of years ago, when I thought I’d try and write a children’s book that would help highly sensitive kids “feel more normal” (as one lovely reader put it), no one could have prepared me for the incredible amount of time and energy that would be required to pull it off. No one.

After two years however, as I hold my very first picture book in my hands—a beautiful book if I may say so myself—my heart fills with joy and a sense of accomplishment, even if sometimes it feels like it took much longer than it should have to reach the final stage. But then when I give it more thought, and count the number of times the story was edited and the number of people who were involved in the process, I wonder if this could’ve happened in less than two years.

Copy of our Book "All Too Much For Oliver" - Picture Book for Highly Sensitive Children (HSC)

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Finding the right children’s books for highly sensitive children

For as long as I can remember, reading three books at bedtime has been part of our nightly ritual. Three books is our rule—at least until the kids are a little older and the books become a little longer.

Our kids love their books. Our highly sensitive son, who is now almost six, has had a love for books I have never seen in anyone else. By the time he was one, we owned over one hundred picture books. And now, almost five years later, we’re struggling with finding space in our little home for our ever-growing collection.

So clearly, books are important in this house. But when one of your children is highly sensitive, choosing the right stories, especially at bedtime, is a challenge I never thought we’d have to deal with. To me, stories like Little Red Riding Hood, The Gingerbread Man and The Ugly Duckling are children’s book essentials . At least, that was before my son made me realize what these stories really were.

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A sensitive little expat: Learning to say goodbye

A few days ago, I got to rip out the September page off my wall calendar. I had been looking forward to doing that, but when the time came, I stopped to look at one little square before I crumpled it up.

I stopped to think about that one particular day, and to say goodbye one last time.

On the 4th of September, one of my dearest friends moved back home with her family. I cried like a baby, as I cry now while typing these words. I’d known the day was coming for some time, and yet I still could not deal with it gracefully. For the rest of the month of September, that square, marked with my friend’s name followed by a sad face stared me in the eye, as if challenging me to remain strong and collected, when every bone in my body shook with the urge to break down in a teary mess right there on the kitchen floor.

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Sensitive, The Untold Story – A beautiful documentary about a beautiful trait

Last night, my husband and I did something we don’t normally do.

Our nightly ritual normally consists of us putting the kids in bed, finishing up the housework, and then slumping down on the couch, mostly with a glass of red wine, to watch something that requires minimal brain activity and triggers little to no emotional response. Some might frown at the idea of two people shutting down that way when the day’s over. But at the end of an overwhelming day, that is how we unwind and empty our buckets.

Last night however, we decided to sit down with a glass of white (only because we’d run out of red) and watch the long-awaited and much anticipated documentary, ‘Sensitive, The Untold Story’. And it was beautiful, and moving, and deep, and I am still choked up thinking about it this morning.

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Do you ever envy parents with non-Highly Sensitive Children?

My toddler started attending daycare three time a week about a month ago. He cried the first three times I dropped him off. On the fourth day, he said good bye and didn’t look back.

That’s the way most “When My Kid Started Daycare” stories go, but it’s something I simply cannot take for granted. It’s not something I expected, and not something I can easily get used to, and that’s only because I know just how badly that same story can go. It’s actually all I’ve known, until now.

In an online forum last week, one mother (who clearly was having a bad day) asked:

“Do you ever envy parents with non-Highly Sensitive Children?”

Without hesitation, I clicked on the comment box and typed: “Never.”

And although that maybe true now that my son is five years old and has metamorphosed into someone much more resilient and flexible and carefree, it wasn’t always the case.

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