Overexcitabilities run in families. That’s why I write so much about handling our OEs around our intense children. All that energy under one roof can be ‘interesting’.
But there’s an upside to living in an intense family, and as my children get older I’m starting to realise how wonderful that can be.
Have you ever tried explaining one of your passions to someone who doesn’t experience life as intensely as you? If you have, you don’t need me to tell you about The Blank Look.
Only people who share our intensity can understand the visceral feeling of excitement we get when we’re gripped by a passion – The drive to know everything there is to know about something. The way our bodies vibrate at a higher and higher frequency until we feel like we might explode, our consciousness transcending this realm and leaping forth into the far corners of the multiverse. (Or is that just me?)
That’s how I felt the first time I saw my husband. It wasn’t him that triggered my passion, though. It was the music we were dancing to. My friends had wanted to hang out in a bar whose music desiccated my soul, so I cut them loose and headed somewhere the music made my heart sing.
Relationships that start in nightclubs aren’t meant to last. But now I understand intensity I know why, nineteen years on, I’m still in love with the man I met that night. Our intensity is what brought each of us to that place, and it’s what’s kept us together.
The intensity my husband and I share is also what gave us our awesome children.
The trouble was that after they were born, I couldn’t listen to music.
Every album in my CD rack triggered feelings too intense for me to handle. I’d end up filled with melancholy remembering moments from my past, or so excited I needed to go out dancing now.
Not very useful when you have to cook fish fingers for a couple of pre-schoolers.
I couldn’t listen to new music either, because until I’m emotionally connected with the lyrics, music sound like noise to me. And with two high-needs kids, I couldn’t handle any more noise.
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Then my daughter discovered music.
For her thirteenth birthday we took her to see her favourite band live, and her passion for music exploded.
She bought herself an electric guitar, writes songs with her bass-playing BF, and they jam with their drummer friend whenever they can. She’s on a mission to listen to every pop punk band from the 70s to date. And then of course there are the fandoms.
In case you don’t know what a fandom is, here’s how my daughter explained it in a video she made (before her passion for music got started):
‘The joy of fandoms is the community. Everyone else is as crazy about this thing as you are. Fandoms are a great place to express yourself. You can find so many kindred spirits. You can write or create art, or you can just enjoy being with people who are like you, which is a wonderful thing. If you feel like it’s weird to be a crazy fangirl/fanboy – it’s not weird! There are loads of people like you!’
(You can see the appeal of fandoms for young people with OEs, can’t you?)
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Thanks to my passionate daughter, music’s returning to my life big time. It’s so much fun knowing someone else who listens to the same song twenty times in a row because one line of lyrics gives her goose bumps. Who ponders aloud why she always gets a dopamine rush during a certain Twenty One Pilots song. And who loves it when I turn up the car stereo so we can bask together in Brendon Urie’s mellifluous vocal range.
Music’s giving me something wonderful to share with my daughter. I love my intense family. 🙂
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Do you share your passions with your children?
Does music transport you to intense extremes?
I’d love to hear from you!
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Do you live in an intense family, too? I’d love you to join me on my journey learning how to live life to the max while keeping our balance and helping our children find theirs. Just write your email address in the box below to receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.
When I saw the subject of today’s GHF blog hop, ‘When homeschooling your gifted child becomes a drag – Your top tips’, my first reaction was, ’A drag? Homeschooling’s never a drag – I love homeschooling!’
Does that mean I’m some kind of saint with infinite patience who jumped at the chance to put my career on hold while I teach my kids arithmetic and grammar?
Ha ha. I think not.
No. For me,
Homeschooling’s like flying a plane – a constant exercise in course-correction.
About 2% of the time we’re smoothly headed towards our destination (happy, educated kids). The other 98% of the time I’m looking at where we’re at and thinking how I can change things to get us back on track.
When homeschooling starts becoming a drag, it’s usually for one of three reasons: anxiety, boredom, or a clash in learning styles.
1. ‘He’s not learning enough!’
Every homeschooling mum worries that she’s failing her kids in some way.
And when you’re a rainforest-minded mum of highly able children, this anxiety sometimes goes into overdrive.
Our kids’ education is our job, and just as with any project we undertake, we want to do it to the best of our ability. How do we know we’re doing a job well? We see results.
But how do you measure results when you’re homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities? This tendency to measure our self-worth in this way can put intense pressure on our kids and on us.
When we hear about someone else’s son reading 500 books in a year and our 9-year-old can barely read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we feel like a failure.
We see a friend’s daughter crocheting hats for her own Etsy shop, and we wonder why our kids aren’tcrafting entrepreneurs.
When someone on a forum mentions that her 8 year old is studying trigonometry, we despair that our 10-year-old will ever master long multiplication.
Tips for getting over homeschooling anxiety
1. Remember: we can’t measure learning by physical output. Our kids aren’t machines. They’re living, breathing young people, busy forming neural pathways they’ll use to contribute to the world in their own unique ways.
2. Trust that your child is learning everything he needs to right now. We can’t force learning to happen. If we try, our efforts are bound to backfire. Our job is to offer our children the opportunity to learn.
3. Don’t compare your child to others. Focus on his strengths. So what if your dysgraphic 11-year-old’s handwriting is worse than his 6-year-old cousin’s? Focus on his fantastic maths. All-rounders are overrated.
4. Don’t let any subject become a battlefield. Put it on hold it for a while or encourage your child to do the minimum he can tolerate. If he feels the need to learn it later, he will.
I know one mum who gave up teaching her 11-year-old daughter maths because the arguments over it were ruining their relationship. Four years later her daughter decided she wanted to pass maths GCSE (the exams English schoolchildren sit at 16). After a few months’ intense study, she passed the exam comfortably.
5. My biggest tip for soothing anxiety about your child’s learning is to have your own interests. Take up an instrument, learn a language or craft, or write a blog – anything you have more direct control over than your child’s learning.
Don’t equate your success as a human being with your child’s academic progress.
2. ‘This is so BORING!’
Gifted and 2e kids often have a high need for stimulation and a low boredom threshold. And if they’re anything like my kids, they won’t hold back from telling you when something isn’t working for them.
Tips for keeping homeschooling interesting
1. Ditch the curriculum. My kids’ need for variety is one reason we’ve never followed a curriculum. Fortunately I love researching fun new ways for my kids to learn. (See resources below for links to my homeschooling posts on how we learn maths and science without curricula.)
2. Take regular time off. Our term time routine is based around my daughter’s activities, but we never do the same thing for more than a few weeks at a time. This is partly because I plan regular breaks during school terms, especially in winter.
Last week, for instance, we spent four days at a forest holiday village. We spent our days sliding down rapids and traversing treetop courses. Our evenings were spent sitting around the log fire playing cards or watching movies together.
And in March we’re headed to Spain where my daughter’s doing an intensive Spanish course and my son and I will absorb the Spanish sunshine and culture.
Before we go away I sometimes feel anxious about my kids missing out on academic work. But when we get back relaxed and energised, I know it was worth it. Plus, of course, they’ve learned heaps while we’re away.
Even if you can’t go on vacation, you can still benefit from this tip by declaring a games, projects, cooking, literature, art & craft, or nature week – whatever appeals to your family.
3. Be sure to include plenty of variety and fun as part of your regular routine. Our favourite way of doing this is by playing writing games (usually over tea and cake) and doing plenty of hands-on activities.
4. Allow time for tangents. Another reason we don’t follow curricula is my kids’ tendency to go off on tangents. No curriculum means no pressure to get through a bunch of material. This leaves plenty of time for the kind of learning that’s going to stick with my children long after the books are closed – the kind that follows from their own curiosity and imagination.
3. ‘Why can’t he just keep still and focus? It’s driving me mad!’
‘Straight after lunch he sat down at the table and worked quietly until he’d finished’… said no parent of a kid with psychomotor OE ever.
So why did it take me so long to realise that I was the one who was going to have to change?
Even six years into homeschooling, I still occasionally find myself on autopilot putting maths books on the table. Then I remember that maths happens on the floor, where my son has space to jump, roll and tickle the dogs as he works.
Tip for dealing with different learning styles
I have just one tip here, but it’s an important one:
Be willing to adapt your learning style, rather than expecting your child to do things your way.
Life’s just so much easier when we accept our kids’ quirks and stop trying to make them fit our mould.
I still struggle to concentrate when my son’s fidgeting around me, but things have been much more peaceful since I accepted that it’s even more difficult for him to focus when he’s still, than it is for me to concentrate when he’s fidgeting.
Lately we’ve been negotiating over lighting. On a dark winter’s afternoon, I can’t read without having the lights on, while my son finds overhead lights overstimulating. I may have to invest in a head torch!
My extroverted daughter, meanwhile, needs to verbalise every maths problem she tackles. I can’t hear myself think when someone else is talking, let alone follow their reasoning. This is especially true when they’re following a different mental process from mine. I’ve learned to nod quietly along until she reaches a conclusion, then together we write out what she did in a way that my visual learning style can follow.
Of course we want our children to be able to sit still and concentrate by the time they reach adulthood. But right now they’re using so much energy learning to manage their OEs, sitting still and keeping quiet is too much to ask.
So let’s grant them the grace that homeschooling affords, and let them get there in their own asynchronous way.
What are your best tips for homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities when it becomes a drag?
Do your children have overexcitabilities? I’d love you to join me on my journey learning how to bring out the best in our awesome sensitive and intense kiddoes. Just write your email address in the box below to receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.
It wasn’t just the day I finally learned why my son was so different from other kids.
Nor was it only the day I discovered that my daughter’s passion went hand in hand with her empathy.
It wasn’t even ‘just’ the day I felt fully understood for the first time ever.
No. At that workshop nearly two years ago, I stepped into a whole new world.
A world where quirkiness is cherished and supported. Where I no longer feel like a bad parent. Where I don’t feel anxious that my kids and I are too much, or too sensitive. A world of kindred spirits who understand my struggles and celebrate my joys.
The Embracing Intensity podcast
One of those kindred spirits is Aurora Remember Holtzman, the delightful woman behind one of my favourite podcasts, Embracing Intensity.
‘Each week, Aurora interviews a strong, creative, and sensitive woman who embodies what it means to embrace intensity in order to show you how to embrace life in its fullest. Listen to unlock ways to unleash your fire – without getting burned!’
Over the last few months I’ve enjoyed listening to Aurora chat with some of my favourite women. She’s interviewed Your Rainforest Mind author Paula Prober, My Little Poppies blogger and podcaster Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, and InterGifted founder Jennifer Harvey Sallin, among many others.
If you want to stay sane when your kids fight and help everyone learn from the process, you need to do three things:
1. Deal with the immediate situation
2. Recover (let go of all the negative energy you’ve absorbed)
3. Help your kids heal and learn from what happened
Here’s a crockery-smashing example from our family.
I walk into the kitchen, feeling calm after meditating and looking forward to afternoon tea together. My children are arguing loudly about who gets to microwave their cocoa first.
Someone kicks someone else.
I throw myself between them to prevent escalation.
Unable to hit back, the injured child throws a full cup of cocoa across the room and swipes a jugful of milk off the counter as they storm out.
1. Deal with the immediate situation
After checking the kicked child is okay, I spend the next half hour picking up broken china, scrubbing cocoa off cupboards, and mopping the floor.
On the outside I’m completely calm, but I know I’m holding back my emotions until it’s safe to process them.
I put the dirty towels in the washing machine and head for my room.
I tell my kids that I’m going to meditate, and quietly suggest they do something to help them calm, too.
As I begin listening to a guided meditation about relationships, tears begin to flow.
However good your boundaries, it’s difficult to be in the thick of intense negative energy without absorbing some.
I give myself an imaginary hug as the soothing words of the meditation wash over me.
Fifteen minutes later I’m feeling much calmer. But when I imagine talking with my children about the incident, I feel stressed again. I need to be fully regulated if I want to help my kids process and learn from what happened.
I decide to use a technique I’ve used many times with clients, my children and on myself.
The Fast Phobia Cure works by recoding the way the brain stores a traumatic event in our memory. It’s more complicated to explain that it is to do, so I won’t go through all the steps now, but if you’re interested leave me a comment and I’ll share the process in a separate post. In the meantime, these instructions are the clearest I’ve come across (scroll down to How to re-programme your amygdala using NLP).
As I use the Fast Phobia Cure, I check in with myself to see how triggered I feel when I think about the fight. After cycling through the process four times, I can barely summon any negative emotion, but I’m left with a slight heaviness in my chest.
I’m on a roll now, so I tune into the heavy feeling and ask myself which direction it’s moving in. (Emotions are energy, so they can’t stay still.)
I imagine physically removing the feeling from my chest, flipping it over, and replacing it so that it’s spinning in the opposite direction.
As I notice how much better that feels, I imagine the new, positive feeling spinning faster.
I change the colour of the feeling, from inky black to fluffy pink.
I breathe deeply and imagine golden light filling my body.
This whole process takes less than ten minutes, and leaves me feeling better than ever.
I’m ready to talk with my kids.
Note: Meditation and NLP are my go-to healing processes. Your will be different. Do what works for you. 🙂
3. Helping children learn from what’s happened
There is no failure. Only feedback.
Robert G Allen
Every breakdown carries an opportunity for a breakthrough. But first we have to get to a place where we can think.
I sit quietly on the bed of the child who threw the mug. They’ve been looking at cute cat photos. I acknowledge them for doing something to help them get calm. I share the steps I took to feel better.
They say they feel better, but angry tears fill their eyes as they say bitterly, ‘But I’m I not ready to forgive XXX!’
We talk about how forgiveness isn’t about the other person – it’s about choosing to feel better ourselves. ‘Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.’
We go downstairs. The person who kicked apologises.
The child who was kicked hugs their sibling and says, ‘It’s okay. Anyone else would’ve kicked me a lot sooner. I love you.’
We all smile through our tears at this child’s quirky humour.
Over dinner, we discuss the argument that led up to the fight. Both children realise that it was caused by assumption and miscommunication. We talk about how arguments escalate when our window of stress tolerance is small. We decide to practise non-violent communication techniques soon.
If you have very young children
Don’t worry if your kids are too young to leave unsupervised while you go somewhere peaceful to process your emotions.
Do whatever it takes to stay sane in the moment, and retreat to do the healing work when your kids are in bed or another adult takes over childcare.
The important thing is to reach a point where you can stay authentically regulated while you talk with your children about what happened.
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Things around here are rarely this extreme, but I know we’re not the only ones who experience this level of physical and emotional intensity from time to time.
Let’s not feel shame. Let’s appreciate ourselves for doing the best we can to help our awesome kids manage their intensity.
I feel quite vulnerable writing posts like this, but it’s worth it if it helps even one other person know they’re not alone. We’re all in this together.💜
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Do you want to read more about living positively with intensity and sensitivity? Leave your email address in the box at the bottom of the page to receive posts direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.
When you’re a child with overexcitabilities, one moment you might be talking at the top of your voice and five minutes later you need absolute silence. Unfortunately – because OEs are hereditary – you probably live with several other intense and sensitive folk whose needs rarely coincide with yours.
If you’re not talking at top volume, you might be leaping around, dancing, whistling, clapping, fidgeting, playing the same piece of music for hours on end, arguing, sucking, chewing, crunching, banging or expressing your intensity in one of a million other ways that make you just a little hard to live with. And that’s even before we take into account the sensitivities of other family members.
So what do we do when our children are screaming at each other (or worse) because their needs are out of sync with their siblings’? And how do we stay sane in the process?
Conventional methods don’t work in non-average families
When one child is bugging everyone else, the conventional approach is to step in and make the ‘offending’ child stop their behaviour. Maybe even punish them for it.
But who is the ‘offending child’? Is it the one who had so much energy that he needed to bang his drum while stamping his feet for ten minutes straight, or is it his sister who eventually bashed him on the head to make him stop?
And in the midst of all that chaos, do we have the wisdom to make that judgment?
An alternative approach
Instead of waiting until OEs collide, let’s teach all our kids to approach life with the resilient attitude psychologists call an internal locus of control – a mindset that will not only create a more peaceful home, but will benefit them throughout their lives.
People who have an internal locus of control (ILOC) believe that what happens to them depends on what they do, rather than on events outside their control. (In contrast, people with an external locus of control believe that what happens to them is controlled by outside forces.)
People who live mostly in ILOC tend to be happier, more confident and successful, have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and enjoy better physical health.
So how do we help our kids to grow up with this positive attitude? ILOC begins with that holy grail of parenting children with OEs: self-regulation.
Teaching our children self-regulation
When our kids are triggered, they flip into survival mode: fight or flight are the only options available to them. We want to get them back into their thinking brains, which is where their power lies.
To do this, we need to do something we’ve been doing since they were babies – use our own regulation to help soothe them.
Think about what happens when a baby cries and a calm, loving adult picks her up and cuddles her. The baby hasn’t yet learned to self-regulate, so the adult helps. (Contrast what happens when a dysregulated adult tries to calm a crying baby.)
Our intense and sensitive children are no longer babies but they have bigger ‘engines’ than other kids. It makes sense, then, that it takes them longer to learn to learn to control those engines.
Of course, staying regulated ourselves is easier said than done when we’re trying to cook dinner at the end of a long day and yet another scream emanates from the bedroom.
As parents we can improve our own ability to self-regulate in two ways: by de-activating our past-based triggers, and by taking care of own needs.
Most of us were raised in families where intensity had to be suppressed. We learned – or were made – to stuff down our feelings to keep the peace. We grew up to be more or less functional adults, able to manage our emotions when we needed to.
I’m not suggesting every parent of kids with OE needs therapy, but if we want to stay calm in the face of their intense behaviours, we need to find some way to deal with our own issues. (Paula Prober’s book, Your Rainforest Mind is an excellent place to start.)
Helping children increase their window of stress tolerance
We can help children learn self-regulation skills by chatting with them (when they’re calm) about their window of stress tolerance.
Make lists together of things that make their window smaller, and things that make it bigger. (Younger kids might relate more to the idea of a bucket that gets fuller or emptier.)
For ‘Things that make my window smaller’ they might come up with: playing video games for too long, staying up late, eating too much sugar, being hungry or thirsty, for example.
’Things that make my window bigger’ might include: going for a walk, playing outside, eating healthily, cuddling the pets, jumping on the trampoline, enjoying a good book, playing with clay.
When we talk with our kids about stress tolerance, we’re teaching them that they have more control over how they react than they may have realised.
But what if a child’s done all she can to take care of herself, and her sibling’s intense behaviour is still driving her nuts?
‘What can I do to make myself feel better?’
Next, our kids need to consider what (peaceful!) steps they can take to stop their sibling’s behaviour affecting them.
For instance, if noise is an issue, can they move to a different room or even outside? Can they use ear defenders or listen to soothing music or white noise?
Teach powerful communication strategies
We can also show our children how to compassionately negotiate with their siblings. I like the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) model, in which we refer to our own needs and use non-blaming language.
NVC can be practised in advance and then be used either in the moment, or later when everyone’s calm.
An example might be: ‘When I hear you making that noise I feel overwhelmed because I need quiet to concentrate on my schoolwork. Would you be willing to do something quieter for a while?’
But shouldn’t we be teaching our kids to be considerate?
So far I’ve talked about helping our kids self-regulate so that they’re better able to deal with with their siblings’ intense behaviours.
What’s I haven’t talked much about is the intense behaviours that some might say are causing the problems in the first place. Does this mean I think we shouldn’t encourage our children to be respectful of other people’s needs? Of course not. I’m just trying to rectify the balance. The refrain of ‘Be quiet!’ and ‘Keep still!’ follows too many of these kids wherever they go.
But intensity is a part of who our children are. It’s no easier to turn off than their sensitivity.
Home is a place where we should all be allowed to express ourselves as the vibrant, quirky individuals that we are.
And if we can teach our kids to cope with each other, they’ll be able to cope with anything. 😉
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How do you manage when overexcitabilities collide in your family?
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People with imaginational overexcitability have creative minds that need regular feeding. If we don’t get enough stimulation we can feel unfulfilled and bored by life. On the other hand, if we get too much stimulation we can have trouble switching off to relax and sleep at night.
And when we let our baselines get low, our active imaginations can create runaway anxiety, generating bleak scenarios in which our kids never make friends or learn to do anything except play videogames.
Here are 5 eclectic suggestions for how you might use imaginational overexcitability to nourish your soul:
1. Creative play
As busy parents we can find it hard to make time for our own creative needs, but doing so not only nourishes our souls but also shows our children that creative play doesn’t have to end in childhood.
If you’ve lost touch with your creative side, think back on what you used to enjoy before you had a family. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Art – Paint a picture, make a collage, draw a sketch, work a sculpture or try art journalling
Write – a story, poem, song, skit, blogpost, journal entry, or letter to a friend
Craft – flower-arranging, embroidery, woodwork
Design – a menu, garden, room, outfit, photo collage or app
Move – choreograph a dance, plan a workout or yoga sequence
2. Visit imaginary worlds
If you’re not in the mood for creating your own, let your imagination roam in someone else’s art by losing yourself in a story, watching a movie or play, or immersing yourself in poetry.
3. Solve problems by asking powerful questions
We can solve problems and work towards goals by asking powerful questions.
Ask ‘Why?’ questions and follow up with ‘How?’ questions
If your child keeps having meltdowns at his gymnastics class, you might ask,
‘Why does Sam have meltdowns at gymnastics?’ then
‘How can I help Sam stay regulated during gymnastics?’
Ask the same question repeatedly over several days, without looking back on your previous answers. ‘Whenever a question is repeated it tends to start of a new train of thought in our minds,’ explains Mark Forster.
Use questions to generate ideas
Ask questions like, ‘What are my five best ideas for encouraging Ella to practise writing?’ or ‘What are my five best ideas for next year’s family holiday?’
‘In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have taken for granted.’
Read more about how to use powerful questions on Mark Forster’s blog here and here.
4. Guided visualisation
We all know about the benefits of meditation, but if you have a busy imagination you might find your mind wanders too much to be able to meditate in silence. One solution is to engage your imagination with a guided visualisation.
You might imagine walking down a beautiful path in nature, or by the sea, or exploring a lush garden. Either make up your own, or listen to a recording.
Guided visualisation resources
Website: Relax For a While lets you stream visualisations for free or you can pay to download MP3’s
Next in this series, I’ll be reflecting on how we can use intellectual overexcitability to nourish our souls. Leave your email address in the box at the bottom of the page to be sure of receiving that post direct to your inbox. 🙂 You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.
– For my own children, Christmas is a chance to stock up on sensory toys, craft materials and (for my teenaged daughter) pretty toiletries, and also to add to our collection of good quality toys like Lego and Geomag.
– I love taking photos, so for family I make personalised photo books and calendars. It takes me months to put these together, but I enjoy looking over our shared memories, and I can do it from the comfort of my sofa. (I use photobox.co.uk.)
3. Plan ahead for Christmas Day
Many of us feel constrained by other people’s expectations about where we should spend Christmas. Of course we want to show our love for older family members, but let’s also be mindful of our children’s needs.
That might mean inviting family to spend Christmas with you instead of you travelling, or staying away for a shorter period, or asking some of your guests to stay in local guesthouses instead of in your home. I’ve done all three over the past few years.
People often assume that children will be happy to share their bedrooms with young visitors, but for many sensitive children, having a space of their own to withdraw to when the rest of the house is full of noisy guests is essential. No one has minded when I explain my children’s needs, and we’ve all had a happier time together because my kids have been able to stay regulated.
If you do spend Christmas away from home, speak with your hosts ahead of time about your child’s needs. Ask if there’s a quiet space your child can retreat to, to recover from over-stimulation. By doing so you’ll not only have a practical plan, but your hosts won’t think you rude if you and your child need to take a quiet time-out.
Similarly, make a plan with your kids. Tell them about the quiet space. Pack their favourite drinks, snacks, teddy, small toy or puzzle, audiobook with headphones, or earplugs – whatever your child needs to get regulated.
5. Prioritise your kids’ needs on Christmas Day
Christmas Day itself is a potent cocktail of overwhelm, both for us and our children. Think about what happens when you add together:
– Over-stimulated, hyper-sensitive kids
– Extra noise, extra people
– Unusual food served at irregular times
– Triggering food and drink (sugar for the kids, alcohol for the adults)
– Pressure (to have fun, to be grateful, to be polite, to be a good loser at games, to have perfect kids, to hug random relatives, to be seen to be a good parent…)
The modern world can be a stressful place for those of us with the intense sensitivity that sensual overexcitability brings. We share a planet with more people and machines than ever before, and we spend less and less time in natural light.
On the other hand, those of us blessed with sensual OE can feel more intense pleasure in a single moment than our less sensitive friends might feel in a lifetime.
So let’s not take our gifts for granted. Let’s use our sensitivity by making time every day to enjoy simple pleasures that make our hearts sing!
14 Ways we can use sensory overexcitability to nourish our souls
Sensory experiences are deeply personal. Something that delights me could leave you cold or even trigger you, so I asked my lovely friends at the PowerWood Facebook group to help me with this list.
I hope you find something here that inspires you.
1. Light a fragrant candle
What is it about the stillness of a candle flame that gently calls us to the present moment and melts away the cares of the day?
2. Stand at an open window at sunrise
What colour is the sky? How does the air feel against your skin? Can you hear the sweet chorus of birds celebrating a new day?
3. Luxuriate in a hot bath or shower
A generous friend gifted me a set of these mini Space NK bath oils many years ago. I’ve used them to enhance bath times ever since.
4. Hug a tree
Find a big old tree and wrap your arms around its trunk, rest your cheek against its warm bark, and feel the power of its primordial energy flowing through you.
I do this most days. I like to bring a little laughter into the days of my fellow dog-walkers!
5. Cuddle up with a pet
6. Absorb the power of the ocean
Many of my sensitive friends mentioned the sea as a favourite source of sensory pleasure:
‘I love the sea in every single possible phase… I need its stillness. Its wildness. Its power…. there aren’t enough words really. It comforts me on a level that I can’t begin to explain, raw and deep.’
‘It deals with all the senses in calming and exhilarating ways.’
‘I love wild crashing waves.’
7. Massage your cares away
Give yourself a mini-aromatherapy massage by smoothing on some scented body lotion.
8. Nurture a garden
When my friend Hannah signed up for an allotment (community garden) to give her kids the benefit of growing and nurturing food from seed, she found benefits she hadn’t foreseen:
‘Being there resets my self… The combination of fresh, clean air, wide open skies, mud and pollen is a powerful and rejuvenating thing… it’s not just the seedlings that are nurtured and nourished. It is us – as a family, as individuals.’
9. Indulge in the sensory pleasure of food
However much you enjoy cooking, when you have to provide nutritious family meals day after day, food can become more of a chore than a pleasure.
But If we’re mindful, food can be a wonderful source of sensory delight. It doesn’t have to be complicated – for me, the vibrant hues and fragrant aroma of freshly sliced watermelon are quite heavenly.
If you also have emotional OE, you might find inspiration in The Emotional Cook recipe book.
What food nourishes your soul?
10. Hug someone you love
11. Get comfy
Slip out of all those buttoned and zipped-up day clothes and pull on your pjs. Even if it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
12. Play your favourite music (loudly)
One PowerWood friend loves ‘listening to classical music … strings … in the car while driving in the dark.’
Another said, ‘I love music. Especially in the car. Something euphoric with a strong baseline… Loud.’
I’ve found myself driving round the block a few times at the end of a long car journey, just to hear another song or two!
13. Brew a cup of fragrant tea
In a teapot if you have one. Or treat yourself to a proper cup of coffee and bask in its rich aroma before each sip.
‘I let the tea seep as I dream and breathe. Each sip is a celebration of health, vitality, and serenity. I am quiet with myself. I have faith in Being.’
How to use intellectual overexcitability to nourish your soul (coming soon)
How to use psychomotor overexcitability to nourish your soul (coming soon)
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Self care is a necessity, not a luxury, for those of us blessed with parenting differently-wired children.
Raising and advocating for our kids in a world not designed for them can take its toll, especially if we have sensitivities of our own.
Most of us are all too aware of the challenges overexcitabilities bring, but let’s not forget that OEs also allow us to experience the good things in life more intensely.
This post is the first in a series looking at self care through the lens of each of the OEs, starting today with emotional overexcitability.
Soul-nourishment for people with emotional overexcitability
We folk with emotional overexcitability feel things intensely.
Even a short errand can leave us feeling drained after we see a homeless guy begging outside the supermarket and a frazzled mum shouting at her toddler in the checkout line.
We’d love to be able to give the homeless man a warm bed for the night and to scoop up that toddler and tell her it’s not her fault her mummy yelled.
We can’t right all the wrongs in the world in one day. But by being compassionate with ourselves we’ll find ways we can make a difference – even if it’s just by being the kindest, wisest parents we’re capable of being.
10 Ways to use your emotional OE to nourish your soul
(1) Take 5 minutes to meditate on an uplifting emotion
Choose a positive emotion – fun, peaceful and playful are among my favourites. Slowly repeat the word to yourself, enjoying the memory of times you felt that way. You might be surprised at how the word – and the feeling – pop up at random times later in the day.
I do this before I get out of bed every morning – before any negative momentum has had a chance to get going.
Bonus: List as many positive emotion words as you can and make them into a word cloud. I felt wonderful after making the one above!
(2) Spread a little joy by performing an act of random kindness
Research shows that kindness makes us happier, boosts our immune systems and improves our relationships by elevating our oxytocin levels.
The random element is important here. People with emotional OE are drawn to helping others, and when our reserves are low we risk draining our own resources in the process.
By looking for opportunities to be randomly kind, we introduce an element of playfulness that shakes away resentment and rewards us with a healthy hit of feel-good chemicals.
(3) Tap into the healing power of animals
Spend time with a loyal pet, do a google search for ‘cute baby your favourite animal’ images, or watch an OE-friendly nature documentary with your kids (ie not one where the baby gazelle gets picked off by the cheetah).
Being mindful of your intentions is key here. Cleaning out the cat litter or hamster cage doesn’t count, though brushing or walking the dog might.
(4) Tune into the good news
By most accounts the world is a safer, better place now than it ever has been – but you wouldn’t know that from the mainstream media.
When you need reminding of all that’s good in the world, turn off the TV and spend five minutes looking at the heart-warming stories over at The Good News Network.
(5) Drop through negative emotions
When you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, try this exercise I use with my therapy clients:
First ask yourself, ‘What’s the name of the emotion I’m feeling right now?’
Don’t think too hard – whatever comes to mind first is okay. Name the emotion out loud.
Then ask, ‘If I were to drop through this emotion, what’s the emotion underneath that?’
Close your eyes and imagine yourself physically dropping through the emotion. Repeat these two questions until you find relief.
I’ve had clients drop through layers of emotions for between 5 and 45 minutes. Eventually they always get to the feeling of peace that is at the core of who we all are.
(6) Keep a list of positive aspects
Make a note of nice things that happen or that you appreciate in a List of Positive Aspects. Mine includes entries like, ‘Ate the first tomato from this year’s plants’, ‘Nice email from C’s French teacher’ and ‘Beautiful autumn trees’.
Both the act of writing and looking back over my list help nourish my soul.
(7) Make a regular date with your partner
When you have kids, it’s easy to find your life running in parallel from your partner’s. A few months ago my husband and I decided to get intentional about spending regular quality time with one another. (Quality time as in, not slumped in front of the TV together after a busy day at work.)
Every Sunday morning we now walk our dogs together then have coffee at an outdoor cafe. (A treat for me because my husband doesn’t really understand the point of having coffee out, so I feel loved just by him being there with me!)
We chat about each others’ weeks, the children, and then once all that’s out of the way we usually find ourselves talking about something completely different and really interesting, which reminds me why we married each other and makes me feel excited about sharing the rest of my life with this man.
(8) Watch an episode of your favourite comedy show
The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, Modern Family, Friends… Writers of these shows are paid big bucks to activate our feel-good systems.
I challenge you not to feel better after watching an episode!
(9) Connect with an uplifting friend
If, like me, you’re an intense type who’s inclined to spend every moment you’re not with your kids being ‘productive’ (working (paid or voluntary), doing admin, organising the home or practising cello), you may have a tendency to let friendships slide.
People who have emotional OE have the ability to enjoy deep, lasting friendships. Be sure to make time for the uplifting people in your life – and be willing to let go of those who have the opposite effect.
(10) Feel awe
When I posted this photo on Instagram, I captioned it: ‘Sometimes I feel so full of awe at the magnificence of nature. I feel at once tiny and insignificant and yet extraordinarily loved, as if nature is putting on a spectacular event just for me.’
Later I discovered that psychologists consider awe to be ‘one of the most pleasurable and motivating positive emotions’ (Jane McGonigal, Superbetter).
Awe also changes our perception of time. When we feel awe for a moment or two, we feel we have more time for our own goals, are less impatient, and are more likely to volunteer time to help others.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we happen to see a beautiful sunset or magnificent waterfall to feel awe – we can also enjoy the effect by watching videos of things we find awe-inspiring, or by writing a few sentences about a time we experienced awe.
Next time I’ll explore some ways we can use sensual overexcitability to nourish our souls. To be sure not to miss that, leave your email address in the Follow by Email box at the top of the page. 🙂 See also my other posts in this series:
In this post I share 10 practical considerations about how to find a mentor for your child. And I tell the story of how I found mentors for my twice-exceptional son and gifted daughter.
Why find a mentor?
Making friends is difficult when you experience the world differently from almost everyone you meet. That’s my experience as an adult, so imagine how much difficult it is for children to find kindred spirits!
And if a child can only socialise for short periods at a time because he’s still learning to manage intense overexcitabilities, then the job of finding friends becomes positively Sisyphean.
The no.1 predictor of lifelong creativity
Leading creativity psychologist E Paul Torrance found that the number one predictor of lifelong creativity and personal fulfilment is the extent to which children fall in love with a future vision of themselves.
But when a child is constantly being told he’s too much (talkative, sensitive, fidgety – whatever) and can’t even connect with his peers, how can we expect him relate to successful adults who appear (to him) to handle life effortlessly, let alone imagine himself as one?
Mentors can bridge the gap
We can help our kids bridge that gap – to begin to see themselves as the happy and successful adults we want them to become – by connecting them with relatable adults who remember being just like them.
Adults who once faced the same challenges our children face now. People who can share with our kids what they learned on their journey to overcome those challenges and leverage their strengths.
Mentors, to act as role models – beacons of hope, even – for our children.
How to find a mentor for your child
Finding a mentor may seem like a tall order, but once you start looking you might surprise yourself with your resourcefulness and who you notice crossing your path.
How we found a mentor for my 2e son
My introverted 11-year-old son has intense OEs. Like many kids with sensory issues, he endures haircuts with a tense grimace punctuated by shrieks of pain as the comb brushes too hard over his scalp or a speck of hair torturously prickles his neck.
Fortunately when my son was just three-years-old we found a hairdresser who not only snipped as quickly and carefully as she could, but who reassured me that her son (14 years older than mine) had been exactly the same when he was younger.
Throughout our many salon meetings over the last eight years I’ve enjoyed hearing how our friend’s son has, to his mother’s amazement and delight, matured into an intelligent and charming young man. Elliott gained a first class psychology degree, has a long-term girlfriend, and is now running a coaching company teaching kids how to use their emotional intelligence to become happy, successful adults.
Even though he’s busy growing his business, Elliott was eager to meet my son and engage him in fun activities through which they can get to know one another.
Elliott doesn’t flinch when my son throws his racket across the tennis court when he misses a point, and he has infinitely more patience than me when it comes to Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon.
Although they’ve only met a few times, I know Elliott is there when my son needs an understanding friend. And because he has eavesdropped on the many conversations I’ve had with Elliott’s mum over the years, my son truly believes that Elliott once faced very similar challenges to those he now struggles with, and that he overcame them to become the happy, successful adult he is today.
How we found my daughter’s mentor
My extroverted 12-year-old also has OEs, but she doesn’t struggle with regulating her emotions to the same degree my son does. My daughter’s biggest challenge is finding other people with whom she can share her intense passions, like her love of linguistics.
As with my son, my daughter’s mentor is the (adult) child of a family friend, a lady who runs book groups for homeschooled kids. When we first met, Kate remarked that Cordie reminded her of her eldest daughter who was home-educated until she was 16 and who now studies languages at Cambridge.
Around the time Jasper began working with his mentor, it occurred to me that Cordie might benefit from a similar relationship with Kate’s daughter, M. M works hard to pay her way as a student and she had to travel a distance to meet us, so I offered to compensate her for her time.
On their first mentoring meeting I left the girls chatting away in a coffee shop. When I returned an hour later, my daughter was beaming and eager to share all she’d talked about with her older friend.
As a bonus, M followed up with a lovely email to me in which she listed all the resources she’d recommended to my daughter. M is back at university now, but I know that the girls will meet again and I’m sure that M will be an inspiration and role-model for my daughter as she forges her own path into adulthood.
Mentoring – 10 Practical considerations
How to find a mentor
1. What is your child’s biggest challenge? Look for a mentor who has overcome similar obstacles.
2. Who do you know? Even if you’re an introvert like me, you probably have a wider network than you realise. Ask trusted friends if they can think of anyone who fits your wish list.
Before the first mentoring meeting
3. Prepare your child. Even if they already know the person, explain why you think the mentoring relationship will be useful. Be willing to let the person go if the chemistry doesn’t work. No matter how perfect the relationship looks on paper, if your child doesn’t trust him, mentoring can’t happen.
“Mentor: a trusted counsellor or guide.”
4. Prepare the mentor. Explain what you hope your child will gain from the relationship. Help establish rapport by sharing a little about what your child enjoys doing and what he’s interested in.
5. Clarify any payment or bartering arrangements. I’m upfront with my kids this. Just as we pay for them to be taught piano and guitar by more experienced musicians, there’s no shame in showing that we value the time and experience of the young people who’ve kindly agreed to act as their mentors.
The first meeting
5. Where will the first mentoring meeting happen? Ideally find somewhere your child and her mentor can talk without being overheard or interrupted. If your child energetic, do they need access to outdoor space? My son and his mentor chatted for ages on our trampoline!
6. Do you need any supplies? Would your child like to play a game or do a craft with her mentor as they chat? Would snacks help?
After the meeting
7. Discuss the meeting with your child and his mentor, separately. If appropriate, ask the mentor to jot down for you any resources she thinks might benefit your child.
8. Respect the mentoring relationship. Don’t require your child to tell you more than he’s comfortable sharing about the meeting, and don’t ask the mentor to undermine your child’s confidences. Even if you’re paying, the success of the relationship depends on mutual trust between your child and his mentor.
9. If the first meeting goes well, either set a date for another meeting or agree to stay in touch and meet again in a few months.
10. Last but definitely not least, appreciate yourself for being a great parent to your sensitive and intense child. Even if your first attempt at finding a mentor didn’t work out, you’re doing your best – and that’s good enough. 🙂
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Does your child have a mentor?
How did you find him or her?
How do they add value to your child’s life?
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Are you navigating the highs and lows of raising sensitive and intense children? I’d love you to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. And don’t forget to leave your email address in the box at the top or bottom of this page to receive my regular posts direct to your inbox.
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