All posts by Lucinda

Is Your Sensitive Child Also a Thrill-Seeker?

sensitive child thrill-seeker - girl jumping on skis - Laugh Love Learn

My sister couldn’t believe my son wanted to spend his birthday at Disneyland.

‘Isn’t that his idea of hell?’  Well, no – and yes.

It’s true, my sensitive and intense child hates crowds, loud noise and bright artificial lights. But he also loves thrilling rollercoasters and magical imaginary worlds.

Highly Sensitive?

Back when I was searching for answers about my unusual family, I read the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. While many HSP traits rang true for us, my children had an energy – an intensity – that Elaine Aron’s book didn’t mention.

Universal Islands of Adventure Dragon Challenge Coaster - sensitive child thrill-seeker

The (brilliant) blog Happy Sensitive Kids recently posted a list of ways highly sensitive kids feel different. I was nodding along until I came to, ‘HSCs stand out because they are cautious about going down the slide in the playground and watch hesitantly as other children hurtle down with glee.’

Er – not my sensitive kids! They’d be the ones running to the front of the queue in their haste to shoot down the slide head first!

Like their parents, my children are thrill-seeking adrenaline-junkies. The higher, the faster, the more intense – the better.

Staff at Orlando’s Universal Studios once approached me, convinced I must be doing something heinous to my son to cause such a massive meltdown. They backed off when they heard what he thought of the park’s policy of not allowing 42-inch 6-year-olds to ride the upside-down Dragon Challenge rollercoaster! (How unreasonable.)

You know you’re blessed with a sensitive, sensation-seeking child when…

*  You request a booth in restaurants because your son can’t bear the noise of the other diners, or waiters clearing tables … but his own voice can be heard in the car park. To occupy himself while ‘Hunger gnaws at my belly!’  he clangs his knife and fork together in imaginary battle.

* The man sitting behind your daughter in the cinema receives the death-stare if he dares to cross his legs … while she spends the movie shuffling, stretching, rocking and kicking the seat in front.

* You’re requested (politely but sharply) to sip your tea ‘silently, please!’ A minute later the dog wakes up, startled, as your son slurps the last of his smoothie through what must surely be an industrial straw attached to a megaphone.

* He begs to go on a sleepover with his best friend. They play games and tell stories until dawn, then he doesn’t want to see the friend for another month. Meanwhile you’re left explaining to the other mum, ‘He really did have a lovely time, he’s just a bit – er –  tired this week.’

* Your daughter has a meltdown when her sister practises violin before lunch (‘Make it STOP!’). Then at 10pm the walls shake as she ‘plays’ the piano in a manner that would wake Beethoven. (‘But I have to practise!’)

Of course, OEs look different in everyone, and children with strong emotional OE and highly-developed empathy may not often exhibit these extremes.  And not all sensation-seeking, sensitive kids with OEs like rollercoasters.  Yes – overexcitabilities – and the people who have them – are complex!

If you recognise your child in any of the above scenarios, you might want to do some research into overexcitabilities before you start down the path of an ADHD diagnosis. 😉

You’re also welcome to join us at the friendly PowerWood FaceBook group where OE families share ideas and encouragement.

child playing with fidget cube - sensitive child thrill-seeker - laugh love learn
Headphones and a fidget cube: How to survive Disneyland queues when you’re a sensitive thrill-seeker

Resources

This blog is all about overexcitabilities – see my Start Here page to begin exploring.

If your child is energetic and/or talkative, you might want to read 7 Signs Your Child Has Psychomotor Overexcitability

To find out if you or your child have OEs, take the free OE questionnaire at the fabulous PowerWood site, where you’ll also find dozens of personal stories illustrating the many and varied ways overexcitability can affect family life.

Highly Sensitive or Highly Excitable? An interesting post from Aurora Remember exploring the overlap between high-sensitivity and (over)excitability.

The Sensation-Seeking Highly Sensitive Person Well-researched article on a blog all about sensation-seeking HSPs.

* * *

Do you have a love-hate relationship with theme parks?

Does your loud, fidgety child hate it when anyone else moves or makes a noise?

Are you a sensitive thrill-seeker?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂

* * *

If you’d like to receive my regular emails about life in an overexcitable family, leave your email in the Follow By Email box below. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.

The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities

Daffodils - The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Have you ever felt happiness so intense, you just had to move your body? Or whoop with joy?

Most people only feel that good when they win the lottery or their favourite team beats their arch-rivals. But when you have overexcitabilities, you don’t need a big win to feel on top of the world.

Depending on your combination of OEs, everyday experiences like listening to music, skimming stones on a lake, or engrossing yourself in a story or hobby can all trigger euphoric states.

For me yesterday, it was walking my dogs on a beautiful spring day as hundreds of daffodils danced joyfully beside me in the breeze.

When you feel so good you have to skip

I’m not exaggerating when I say that my body was filled with such intense joy, I wanted to skip, dance, sing, and shout.

I smiled as I imagined what my fellow pedestrians would think if I followed my impulses. I contented myself with little bursts of jogging: ‘They’ll probably just think I’m in a hurry.’ 😉

Later, I got to thinking how children with OEs might feel:

The 11-year-old who’s so buzzing with excitement about a topic he’s researching that he can’t stop talking about it.

The 4-year-old who’s created a whole imaginary world with her toys.

The 7-year-old who wants to jump and sing and spin.

Learning to tone ourselves down

I thought about what it’s like to be a child. How would I have felt on my joyful walk if someone had suddenly demanded that I stop and sit down quietly?

I’d have struggled to comply. The energy inside me was so intense, I just had to move. If I had tried to stop, I’d have been acting against powerful inner guidance.  Maybe I shouldn’t trust my feelings? But they felt so good… Perhaps I shouldn’t trust the person telling me to suppress them? Over time, I might end up mistrusting both myself and the people telling me to tone myself down.

Managing OEs takes willpower and practice

When OEs are part of your wiring, they’re not something you can easily switch off or turn down –  at least not without a lot of internal stress.

No wonder these children ‘over’-react. When you’re using enormous amounts of willpower to contain your OEs, you don’t have much left to deal with the little upsets other children take in their stride.

As an adult, I know when it’s appropriate to tone down my intensity. And I have years of experience in doing so.

On my joyful walk, I knew to save my skipping for when I’d left the suburban street and was walking in the woods, with only my dogs to regard me quizzically as I danced and sang.

Straight afterwards, I had to take my car to the garage.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus while I was giddy with spring excitement, so to calm myself I switched off my music and focused on my breathing for a few minutes.

How can we help our kids learn these kind of skills?

Why children need to enjoy their OEs before they can manage them

My intense experience gave me fresh insight into how we can help children modulate their intensities:

1. Create opportunities for them to enjoy their intensity

We need to help children recognise and appreciate the joy their overexcitabilities can bring.

Kids with intense OEs get so much negative feedback about their behaviour, they can end up feeling as if they have to suppress their intensity all the time.

But when they have the chance to enjoy their OEs, they can begin to embrace their authentic natures. This is the first step towards calibrating  and managing their overexcitabilities.

We can support them by building into our children’s schedules plenty of opportunities for them to experience the joy their OEs can bring. And we can provide (physically and emotionally) safe spaces for the  expressions  intensity inspires.

2. Grow willpower, but reduce the need for it

Managing OEs costs willpower. We can minimise the drain on our children’s reserves by:

  • giving them as much autonomy and control over their schedules and their environments as possible, and
  • when they need to be calm, helping reduce the (internal and external) sensory stimulation that cranks up their intensities.

To prepare them for times when they have to use willpower to control their OEs, we can encourage children to identify and do things that increase their window of stress tolerance.

Finally, we can teach strategies for modulating their intensities, such as breathing techniques or engaging their rational brains to calm their emotions.

* * *

Bringing up children with OEs is hard work. We want our kids to become well-adjusted adults who can lead ’normal’ lives, so it’s not surprising that we focus on getting them to tone down their extremes.

But intense is these children’s normal.

So let’s help them appreciate the joy their intense natures can bring. Doing so might just be the quickest way for them to harness their awesome power – and use it to serve themselves and the world.

The Purpose of your life is joy - managing overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Do you ever skip in the woods?

How do your children enjoy their OEs?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

Main photo credit: LoggaWiggler,

The Trouble With Gifted Is That No One Understands What It Is

colourful patterned owl - Laugh Love Learn - trouble with gifted

Only super-intelligent, rational, high-achievers are gifted, right?

That’s certainly what I believed for most of my life.

Gifted people, I was sure, never let their emotions influence their judgement. Gifted people only believed in hard science – they didn’t waste their time in frivolous contemplation of metaphysical worlds. And gifted people were born with a clear purpose which they devoted their lives to achieving.

I knew plenty of those sort of gifted people. They were my classmates at Oxford, and my colleagues at the commercial practice where I trained as a lawyer.

Perhaps my fellow students and my colleagues thought I was gifted, too.  But they didn’t know the real me.

Sure, I was intelligent.

But I’d also been the child who snuck into the adult library to read about hypnosis, dream analysis, and graphology.

I was the teenager who read about meditating in a magazine and who’d chant nam-myoho-renge-kyo at her bedroom wall after school each day. (If one of my family happened to walk in, there’d be snorts of suppressed laughter as the door was hastily pulled shut.  Normal people didn’t meditate in 1985.)

I was the trainee lawyer who felt so overwhelmed at the thought of writing a research paper that she sat in her office, staring at a blank page, until hers was the only light on in the building.  Who cried with exhaustion in the bathroom when a client needed contracts signed urgently and she had to work all night. Who survived – just – by spending weekends ensconced in her favourite, new age, bookshop (England’s only, back then in 1994).

Yes, I had the kind of brain that could pass exams. But I was also clearly slightly loopy.

Why else was I the only person I knew who was into all this weird metaphysical stuff? Who was too sensitive to cope with life in a law firm? And whose meandering mind meant she took three times as long as her colleagues to get anything done?

On the outside, I was a successful twenty-something lawyer. On the inside I felt inadequate and desperately lonely.

I’d come to believe that the parts of me others considered frivolous were completely separate from my intelligence, detracting from it, even. A shameful secret to be hidden away.

It never, ever occurred to me that my quirkiness was a part of my intelligence.

By the time I became a parent, the denial of my own giftedness was so complete that when my 6-year-old’s schoolteacher described her as ‘the most naturally gifted child I’ve met in 30 years’ teaching’, I didn’t take in the meaning of her words.

When we started homeschooling, I’d occasionally come across blog posts about gifted homeschoolers. Even though much of what they said resonated with our experience, I put it down to coincidence. After all, we weren’t gifted.

My definition of gifted (rational, serious, focused) was watertight, and I was firmly outside it. If someone had suggested I go to a workshop to help with the challenges of living in a gifted family, I’d have laughed out loud.

Gifted or not – isn’t it just semantics?

So, I never realised I was gifted. What’s the big deal? Does it really matter whether or not we apply the G label to ourselves or our children?

I believe it does matter. It matters because until we understand what giftedness  is, we lack the means to fully understand and accept ourselves as the complex, multi-layered, beautifully paradoxical individuals that we are.

Turning gifted upside down

For me to begin that journey of understanding, someone had to turn giftedness upside down. She advertised a workshop to help parents of ‘intense, sensitive, over-anxious, easily overwhelmed and hyper-reactive’ children. Those words described my son to a T, and I signed up on the spot.

Throughout the workshop, I listened with tears in my eyes as I learned about the inherent character traits known as overexcitabilities. When Simone de Hoogh  talked about sensitivity, intensity and heightened awareness she wasn’t just describing my children – she was describing me.

And then I heard something that rocked my world. These traits, I discovered, are most commonly found in the highly able, and their intensity tends to increase with IQ.

Could it really be possible that my sensitivity, my meandering mind, and my curiosity about things beyond this world, weren’t signs that I wasn’t gifted, but that I was? Apparently so.

The vulnerability of the gifted

One of my favourite parts of the Columbus group definition of giftedness is this:

‘The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counselling in order for them to develop optimally.’

Two years have now passed since I acknowledged and began to embrace my giftedness. I can’t imagine my life now without the loving gifted community that supports me – even just by knowing it exists and that it welcomes me.

My heartfelt wish is for every other vulnerable gifted person to to have access to this kind of support.

The world won’t change overnight, but I hope that by writing posts like this and having my lovely readers share them, we can take a few steps in the right direction.

Further Reading

Blog Posts

High Ability and Society – PowerWood article with interesting observations about how gifted children adapt (often to their own detriment) to fit society’s norms.

‘Because of the significant different ways gifted children, teenagers and adults experience their inner and outer world they are part of a minority and have to find a way to express themselves appropriately without losing their sense of self in a situation with people who experience the world in a different way.’

Simone de Hoogh

What Does Gifted Look Like? Clearing Up Your Confusion – Your Rainforest Mind

Laugh Love Learn posts about giftedness

Podcasts

How to Embrace Your Beautiful Rainforest Mind – 2 part interview with Your Rainforest Mind author Paula Prober on The Alchemist’s Heart podcast

Embracing Your Fire – weekly interviews with strong, sensitive, intense women (including me!)

Groups

PowerWood –  for sharing ideas and support about intensity, super-sensitivity and hyper-reactivity (in particular raising children with overexcitabiilties)

Intergifted – ‘coaching, connecting and inspiring gifted people around the world’

League of Excitable Women –  for ‘intense, sensitive, dynamic and spirited women to come together and help each other ignite their own power and balance their highly sensitive need for extra self-care and TLC with their strong drive to push forward with their passions’.

Books

Your Rainforest Mind, Paula Prober

The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobson

* * *

To read more about the difficulties of being gifted,  head over to this month’s GHF Blog Hop.

The difficulties of being gifted - child hiding under cushions - Laugh Love Learn - Trouble with gifted

 

 

Main graphic: BellaOlivera

How to Talk to Children About Overexcitabililties

Family of Giraffes - How to Talk to Children About Overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

‘How do you talk to children about overexcitabilities?’ asked a friend recently. ‘What and how much do you share, and when in terms of maturity?’

Let’s start by asking whether we need to talk with kids about OEs at all.

Why talk to children about overexcitabilities?

Children with OEs know they’re different from other kids. Even if they aren’t aware of it within the family, as soon as they start mixing with other children and adults, they begin to notice.

What children don’t realise is that they’re not experiencing the world the same way as other people. So they think it’s their reactions that are wrong, which soon generalises to, ‘There’s something wrong with me’.

They wonder, ‘Why can’t I keep still at story time, when all my friends can?’

They get frustrated when their friends don’t follow the rules of the elaborate game they invented.

They’re driven crazy by the flickering light everyone else can ignore.

A story about a lost dog upsets them all day while their friends move on.

They feel rejected when no one wants to listen to them talk about their rock collection (again).

We need to let kids know what’s going on for two reasons:

1. So they know there’s nothing wrong with them

Children with OEs are different, but not broken or less than anyone else. In fact most have an even greater capacity to enjoy life than their peers.

2. To help them manage their behaviour

Talking with our children about their OEs is an important step in teaching them how to manage their extremes, especially in social situations.

Kids who don’t know about OEs are likely to internalise that there’s something wrong with them. They’ll respond by either trying to suppress their intensity completely or giving up and ‘acting out’ rebelliously.

When to talk to children about overexcitabilities

Kids with OEs are even more individual than other kids, and they usually develop asynchronously. You’re the expert on your child. You know what she can understand on an intellectual level and what she can handle emotionally. They way I explained OEs to my  with my 9-year-old son was very different from how I talked with his 10-year-old sister.

Choosing the right time to talk

Always pick a moment when both you and your child are calm and your window of stress tolerance is high. Avoid using the language of OEs to address behavioural problems in the moment, even if the behaviour was obviously triggered by overexcitable traits.

Should we use the word ‘overexcitability’?

I don’t much like the word ‘overexcitability’ (originally a translation from Polish).

I use it here because I want people to be able to find this blog, but I prefer terms like intensity, super-stimulability or just excitability.

Even ‘OE’ sounds too much like a psychological disorder or learning disability.

I’ve always used the word ‘overexcitability’ with my own children because sharing about it is one of my passions, but I see no reason to use the word when talking with younger children. As they get older it may be worth giving them the word in case they want to do their own research or find kindred spirits.

Young Children

With young children I would focus on addressing specific OE behaviours. Here are some examples, using the framework of the five overexcitabilities. (Note that each OE can look quite different from child to child – see the Children With Overexcitabilities flyer under the resources section below for a comprehensive guide.)

Emotional OE – ‘You care about animals and you feel sad when you think they’re unhappy or hurt. Your friend Saffy cares too, but you feel things extra deeply. That’s okay.’

Imaginational OE – ‘You have a really big imagination. When you play with your toys, it’s like they’re real. Not everyone can do that. When you share your ideas with your friends, they might not be able to imagine things as clearly as you do.’

Intellectual OE – ‘You wonder about everything! That’s why you ask so many questions. It’s great to be so curious. Not everyone wonders about things as much as you do. Sometimes they need some quiet time. Maybe you could write or draw your questions, so you can remember them for later.’

Sensual OE – ‘You hate the feel of scratchy clothes, and the sound of the busy train station. And you love stroking your soft bunny and listening to sea. Some people don’t notice those feelings and sounds.’

Psychomotor OE – ‘You have so much energy! You love to jump, and dance, and talk. Not many people have as much energy as you. Sometimes it’s hard for them to keep up.’

Older Children

As children get older we might want to talk about overexcitability in more general terms, showing them how their OE behaviours relate to one another.

Examples of the kinds of things you might say

‘You’re a bit more sensitive than most other people. You notice things they don’t, and sometimes people are surprised by how strongly you react. That’s because they don’t experience the world in the same way you do.’

‘You might be bothered by things other people don’t notice. But your sensitivity also means you can enjoy things more than other people. I know you really love the taste of chocolate ice cream, for instance! And cuddling Milly (the dog) makes you feel really good, doesn’t it?’

Metaphors

Older children might relate to more complex metaphors.

My son has most of the OEs, including psychomotor. We talk about how his engine runs faster than most people’s.

‘It’s like you’re driving a Ferrari and they’re driving a Ford. Because you have such a powerful motor, it’s going to take you a little longer to learn to handle your energy.  Sometimes other people can’t keep up with you, so you might want to slow down for them sometimes. You could even do a few laps on your own first.’

OE brings advantages and challenges

We can talk with older children about how OE is a difference which has its upside and its difficulties:

‘You love learning all about the things you’re curious about, which brings you lots of enjoyment. But you sometimes get frustrated when other people aren’t as interested as you are. They might not have time to answer all your questions.’

‘You feel what other people feel, which makes you a kind and thoughtful friend. But sometimes you give yourself a headache worrying about other people.’

Talking with children about these challenges is the first step to helping them learn how to manage them. (For instance, by finding positive ways to deal with anxiety.)

Teenagers

As they get older, young people may be interested in finding out more about the personality theory OEs are a part of.

According to Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, individuals who have certain traits (including OEs) are capable of coming through life’s crises not only stronger but as more of their best, most authentic selves.

Adolescence can be a pretty intense time, so knowing about TPD might help young people reframe the challenges they’re facing, or at least give them hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

This article is a very accessible place to start:

‘Positive disintegration is what happens when a person lets go of the way he or she previously made sense of the world and rebuilds it in line with what s/he determines to be his/her own authentic values.’

Introducing Dabrowski’s Theory by Jessie, CounterNarration

* * * 

Have you ever spoken with your kids about overexcitabilities?

Do you have any tips to share?

I’d love to hear from you!

Resources

Overexcitabilities

Children With Overexcitabilities – click on ‘Download the latest OE info flyer by PowerWood’ for this great resource. Email me or Simone de Hoogh at PowerWood if you’d like a free colour copy of the flyer.

Living With Intensity by Daniels & Piechowski – book with chapters about children and adolescents with overexcitabilities

Children’s books about overexcitabilities

The School For Gifted Potentials by Allis Wade. My daughter and I loved this 2 book fiction series.

Laugh Love Learn articles about each of the overexcitabilities

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say

7 Signs your child has psychomotor overexcitability

6 Things you need if your child has intellectual overexcitability

The ups and downs of imaginational overexcitability

What is sensual overexcitability?

Theory of Positive Disintegration

Introducing Dabrowski’s theory (CounterNarration website)

Perspective for the highly able: Dabrowski (PowerWood website)

Finding Treasure in Ruins (Aurora Remember website)

Are you bringing up children with overexcitabilities? Don’t forget to leave your email address in the Follow By Email box below to receive my regular posts about how to enjoy life in a sensitive and intense family direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on FaceBook.

Finally, I’d love you to share this post with your friends on social media. Let’s help spread the word about OEs. 🙂

Image by Sponchia

34 Ways To Nourish Your Intellectual Overexcitability

nourish your intellectual overexcitability - woman reading in nature - laugh love learn

Ironic, isn’t it?

Raising kids is the hardest and most fulfilling thing most of us will ever do. Yet at times it can be head-bangingly dull.

I used to neglect my intellectual needs. I could see that good mothers needed to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. But spending time doing something just because I enjoyed the mental challenge felt self-indulgent.

Then I read these words at a PowerWood workshop about overexcitabilities:

Get your intellectual, practical and emotional needs clear and find practical solutions for meeting your own needs.

Simone de Hoogh

 For the first time since I’d become a mother, I felt validated for even having intellectual needs!

We’re better parents – and happier people –  when all our needs are met. So let’s make time to nourish our intellectual selves.

34 Ways To Nourish Your Intellectual Overexcitability

Hit the books

1. Audiobooks used to be a luxury, but with a family Audible subscription, they can cost just a few pounds each –  much less than the print or kindle edition. If you’re a fast reader you may need to train yourself to listen, but it’s worth the investment. I love listening to books while walking the dogs and folding laundry.

2. Start a book group. When a friend suggested we set up a group, I didn’t think I’d have time to read a fiction book each month as well as the piles of non-fiction I love. But I’ve managed somehow, and life has been richer for it.

nourish your intellectual overexcitability

3. School squeezed the joy out of the classics for many of us, but you can enjoy the great works of literature much more when you read them on your own terms and after some life experience. For tips on where to start, check out The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had.

4. If your reading time is very scarce, take a look at James Clear’s excellent reading lists for people who don’t have time for unimportant books.

5. Read thought-provoking longform articles at websites like Wait By Why or Brain Pickings.  This one blew my mind.

Tell your own story

6. Get that novel that’s been in your head for years down on paper by joining in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo.

7. If you don’t feel up to writing a whole novel, how about a short story? Find inspiration here.

8. Maybe poetry’s more your thing? There’s a place for you too.

Anais Nin quote - nourish your intellectual overexcitability - laugh love learn

9. Find readers, feedback and encouragement by joining a writing community.

10. Share your passion and connect with kindred spirits by starting a blog. You needn’t spend a penny and can have your blog up and running within minutes by creating a WordPress hosted site. Find dead easy instructions here.

If you’re more serious, invest in ProBlogger’s Guide To Your First Week Of Blogging, which I read before starting this blog.

Make a game of it

Whether you’re hanging around outside your child’s dance class for a few minutes, or you have an hour to enjoy with your kids, there’s a game for you.

11. Words With Friends (Scrabble-type game). Let the app match you with an opponent, or play a friend. My mum lives three hours away but that doesn’t stop us playing WWF every day.

12. KenKen – arithmetic logic puzzles. We love the app version.

13. Grid logic puzzles – remember when they used to sell books of these? I loved them when I was growing up. You can now find them online, together with a handy tutorial. My son and I love working these puzzles together.

Michael Jordan quote - nourish your intellectual overexcitability - laugh love learn

14. Download a cryptic crossword app or grab a pen and try a few clues in your favourite newspaper. Most are available online if you prefer not to stress yourself out reading the news – see the Guardian, for instance.

15. Depending on how old and how competitive your kids are, board games may – or may not! –  improve your wellbeing. If my baseline is high I love playing chess, Ticket to Ride, Mastermind or Carcassone with my family.

16. Board game apps – Did you know you can play board games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassone and Splendor on your phone? (I’m totally addicted to Ticket to Ride.) The tutorials are great if like me you love complex games but hate reading instructions. And we introverts can enjoy a fun mental workout without the drain of interacting with another person. 😉

Study at Yale while nursing your baby

A generation ago, taking a course meant showing up (child-free) at a regular place for at least an hour every week. Not something busy mums can easily commit to.

MOOCs (massive open online courses) have changed all that. There’s never been an easier time to learn something new, on a schedule to suit you. Here are a few of the many MOOCs on offer:

17. Coursera has a huge selection of courses from the best institutions around the world. Fancy learning about Magic in the Middle Ages? Taking Yale’s Introduction to classical music? Or perhaps you’d prefer Animal behaviour and welfare, or Photography basics: From smartphone to DSLR?

Ghandi quote - nourish your intellectual overexcitability - laugh love learn

18. Here are some FutureLearn courses that caught my eye on a brief scan: The politics and diplomacy of cooking and hospitalityMyths and realities of personalised medicine: the Genetic revolution, The Earth in my pocket: An introduction to geology, Elements of renewable energy, and Antiquities trafficking and art crime.

19. At EdX you can learn, among other things, about the Greatest unsolved mysteries of the Universe, Japanese culture and art, and The ethics of eating.

20. Not all Udemy‘s courses are free but their regular sales mean you never need pay more than £15 for dozens of hours of training. (Bonus: paying incentivises us to complete a course.) Here’s a small sample of what you can learn at Udemy: How to be a yoga laughter facilitator, How to teach your children to be financially wise, and The part-time entrepreneur complete course.

Wrap your tongue around a new language

Not only does learning another language improve your communication skills, it also boosts memory, problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, and makes you less susceptible to dementia. A second (or third) language will also increase your options after your kids have grown.

21. Duolingo I started learning German from absolute beginner level four years ago. As an experiment, I’ve done nothing but one five minute Duolingo lesson a day on my phone. Apparently I’m now 37% fluent! More importantly, I can find the chocolate cake on an Austrian menu, and impress my husband by not needing the subtitles when we’re watching The Man In The High Castle.

haruki Murakami quote - nourish your intellectual overexcitability - laugh love learn

22. Fluent Forever – I highly recommend this book if you’re serious about quickly becoming fluent in another language and enjoy using memory systems. The author is passionate about languages and his website is filled with tools to support you learning 32 different language options from Arabic to Cantonese. I’m learning Italian and brushing up my Spanish with the Fluent Forever system.

23. Listen to an audio language course  in the car or while you’re cooking dinner.

24. Fancy learning a classical language? Peter Jones’ Ancient Greek and Learn Latin are a quirky and fun way to get started.

Become a master crafter

Would you like to try a new craft but you’re not sure what? Think back on how you liked to play when you were growing up. I used to take photos with a pinhole camera and make my own magazines. These days I still love photography and writing.

Or try one of these:

25. Crochet or knitting. Once you’ve mastered the basics, try inventing your own patterns or even new stitches.

26. Research your family history or the history of your local area.

haruki Murakami quote - nourish your intellectual overexcitability - laugh love learn

27. Grow your own food. You could even follow the example of one of my friends in the PowerWood Facebook Group who studies permaculture and is creating an edible forest!

28. Nourish your family as well as your intellect by learning to cook a new dish or even a whole a new style of cuisine.

29. Make your own organic cosmetics and sun screens.

Get smarter together

Nourish your intellectual overexcitability alongside your kids:

30. Watch a BBC  documentary like Orbit Earth or anything with David Attenborough.

31. Teach them to play chess.

32. Tune into a TED Ed talk together.

33. Make music. When we started homeschooling, I had very little time for myself.  For two years my daughter took group guitar lessons then came home and taught me what she’d learned. I’m taking my grade 7 exam soon.

34. Watch an It’s Okay To Be Smart video on YouTube.

Extra resources

Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism, The Telegraph

10 Hobbies worth pursuing for your curious mind, Shout Me Loud

* * *

How do you nourish your intellectual OE?

I’d love to hear from you!

* * *

This post is part of a series on using our overexcitabilities to nourish our souls. See also:

14 Delightful Ways to Use Sensual Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

6 Eclectic Ways to Use Imaginational Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

How to Use Emotional Overexcitability to Nourish Your Soul

If you’d like to receive the final part of the series – how to use your psychomotor overexcitability to nourish your soul – direct to your inbox, just leave your email address in the ‘Follow by Email’ box below. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.

The Joy of Shared Intensity

shared intensity

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.

* * *

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!’

My daughter (then 11) ‘Fandom Addiction: Fandoms. They are not a problem!

(You can see the appeal of fandoms for young people with OEs, can’t you?)

* * *

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. 🙂

* * *

Do you share your passions with your children?

Does music transport you to intense extremes?

I’d love to hear from you!

* * *

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.

 

 

Image: Public Domain Pictures

3 Reasons Homeschooling Kids With Overexcitabilities Can Stop Being Fun – And How to Fix It

Homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

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’t crafting 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.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities - luggage to go on vacation
We may be the only family that takes 2 guitars and an amp to CenterParcs

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?

I’d love to hear from you!

Resources

Posts from my homeschooling blog

What do you have to show for your child’s learning? (and what to do if you think they’re not ‘producing’ enough)

25 hands-on science experiments we’ve done, with full instructions and photos

How to make sure science gets done when you’re not using a curriculum

How we do maths without a curriculum

When every day is maths playtime

5 Days of Maths Playtime

5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love

Books

Free to Learn (Peter Gray)

Let’s Play Math (Denise Gaskins)

Living With Intensity (Daniels, Piechowski et al)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults  (James T Webb et al)

Loads more tips!

To read what other homeschooling mums do when homeschooling becomes a drag, visit these great GHF bloggers.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

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.

Talking About Overexcitability on the Embracing Intensity Podcast

Embracing Intensity Podcast

7 March 2015 was a big day for me.

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!’

Embracing Intensity

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.

And last week it was my turn!

Here’s how Aurora describes a slice of the episode we recorded together, Kindred Spirits Welcome: Intense Women Raising Intense Children:

  • Explore the differences in the use of the word “Gifted” in the US and UK.
  • See how Lucinda decided to leave the Law and embrace a more creative career in cognitive hypnotherapy.
  • Hear Lucinda’s desire to show parents how to enjoy parenting more.
  • Experience along with Lucinda her journey in uncovering her son’s Giftedness, only to discover she was gifted herself!
  • Learn how excitability manifests itself in an introverted sense.
  • Discover how to appreciate who you are to propel you to who you can be!

I’d love you to listen along!

A podcast about raising intense and sensitive children?

Speaking of podcasting, I’m thinking about recording  my own podcast. I’d share bite-sized stories about family life with intensity and sensitivity.

Do you listen to podcasts? Would you like to listen along?

What would you be interested in hearing me talk about?

It’s a bit strange talking to oneself in front of a microphone, so I’d love to know there are a few friendly folk out there I can imagine I’m chatting with. 🙂

* * *

Don’t forget to leave your email address below to receive my regular posts about life in an intense and sensitive family direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.

How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Fight

How to stay sane when your kids fight - horses fighting

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.

The Fight

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.

The Aftermath

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.

2. Recover

I tell my kids that I’m going to meditate, and quietly suggest they do something to help them calm, too.

Getting calm

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.

Healing

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.

 * * *

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.💜

* * *

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.

 

Photo credit: SilviaP_Design

Navigating Family Life When Overexcitabilities Collide


when overexcitabilities collide - tigers fighting

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.

Healing ourselves

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.

And then we had children, and those intense children pushed buttons we never knew we had, bringing to the surface years of suppressed pain.

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.)

Daily self-care

As well as dealing with the big stuff, we need to take care of our day-to-day needs if we want to stay regulated in the midst of our kids’ OEs. (See my series on how to use our overexcitabilities to nourish our souls for some ideas.)

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. 😉

* * *

How do you manage when overexcitabilities collide in your family?

I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

* * *

How to stay sane when your kids fight

You might also like this post, about how we turned an intense, crockery-smashing argument into an opportunity to become closer and wiser.

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To read more families’ experiences of navigating gifted traits, visit these great GHF bloggers.

navigating family life when overexcitabilities collide - goats locking horns

Main photo credit: Castleguard

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