My life changed dramatically a year ago. I’ve always been an outlier, flitting round the edges of social groups, never comfortably fitting into one group for long.
I’ve managed for short periods, like when my kids started school and I somehow found myself a member the cool mummy clique for a few months. But sooner or later I’d get tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. I’d start to reveal my odd little quirks, my unusual way of looking at the world, and the invitations would gradually dry up.
Sometimes acquaintances would withdraw more abruptly, like when I threw a huge spanner in the school mum network by taking my kids out of school to home-educate them. I began home-educating because I could see that school wasn’t the right place for my outlier kids, but people sometimes think that homeschoolers have made their kids different by taking them out of school, rather than vice versa.
This confusion between cause and effect carries over to parenting generally. My kids are different from average. They are both, in their own ways, intense, sensitive, easily-overwhelmed and hyper-reactive. Parenting techniques that work on most kids don’t work with mine. Luckily I figured this out very early and turned instead to books like Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason.
But other people thought my kids had meltdowns because I wasn’t strict enough. I couldn’t really blame them – it’s how humans are wired. If their kid used to have temper tantrums and they tried a technique that worked, of course they’re going to think that if only everyone used that method, there’d be no badly-behaved kids.
As my son got older, the gap between his behaviour and that of his peers grew wider – and I became lonelier and lonelier. My husband, who spends less time with our children than me, wasn’t convinced we shouldn’t just be trying a bit harder with some of those traditional methods of discipline (I hate that word).
In the absence of any external support, instead of working together to help our son we were wasting our energy, at best arguing about what we should be doing, and at worst accusing each other of making his problems worse.
Then just under a year ago we finally found what we needed: community. A group of parents who were experiencing very similar issues to us, who were familiar with our challenges, who understood how it felt to be judged and misunderstood, and who knew better than to point the finger and ask, “Why don’t you just take away his iPad?”
Within this community we’ve found the validation, compassion and information we desperately needed. And once we stopped blaming ourselves for our son’s non-average behaviour, we were able to understand him better. Freed from worry that he was ‘abnormal’ we could see more clearly where he needed support, and we could also begin to share with our kids what we were discovering about the positive side of overexcitabilities.
The PowerWood Community
The person who introduced us to that community was a wise and compassionate lady called Simone de Hoogh. Simone was inspired by her experiences with her own children to create PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation supporting families dealing with sensitivity, intensity and super-reactivity.
Everyone I’ve met who’s come into contact with PowerWood expresses the same feelings of relief and gratitude – finally someone gets their family. Perhaps that explains why Simone is now supported at PowerWood by a team of more than 50 volunteers helping share her wonderful work.
Here are 5 ways you can connect with the PowerWood community:
(1) Go to a PowerWood workshop
The next PowerWood OE Workshop (Intensity, Super-sensitivity and Hyper-reactivity) is happening in London on 12 and 13 March 2016. You can go to one or both days.
If you can’t make the workshop, Simone is hosting a free, informal ‘coffee with Simone’ event (also in London) on Friday 11 March 2016.
If you’re reading this after those dates, check the PowerWood website for future workshops.
(2) Join the PowerWood Facebook group
In the PowerWood Facebook group you’ll find encouragement, information and support from Simone de Hoogh, a team of friendly PowerWood volunteers and a wonderful bunch of other folks who are dealing with the opportunities and challenges life with intensity and sensitivity brings.
(3) Go to a PowerWood summer camp
I’ll say it now, I am not a natural camper. I find the whole process of packing my kitchen into my car and sleeping under canvas for several days completely overwhelming.
So it’s saying something that I utterly loved my first PowerWood camp last summer. Being with kindred spirits for an extended period and participating in Simone’s workshops while my kids happily played with new friends left me on a real high, not to mention equipped with a whole bunch of information and tools to support my kids. (That’s me up there in the photo, hanging out with my tribe at the camp.)
As well as plenty of craft and play activities for kids, Simone even runs workshops for children and teens at the PowerWood summer camp. My children came away from these sessions understanding themselves better, and after meeting them in person, Simone was able to reassure me that they are quite ‘normal’ intense and sensitive kids!
(4) Book a free 1-hour introductory Skype support session
I’m a therapist and coach myself, and over the years I’ve had some great coaching from a variety of people to help me in my life and as a parent. But nothing has ever hit the spot like the Skype support sessions I’ve had with Simone over the last year.
If you have OEs, there’s no substitute for getting support from someone who both understands how that feels and who can offer the information and tools to make a real difference to the issues you’re struggling with. (Book a support session here.)
(5) Sign up for the PowerWood newsletter
The monthly PowerWood newsletter contains stories from other parents together with information about upcoming PowerWood events. If you’re not quite ready for a workshop, signing up for the newsletter might be a good first step to finding out if the PowerWood community is right for you. (You can sign up here.)
Before I met Simone I’d read plenty online about twice exceptional children. I’d even visited the PowerWood website. But with so much information out there I found it difficult to pick out what was truly relevant to my own family.
What I needed was to connect with real people, to find my tribe. If you have sensitive, intense children, join me in the PowerWood community. You won’t regret it.
Of course, I’d love you to help other people find community too by sharing this post or by liking Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook. 🙂