I originally wrote this December 15, 2015. I’m bumping it up out of love and on behalf of all the children who need extra grace and consideration during the coming weeks.
I’m a highly sensitive person with a highly sensitive child. I’ve written often about this topic and even have a page on this site devoted to parenting a highly sensitive child. If you aren’t familiar with it, the idea of what it means to be highly sensitive is covered in the books The Highly Sensitive Person and The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them.
So the reality of the highly sensitive person is something I’m well aware of and deal with on a regular basis. But sometimes I forget how many adjustments we’ve made to our lives in order to live peacefully with our sensitivity. I forget what the overwhelm feels like.
Last night was the big reminder.
Positive But Overload
We attended the Christmas showcase for our homeschool co-op. For a number of reasons, this is the first time we’ve attended even though we’ve been members for five years. We’re blessed with a quality Christian co-op and the evening was very nice. We were happy to be there. We had positive interactions with numerous people. There was not one negative thing about the evening.
But it was loud. And busy. Of the 600-700 people who were there, probably two-thirds of them were children. It was sensory overload both in the sanctuary and the narthex.
We left at the intermission because all three of us were pretty maxed out by that point.
What shocked me was how I felt when I got home.
Sensory Overload Meltdown
I’m a 48 year old woman who knows this stuff inside and out. When I walked in the door to my home, I literally felt on the verge of tears and was physically and emotionally numb. I’m still exhausted today.
There is zero doubt in my mind that if I were a child, I would have had a major meltdown last night. I had to measure my words very carefully the rest of the evening because every single sound made me want to go off. Every perky sentence by my sweet daughter made me want to lose it.
It was total and complete sensory overload.
Caroline handled it much better than she would have a few years ago. She’s learned ways to cope with situations like this because we’ve talked about it a lot. But last night I let her play Animal Jam on her computer well past her regular bedtime because I knew she needed to decompress. I’ve let her do pretty much whatever she wanted to this morning. I can tell she’s still decompressing as well.
Extra Stimulation Ahead for Your Highly Sensitive Child
If you have a child who is highly sensitive, please be aware of how much extra stimulation she is getting during the holidays. There is so much that is different and it all has to be processed through her highly sensitive system.
- New places
- New people
- Sugar everywhere
- Late nights
- Disrupted routines
It’s a tremendous amount for the average adult to deal with. Multiply it by a thousand if you have a highly sensitive child.
Thriving In a Highly Sensitive Family
As I said above, we’ve made a lot of changes to our lives to thrive as a family.
- We live on a quiet cul-de-sac in a cute little town.
- We work from home.
- We’ve done hibernation homeschooling.
- We’ve learned to say “no” to so many things.
- We haven’t been attending church (for a variety of health-related reasons as well).
- We’ve added more margin into our lives because we have a differently-wired child.
- We’ve faced the reality of learning and parenting differently with a differently-wired child.
- We’ve ruthlessly decluttered.
We live a very simple and quiet life because it works for us.
Last night was a reminder of how well it works for us.
The holidays can be a wonderful time if you make them work for the unique family needs you have. If you have a highly sensitive child, please take a look at all you have planned for the coming weeks. Please be extra in tune with what your child needs. Please be extra gracious if your child acts out on the overwhelm. Make lovely memories together based on the special way God has put your family together.
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