Our journey in finding the best education for our highly sensitive daughter

Our daughter is so happy summer holiday started. And especially that she will turn 8 this month. We’ve already celebrated her birthday with her friends from school. It was a mixture of friends from her current and her previous school. In her young school career she already got to know 3 schools.

Her first primary school (Montessori) was way too exhausting for her. She fell into a burnout. Her second school (private democratic system) was too unstructured for her. Her current school is part of Waldorf education. Regarding to structure and space for developing her creative skills they offer a right balance for her way of being and learning.

We have been through so much finding the right school for her. It has been a very emotional journey for my husband myself and our sweet and loving daughter. The right environment in which she can flourish as a person is essential to us, because we stand by one single conviction regarding children and education: children are perfect in and of itself.

They have come in our lives to teach us what we have forgotten: play, laughter, being in the moment, physical contact and having FUN while learning. They don’t need moulding and knowledge steered education, they need guidance to do what they have come here to share with all of us.

Speaking of going through emotional journeys in search of the right education for our children. Recently we met our new Brazilian neighbours who have come to the Netherlands for an indefinite period of time. They moved her from the South of Brazil for 3 main reasons: Waldorf related education for their children, safety and a healthier work/life balance.

When I listened to their story I felt myself tearing up from the inside. Their story radiated hope for the world. People who don’t have to move because of war, hunger, intolerance and oppression, but because they want to have their children grow up in an environment in which they can be the best version of themselves.

People are more conscious about what’s good for themselves and their environment and are acting upon it. And all these actions will mirror back to us the change we want to see in the world.

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Snow. Lots and lots of snow.

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Snow. Lots and lots of snow. To me it was quite unexpected. I never check the weather forecast. So this day started with a cancellation of a session and more cancellations followed. I only had one session to guide; someone who lives on walking distance. The rest of the day I spent with my kids. My daughter (on the photo) was thrilled to go outside and play in the snow. My son at the other hand wasn’t at all pleased with the snow landing on his face. I had to protect him by changing the position of the buggy. Can you imagine pushing a buggy in this pile of snow? It was quite an exercise for this mom. I loved watching my daughter run around, scraping snow from cars and making snow balls. I even, in between pushing and pulling the buggy, managed to make some of my own and play with her. When arrived at home I was exhausted.

Note to self: always have enough diapers at home. Especially when a snow storm decided to cross through your city.

Eat greens and your child will follow

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So this is how we do it. When I do grocery shopping with my kids, this little fellow wants to push his own cart. As you can see it’s filled with lots of greens. That’s how we roll in our kitchen and with our believe that parents can teach their children to eat greens. Our kids are a great example. Of course they have their own taste and preferences, they don’t eat every available vegetable, but they do eat lots.

The trick is to keep on offering the greens, a wide set of differently prepared greens.

This guy eats broccoli, zucchini, paksoi and haricots. Just to name a few. He also eats loads of vegetables like carrots (oké, which child doesn’t eat carrots?), eggplant, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pumpkin, potato, pea, sweet potato and beetroot.

And he loves tomato, which is by the way a fruit, but many people still regard it as a vegetable.

We taught our kids to eat vegetables in 3 simple ways.

  1. We started out by mixing vegetables with white rice or buckwheat. Or it was a smashed potato dish. With these purees we chose to add only one vegetable so they could get used to the taste of the added vegetable. We varied the purees with cooked or steamed vegetables they could eat out of their hands. (around 5 months)
  2. After the puree phase we cooked or steamed the vegetable so they could see, for example, the white rice separate from the vegetable. They used either their hands or a fork or spoon to eat their meal.
  3. We also offered vegetable soups. You could prepare pumpkin soup in such a way that your child can spoon it up himself. If it’s another type of vegetable you can add potato or even sweet potato to thicken it. Adding a bit of coconut flour is also an option. Actually any type of grain or rice is possible to thicken your vegetable soup.

And again: the trick is to keep on offering the greens and veggies.

Another good thing is to set the example: eat loads of greens and veggies right in front of your child’s nose. Children imitate. And while imitating they discover their own taste.

HSC: unwinding highly sensitive children. 12 Tips!

In this blog I would like to share 12 tips to unwind your highly sensitive child (HSC) when he or she is overaroused.

Overarousal occurs when your HSC:

  • Has spent too much time in one space with many people
  • Was to be found in that space without parental guidance or someone who is familiar to the child
  • Has too much activities after one another
  • Has not eaten on time or enough
  • Has been exposed to new surroundings and/or activities
  • Has experienced or witnessed injustifiable behaviour

I have gathered the tips below based on my own experience raising two highly sensitive children. My daughter has turned zeven this summer and my son is nearly 21 months.

  1. Let them play outside

Playing outside frees the mind, body and soul. It relaxes. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like; feel the wind, the rain and the sunbeams on your skin. Children are still so close to nature. Let them experience nature whenever they need it. The moments they need it, is after school or another social activity. Especially schools where children need to sit tightly behind their desk to do their chores make a good reason to release your children in nature. I’ve seen to many parents taking their HSC directly from school to another activity. They need time to unwind before taking up another activity. Even running around at the school’s playground will suffice to release some of the school’s impulses they took in.

2. Have an after-school-routine

After having runned around with friends we go home and my daughter gets something to drink and a snack. Whenever I have the time and energy I prepare a homemade snack. She truly appreciates that kind of gesture. Especially the taste. Help them organize their school stuff and perhaps get them to dress differently in order to change the school-energy into being-home-energy.

3. Make them feel loved

When highly sensitive children are overaroused they can get really nasty. They don’t want to eat what you serve, they don’t want to listen, they are grumpy, silent or they only want to sit behind a screen to watch cartoons. They can get into each other’s hair. Make them feel loved. Put extra care in the food you offer. You could put different colourful and healthy snacks on one plate. Make it a feast. Hug them or keep your distance depending the childs wish, but stay close so they can come to you. In case of the one bothering the other: take them apart, but don’t scold them. They were only expressing their needs in a negative way. Instead give them what they need: drink, snack, hugs, reading to both of them, sing, dance.

4. Giving space to anger

When your highly sensitive child is angry; starts screaming or throwing things, the best thing to do is stay calm and have an open attitude. Acknowledge their anger. Make the anger feel welcome, but be clear about your physical and emotional bounderies. They are not allowed to throw things at you nor verbally hurt you. Tell them they are allowed to feel angry, but not to project the anger onto you. Bring it back to the core emotion instead of punishing them for having hurt you.

5. Accept their pace in sharing

Highly sensitive children need time to digest the experiences that have hurt them or made a huge impression. Many times my daughter told a full story on how she felt the same evening, the following day or even two days after. It was difficult for me to accept her pace. Especially when I noticed she felt really bad about something. But from experience I’ve learnt to not ask about it further when she doesn’t respond the first few times.

6. Shower or bathe

This is a very important tool to unwind overaroused highly sensitive children. Most children have a positive reaction towards water. My children drop everything they are doing when I mention the word “bath”. For a while, when my daughter came home exhausted from school we explained to her that showering and bathing would be part of the after-school-routine. It helped her to wash away negative energy of children teasing other children, when injustice happened in her point-of-view, when friends didn’t listen to her or get rid of the warmth she had experienced in classrooms.

7. Do something creative

We, parents, are always busy and we want the best for our children. I believe we could definitely opt more and plan quality time with our children. Perhaps you could have your dinner already prepared so you can spend half an our colouring and crafting. Children thrive when they feel you are fully present.

8. Prepare dinner together

Get your highly sensitive child participate in preparing dinner. It’s a healthy way to disconnect from digital life and get your body and senses moving. Reconnecting in this way also boosts your HSC’s selfesteem. Be sure to give your HSC physically and verbally space and room to express her/his creative cooking eye. On the verbal aspect; stimulate their initiatives and avoid critisizing their actions. Make it a time to remember. Put your HSC’s favourite music on. Dress up: cooking hats and skirts.

9. Give a massage

Giving massages is next to showering and bathing a relaxing way to get back into your skin. Our children imitate everything we do. My daughter also likes to give massages so one of us (parents) is the lucky one to receive or her little brother. Our son has picked up this practice too. Another great way to get your HSC connecting to their body is holding their feet, hands or cover their ears with the palms of your hands. When I hold my daughter’s feet she instantly starts to yawn.

10. Alone-time

Actually we didn’t have to stimulate alone-time with our daughter because she initiated this for herself. She loves to read. Reading helps her to unwind. She also likes to dress up in her room and comes out to show her different outfits. But sometimes when she is whirled up too much we stimulate her to do something else. Something which helps her to release energy instead of taking in more information.

11. Balance social activities

Two birthday’s in a row is not done in our highly sensitive household. In addition, when we attend a birthday party we stay a maximum of an hour and a half. That’s quite enough celebratory impulses to unwind afterwards. One children’s birthday and an afternoon-family visit is too much. Receiving friends during the week around dinner time is also not done. Only if friend(s) and family blend in our household it’s doable. By that I mean that they take up a chore or give attention to one of the children.

Recently my daughter did a classical ballet try-out and after class she was fuelled up with adrenaline, grumpy and she couldn’t come up with normal phrases to indicate what she wanted. Based on all these signs I had to give back to her that she wasn’t ready to take up an after-school activity. She agreed. To acknowledge her need to play we agreed that we would plan play-dates when she feels energetic enough to enjoy playtime with her friends.

12. Plan recharching time

Continuing on the previous tip: yes, we try to plan as much as one after-school social activity during the week for my daughter. This means at least four after-school days are spend recharging for the next school day. My son gets his daily social boost with his dad in libraries, supermarkets and wherever day go and play. During the weekend it also comes down to mostly one social activity (spending time with family and friends) for the kids so we have one day left to recharge and do what we feel like doing on the spot. Sometimes we (parents) have more than one social activity, but one of us stays with the children and spend time in a slow way.

Hopefully a couple of these tips will help you unwind your highly sensitive children. Now let’s hear it from you. Please leave a comment below to share what your HSC parenting challenges are and what works for you to unwind your HSC.

Let’s continue to cherish our sensitivity!

Stress: changing my fear into love

It’s autumn holiday in The Hague. We are very much enjoying the free time. I love to sleep in, eat when I feel like it and as a family we are reorganizing the house. Our project is to move into the biggest bedroom. This one was split in half with a wall in between when I was pregnant with our youngest. Now almost 21 months.

The sole purpose of this wall was to provide our children with their own space. Turns out our youngest had his own plan. He turned our plan upside down by sharing continuously that he didn’t want to sleep by himself. Because of his resistance we got into the benefits of co-sleeping again.

The big house change engineered new streams of positive energy through all rooms. Our daughter moved back to her original room and is very happy with more space and her privacy. We got ourselves a new (secondhand) closet and mattresses. We sleep on cheap light wooden beds and quite expensive mattresses filled with all kinds of natural material.

This morning we woke up to a new closet looking into the contents of it, because the doors are still waiting to be put in their place. We made it to Ikea for extra shelves and storage. Unfortunately the decision to accompany my partner caused a bit of stress. The hick-up was the time-frame. We should have left earlier for Ikea so that my daughter and I would have more time to arrive at our theatre performance.

Now I was emotionally challenged to change my fear into love. The fear of running late and missing the performance into love; telling our friends that we would be later and calling the theatre to ask if they would let us in. They would if we wouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes late. This meant we would be at least on time to see the whole lot of the performance. This helped me to get back into a loving state of mind. Luckily we were in our seats five minutes after the performance had started.

All together I felt stressed for only a few minutes. I’m happy everything turned out fine. But for a next time: I will listen and act upon my initial feeling of staying home with my daughter to have lunch. Afterwards we would cycle to the theatre and be there at least fifteen minutes aheads of time, because to me that is part of going to the theatre: taking time to enjoy my quality time with my daughter and absorb creative storytelling.

HSC: birthday party fun without hassle

Photo by Ouxu Cheng

My two kids are highly sensitive. I am highly sensitive, my husband is highly sensitive. As a highly sensitive family we keep on learning how to listen and react to each others needs to thrive in this world full of entertainment. Last weekend we went to a birthday party in Amsterdam. The preparation for the birthday started in the car, my youngest fell asleep immediately and my daughter was relaxing by holding onto her big bear friend. No music, no cartoons, no talking.

This birthday party was definitely highly sensitive proof.

  • The birthday lady was walking barefoot,
  • They served sugar free goodies such as banana egg pancakes with whipped cream, blue berries, strawberries and marmelade, coconut-date bonbon and a chocolate banana egg cake,
  • People withdrawing to other rooms to look up some quite time,
  • Moms breastfeeding,
  • No music.

We had loads of fun. I love socialising and meeting new people, but at the same time I like to blend in the crowd by talking to friends we hadn’t seen for a while. That feels much more comfortable than immediately making small talk with someone I don’t know.  Same goes for my daughter.

Amé stood close to me, observing the room and the people. The best thing about a party, according to my daughter, is eat the foods they serve. Though she didn’t dive in immediately, she needed some time to land. After having encouraged her to choose her pick, she took her plate to the balcony where the other kids were playing. Instead of connecting to the kids she focussed on her plate. Afterwards she wanted to go outside, because inside it was too warm for her. Arnold and I decided to split up, he went outside and I stayed in with Dían.

Dían also needed his time to get used to the house, the atmosphere and the people. He sticked with me or Arnold. After Amé got back from playing outside she started playing with a girl. They went from room to room and finally I found them sitting with a lady who drew images on their arms. I talked to her earlier and Amé, at that time still taking her time to get accustomed, apparently eavesdropped. To her big surprise she found out this lady is a professional illustrator. Amé took the opportunity to ask her to draw tattoos on her hand with the tattoo pens she had brought with her in her handbag. Afterwards Amé said:

I was perfectly prepared for this party by bringing my tattoo pens.

We arrived quite early at the party, one hour and a half, after it had started. Slowly, new guests were arriving and the noice of people talking to each other got louder and louder. When I started breastfeeding on the balcony it was still doable. New guests joined us on the balcony, Dían was ready drinking, he sat on my lap and made screeching noises. He wasn’t happy at all. I understood and we went to a spare room. He immediately revived. He started smiling and moving around the room. He is fifteen months and I am so happy with our communication.

From the moment he crawled out of the spare room I knew he was ready for more action. I have seen him playing with a friend of ours who was playing with him and interacting with the cat under the table. Meanwhile we were socialising in the open kitchen. I still had an eye on him, that’s my mommy-mind, but I was super proud of him being at ease. Later I caught him playing alone, but not for long, a new friend came along. This twenty-something young male was autistic and loved to connect with Dían.

We had a wonderful time.

Both kids dealt differently with their birthday experience. Driving back home they both stayed awake. Around eight Dían fell asleep without any hassle, but it took Amé more time to fall asleep. The next day Amé slept in and Dían took his nap earlier than normal and slept for like an hour and a half. This is how they recovered. And of course we provided them the time to recover. We had no other appointments than being in and around the house organising and cleaning.

In retrospect, I am very happy and satisfied we took this last-minute decision to stay in The Hague in stead of going up North visiting family. This way we definitely have enjoyed the birthday party in full in stead of being super tired by travelling from one place to another.

 

HSC: re-organizing quality time and recharging energy

Photo by Ouxu Cheng

May Holidays in The Hague. It’s such a blessing to free up time so easily with the work I am doing as a life coach. Yesterday my holidays began and my first working day will be next week Wednesday. Yeeaahoe! That means quality time with my family, sleeping in, bake, cook, organising our house and having more time to create fun business related but also personal related stuff.

And yes, it would have been wonderful to go on this trip to the North of Holland for a couple of days, but we cancelled it. We organised it a couple of weeks ago, but last Monday evening we decided to skip it. Mostly because of the sleeping rhythms of our children. Our youngest Dían is learning to sleep in his own room. Since his room is next to his big sister Amé, she is temporarily sleeping in another room. His possible crying or I-am-not-ready-to-sleep-mode could keep her awake.

During Easter we did go up North to visit family. Although we had fun it was actually very tiring. Dían had trouble sleeping at night, probably processing all new impressions and smells of the room we slept in. Yes, we are a super highly sensitive family. The way he slept and didn’t sleep kept me up at night. Logically, the following day I was extremely tired. And when I am tired I am not a fun person to be around with. I am not in the mood for talking, nor playing, not anything.

We were conscious about this experience, but somehow forgot it when we were busy making plans for a fun trip.

Luckily it kicked in last Monday evening. Right on time. Better to cancel than to be overloaded by extra impulses and coming back to a messy house. Now we have more time to organise our house and recharge our batteries.

And even best, to spend quality time with each other.

Today we had a friend of Amé over. They played with Dían, he was in play-heaven while receiving so much attention and interacting with them. They went outside to pick flowers to make necklaces and bracelets, but when back they used the flowers to make perfume. In play everything is possible.

While they were having a blast I caught myself being a wanna-be-slow-parenting-mom. Dían played on the balcony, showed me his dirty hands and I took a wet towel to clean his hands. Amé friend said ‘it’s sand, you can just wipe it off his hands’. Aha, indeed, by using a wet towel it got even worse, because, of course, he immediately put his hands on the floor and they got even dirtier. Hmmm…reality-check wanna-be-slow-parenting-mom! Secondly, after they returned, the floors were covered with soil and flowers. I vacuum-cleaned second time around and then it hit me: why not wait with cleaning until play-date is over? Gosh, I think I need a specific course in letting go off the cleaning and start playing.

Finally, after all baking and preparing foodwise for Kingsday, I felt space to play along. They totally got psyched by the idea of me giving birth to a baby. Dían was my cat, but as soon as I would have given birth to this ball I had wrapped around my waist with a scarf,  Dían the cat would turn into my newborn who would need breastfeeding. I had to give birth sooner than expected because Dían asked for breastfeeding.