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.
- 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.
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!