Fortify Sensitive Kids
I’d like to take away your tears
Children are likely to interpret and respond very differently to their experiences, depending on their temperament. Sensitive children are likely to be wonderfully compassionate, bright, creative and imaginative. They may also have a difficult time dealing with stressful situations and may be prone to being worried and anxious. Of course, every child is an individual with his or her own unique traits. We don’t want to label our children but at the same time, it’s important to accept the nature of their temperaments. It’s particularly important that we teach sensitive kids to handle stressful situations in a healthy, effective way. When children don’t have a handle on anxiety, it’s likely to escalate when they become teenagers. Children who struggle with anxiety are more susceptible to developing depression and mood disorders and anxious teens are at risk of becoming involved with drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt to relieve their discomfort.
Rescuing Versus Empowering
As parents, we naturally modify our parenting to suit our child’s temperament. However, when children go to school, they will interact with all sorts of children and teachers who will be unlikely to modify their behavior to suit our child’s disposition. This can cause a sensitive child to become frustrated and anxious. There are times when it’s appropriate to step in and help our children and there are times when they must learn to stand on their own two feet. Parents of a sensitive child will continually be making judgment calls regarding how much their child can handle without assistance. However, whenever possible, work towards empowering your children to stick up for themselves. By jumping in to help our children too quickly, we teach them that they are helpless and that the things that happen to them are beyond their control. Learned helplessness is a surrender of the spirit. Remember, even though you’re trying to be helpful, rescuing generally shows a lack of faith and reaffirms your child’s belief that he (or she) does not have the ability to handle difficult situations.
Children Who Aim to Please
Sensitive children are often particularly susceptible and vulnerable
to the actions and words of other children and adults and tend to get
their feelings hurt easily. In some ways, when this happens, these sensitive
children lose their childhood. Instead of being carefree and interacting
joyously and freely with the world, they become overly self conscious
and begin worrying about how people see and react to them. Often they
“read” adults or peers as they anxiously watch for approval
or disapproval. They are unable to enjoy the “here and now”
as they constantly look ahead for a reward or a reaction.
As a child, you probably remember retorting these words when someone said something hurtful to you or called you a name. As a mother of two sensitive girls, I know how hard it is to see our children’s feelings get hurt from a thoughtless or mean spirited remark. Although it can be quite a challenge to help our sensitive children not to take hurtful words personally, it’s a worthwhile endeavor and one that will serve our children throughout their lives. Sensitive children are incredible—and their sensitivity is part of what makes them compassionate, empathetic, and loving. We don’t want to change who they are. However, we don’t want them to be overly vulnerable to insensitive or rude comments and actions.
Here are some suggestions to help sensitive children get their self-worth from inside themselves, rather than from the words and reactions of others.
Practice what you preach.
Help children understand that unhappy kids can be unkind.
Remove poison arrows.
Teach children relaxation and self-calming skills.
As mothers, we are powerful role models for our children. Throughout history, many women have used their courage and compassion as a powerful force for peacemaking, reconciliation, and community cohesion. Today, a record number of women across the globe are forming circles to promote peace and put an end to the War in Iraq.
I am honored to be a part of one such group, called Mother Hearts. Together with the Santa Barbara Chapter of Veterans for Peace, we are organizing a Mothers Day ceremony at a stretch of beach in Santa Barbara, CA—dubbed Arlington West. Here, it is impossible to be indifferent to the devastating cost of war. For on Mothers Day and each and every Sunday morning, individual white crosses are placed in long straight rows in the sand, one for each fallen soldier of the war.
The Mothers Day gathering will honor and mourn the loss of lives, as
has been the tradition of communities for centuries, and commit to working
for peaceful solutions to conflict in our world. If the event at Arlington
West inspires your compassionate action, join us in person, through
prayer and peaceful intentions, or by sending your art or written expressions
of peace to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the event
itself, visit motherhearts.org.
The Dream Maker's April Dream Starters
Dream Starters are visualizations which promote relaxation, imagination and well-being as they guide children into the world of dreams.
To prepare for these dream starters, (or visualizations), create a quiet comfortable atmosphere in which your child can relax.
Step One ~ Progressive Relaxation (Tensing & Relaxing Muscle Groups)
Have your child lie down in his bed. Have him lift each arm and leg individually, holding each limb tightly before loosely flopping it down on his bed. Then have him wrinkle his face and hold his eyes tightly closed, before relaxing his face. (Tense each muscle group for at least 5 seconds.)
Step Two ~ Focus on the breath
Have your child get very quiet and watch his own breath.
Step Three ~ Creative Visualization
Now that your child is relaxed, read (or tell) the following visualization. Of course, feel free to modify it according to your child’s age and interests.
It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day. You walk into (a) (your) grassy yard and lie down on a soft blanket. The sun warms you and you enjoy the bright colors of springtime. You start to watch a hummingbird lightly flitting from flower to flower. What would it feel like to be a hummingbird drinking from your favorite pink, red, and purple flowers? Does each flower taste a little different? Does it taste like cool-aid? How does the air feel on your tiny little body as you quickly dart from one spot to another?
Then you hear the sound of chirping and notice a bluebird perched on a near-by branch. He is much larger than the hummingbird. What would it feel like to be a bluebird? You would wake up each morning and begin to sing. Then you’d fly off to explore the world, whistling your song and finally returning to your home.
You look at the bluebird’s home—a tall, powerful tree. What would it feel like to be a gigantic tree? Would you enjoy having the squirrels and birds playing and making their home on your branches? You would feel sturdy and strong and the breeze would gently rustle your leaves. You would have nothing to do but drink water from your roots and soak up the warm sunshine.
And then you wonder what it would be like to be the sun. You rise brightly every morning, letting everyone on Earth know that it’s the start of a new day. Then you slowly, slowly, move across the sky, warming the Earth and everything on it. And then you would cheerfully say good-by each evening by lighting up the sky with a beautiful, colorful sunset.
You wonder what it would be like to be the Earth. You feel solid. There is life on every part of you. The mountains, deserts, plants, animals and people are a part of you. And so are the rivers, lakes and oceans. The air dances throughout every part of you.
What would it feel like to be the air? You would be everywhere—surrounding
the rocks, the mountains, and the trees. Children like you, all around
the world, would breathe you in and out, in and out. You are a part
of every living creature that breathes. When a baby is born they take
their first breath with you. You breathe life into animals and people
around the world—in and out, in and out, in and out. You are a
song. You are a dance.
Close your eyes and be the air.