What Sensitive Boys Need from Their Mamas

Monday, January 22, 2018 No comments

He came into the world to light the way for others. He came to show us how to love, how to empathize, and how to be gentle. He came with compassion, intuitiveness, and awareness. My son came to Earth gifted with high sensitivity, a trait 20% of the population carries.

Our sensitive children are the canaries and the world our coal mine. They can tell us when the conditions are all wrong, when there is danger and injustice. They warn us that the world is too harsh while simultaneously softening it with their presence. They are candles lighting the darkness, and if we look toward them, once our eyes adjust to the light, we will see the turmoil and the hope.

I’m focusing on boys in this piece because I have no experience with raising a sensitive girl, only with being one. I have two boys, one of whom is an HSC (highly sensitive child), and raising a sensitive boy comes with unique challenges and blessings, as raising a sensitive daughter comes with its own unique challenges and blessings.

What is high sensitivity? These children are born with nervous systems that are highly aware. They feel everything deeply – pain, love, sadness, joy. They may startle easily, dislike scratchy clothing or seams in socks. They often are sensitive to odors and notice changes in their environment. They are in tune with the suffering of others. They have rich inner lives and ask deep questions. They may prefer quiet play and be bothered by noisy places or sudden change. If you think your child may have this trait, take this quiz at hsperson.com.

We still live in a culture that shames sensitive boys, which is why we, as their parents, must be their champions. In his book, The Strong Sensitive Boy, Ted Zeff says, “When sensitive boys do not conform to the stereotypical ‘boy code’ and instead express compassion, gentleness, and vulnerability, they are frequently ostracized and humiliated.” You might think we’ve moved beyond this nonsense, but just this week I overheard a crying boy being told that “boys don’t cry like that” and to “straighten up.” Our culture still expects boys to be tough and emotionally repressed. Because of this, being highly sensitive is particularly challenging for boys.

Fortunately, with the right support, these boys can not only overcome their challenges but thrive as kids and adults. Here are a few ways you can support your sensitive boy.

A good environment is key.
Home must be a sensitive child’s safe haven. They quickly pick up on tensions between parents and can be deeply hurt by siblings who tease. The best thing you can do for your sensitive son is to create a home atmosphere that is warm, soothing, and accepting. Do not allow siblings to tease or name-call. Work to create a home culture where family builds each other up and supports one another. Here are a number of way to do this:

1. Build positive relationships through dinners at the table, cooperative games, traditions, light-hearted conversations, and quality family time.
2. Do not compare siblings but celebrate the uniqueness of each child.
3. Make clear rules about treating one another with respect and kindness. When a child breaks this rule, the “consequence” is that he must make amends and repair the relationship. This comes after a heart-to-heart discussion about how he made his sibling feel and why it is important to make amends.
4. Keep conflict to a minimum. Zeff says, “Though any child may be alarmed and frightened by [hearing parents quarrel], highly sensitive children are likely to be affected even more by parental conflict.”

Maintain a secure attachment.
A positive bond between mother and son is important for all boys, and it is especially essential for the sensitive boy. There is a societal fear of raising “mama’s boys” and of coddling which lead us to prematurely separate from our boys. Mom needs to remain emotionally connected to her sensitive son. He will receive many messages outside the home from his peers, teachers, media, and coaches that there is something wrong with him, that he needs to toughen up and “be a man,” but you are there with the consistent message of you are wonderful how you are. You are a worthy and loved human being. Here are some tips for remaining close:

1. Play. This is the easiest way to connect heart-to-heart with any child. Play looks different in the tween and teen years. Instead of playing trains or blocks, it might look like video gaming, canoeing, bike riding, or learning about his comic book collection. They key is to get into his world.
2. From hugs and snuggles to fist bumps and hair ruffles, stay connected through physical affection.
3. Laugh together. Victor Borge wrote, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” Shared laughter strengthens relationships, so find something funny!
4. Be his light reflector.  Celebrate your son’s many wonderful traits. See the good in him and tell him what you see because there are enough people out there who will tell them what they see wrong with him. It is our job, as mothers, to tell them what we see that’s right and good and true.
5. Avoid harsh discipline and criticizing words which are very wounding to sensitive kids. Rather than shaming or physical discipline, opt for discipline that connects. However, also avoid being permissive for fear of wounding your child. Correct him, just do so gently.

Teach him how to handle his strong, deep emotions.
Sensitive boys feel all emotions more deeply than the 80% non-highly-sensitive population, so it’s crucial to teach your son about his feelings and how to cope with them. It’s really important to not make him feel like he’s weird or wrong for having such deep emotions. I think that it’s also important to validate but not exaggerate his experience. For example, validating is “I know it hurts when you stub your toe. I’ll get you some ice” while exaggerating is “Oh my poor baby! That must hurt so much. Let me see! That looks really, really painful. I see why you’re crying! It really hurts, doesn’t it!” I’m speaking from experience; the latter only makes the situation worse! Here are some tips for helping your child handle his emotions:

1. Use time-in rather than time out. The time-in toolkit will help you create a calming space to regulate emotions and teach about them.
2. Teach them how to take big deep breaths, hug their Calm Down Companion, watch a swirling glitter jar, and journal or draw their feelings to help them through tough moments.
3. Use games and activities to teach about feelings.

Teach him to set boundaries.
Sensitive children often are people-pleasers and perfectionists. 

This is Parenthood

Sunday, January 14, 2018 No comments

They tell you that time flies and to enjoy it all you can, and yet in the midst of sleep deprivation, 3 a.m. feedings, and endless diapers, it feels like it will last forever. You wonder how time can possibly fly when one night drags on so very long.

Then, one morning you wake up to a running toddler who jumps in your bed and you wonder when she got so big. You chase her around all day until you’re utterly exhausted, longing for the rest that night should bring, but it still doesn’t come. Unless you’ve hit a jackpot, toddlers still often interrupt your sleep. Still though, when she throws those little arms around your neck, you wouldn’t trade it for all the rest in the world. You have a sense now that what they say is true. The days are long, but the years are short.

You blink, and he’s off to kindergarten. It hits you with a sickening thud that the baby days are forever gone and time seems to speed up now. You try to keep up. You do your best to soak it in, but you can’t get a good grasp for long enough. He’s growing too quickly now, constantly changing, slipping right through your fingers. You can’t remember the last time you carried him, when he last rode on your back as you played horsey in the living room, or the last time he climbed in your bed in the middle of the night, but you wish you remembered. You wish you had a picture of each of those moments to carry with you always.

Summers come and go. You know they are numbered, so you pack in as many memories as you can while the days are slower and the daylight lingers. You take lots of pictures on that family vacation, too many according to your kid, but you just have to capture that fleeting moment in time. Now it’s back to school, and life once again becomes a flurry of backpacks, science projects, and soccer practice and suddenly they’re finishing another grade. Another milestone is reached. Another closetful outgrown. 
Before you know it, you’re dropping him off at middle school. This boy that you held in the crook of your elbow stands nearly eye to eye with you now. As he walks away from your car you think he looks too big to be yours. You whisper, please let everyone be good to him. You know how hard middle school can be. And it is. But together, you find your way.

A few more Christmases come and go. Wrapping paper swallows the floor and you relish the laughter that fills your home. You snap more photos and resolve to make albums of every year. You ask someone “take one of me with her” because you read an article about needing to be in the photos too. 
The first day of high school brings jitters for everyone, and you realize you’re in the homestretch now. You think it’s weird how you can still see her toddler face when you’re looking right at her at 14. Before you can catch your breath, there are first dates and curfews, cars and proms. Is she ready? Have I done enough? Oh but you are so, so proud of who she’s become, and you are filled with gratitude that she is your baby, no matter how old she gets. She is your baby.

His room is filled with boxes as he packs for college. You know he has to fly, but your nest looks so very bare. Suddenly he’s gone, and you stand there in that room as tears escape your eyes. How did it last so long but go by so quickly? You finally print all those photos and catalog your joy by date. Your home is neat and quiet. Until the grandkids come over.

This is parenthood; the unbelievably long and unreasonably short span of loving and letting go. It’s the hardest and most wonderful thing you’ve done and you are forever changed by it all. Your child’s fingerprints will one day no longer be on your mirrors, but they’ll always be on your heart. Yes, time flies. Enjoy it all you can. Slow down. Catch a breath. Let the little things go. Hold him in your lap. Stay and play a little longer. Connect. Make memories. Great ones. Memories worth holding onto when the little hand you’re holding onto now is gone.

*This article was originally published at Creative Child.

Help Your Child Learn to Read in Four Weeks

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 No comments

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10 Things Your Strong-Willed Child Wished You Knew

Monday, August 28, 2017 No comments
When people meet my daughter, they immediately classify her as a strong-willed child. I mean, if you saw her, you might do the exact same thing. She has fiery red hair, a bursting personality, and she knows exactly what she wants and doesn't want. She isn't going to do anything in life unless she wants to do it. She has intense emotions and she is not afraid to use them. By all definitions of the word, my daughter is definitely strong-willed.

If you have a child like this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. So often children that are labeled as strong-willed are only seen as just that… strong willed. They are seen for their strong personality, their strong emotion, and their strong determination to do things their way. But if that's all we focus on, we are missing so much more about these amazing and unique children.

Depending on who you talk to, the term strong-willed can bring up a lot of emotions. You either love the term or you hate the term.

More often than not, it's because of your experiences you've had with the way the term is used.

When the term strong-willed comes with an eye roll or a gasp of frustration, it doesn't feel like a very positive thing. But when it's said with a head raised, chest out, and an admiration of this powerful personality, it feels pretty positive.

Whichever side of fence you sit on, I can guarantee you that the strong-willed child you have in your life wants you to know that they are so much more than just three little words.

10 Things Your Strong-willed Child Wished You Knew.
1) You are not a bad parent.

I need you to hear this loud and clear. I am not feisty and head-strong because you parented me wrong. This is who I am. In fact, you are the best person for me to have on my side because you are constantly looking for answers, tirelessly trying to help, and deep down, you believe in me.

2) I am not spoiled.

I do not put my foot to the ground and stomp with all my might because you gave me too many toys or because you said yes too often. I do these things because I want to assert my independence. I want you to know that this is what I want and when I want it, but I haven't learned the best way to tell you yet. I am still learning how to communicate, and I need you to help me. With your help, I will be able to use my emotions to change the world.

3) I am not difficult.

I see you in the corner with your hands on your head, slumped against the wall. I know I test you, and try you, and push you to your limits, but please do not describe me as your difficult one. I might just start to believe it.

4) I am not stubborn.

I know I like to do things my way, but most of the time it's because I haven't developed the ability to problem-solve yet. I need you to see me as fierce and as taking a stand for what I believe in. I need you to help me learn how to be flexible.

5) I will thrive on routines.

I like to be in charge of what's happening in my own life. I like the know when things are happening, where they're happening, and what's going to happen after that. When you set up a routine that I can depend on, it takes away one thing that I have to worry about. It gives me the order I'm so desperately seeking.

6) I like making my own decisions.

I bet you already knew that about me, though. This probably means that I put up a fight when you tell me exactly what to wear or you tell me exactly what to eat, but I can let you in on a little secret. If you give me choice, and you set those choices within a boundary, I will put up much less of a fight.

7) I need you to trust me.

I know you've seen more and done more than I have. I know you've had more experiences than I have. You already know the outcome long before I do, but I need you to put a little bit of trust in me so that I can make my own mistakes, so that I can learn to problem-solve, and I can learn to be independent, just like I want to be.
8) I learn through doing.

You can tell me things until you are blue in the face, but it's not going to make a difference until I try it. Give me experiences so that I can test my ideas and theories in a safe place, so that when you tell me a pot is hot, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it is because I've experienced it.

9) I think outside of the box.

Sometimes this box is really tiny and sometimes this box is really big, but the truth is is that I think a little differently than maybe you or your other kids do. I like to go about problems and try things from a different angle. I am creative and I am constantly inventing, and creating, and dreaming of the unknown.

10) I need you.

More than all else, I need you to know that I need you. When I have a behavior that is ugly, and strong, and determined, I need you to see that as a cry for help. When I meltdown in the Target parking lot, I need you to hear me saying, "I need you." When I yell, "No," as loud as can be, I need you to hear that as me saying, "I need you."

I need you to know that I am not picky, anxious, difficult, messy, or strong-willed. Instead, most of the time I am misunderstood.

Changing Your Strong-Willed Child’s Inner Thoughts…

The truth is…

Kids are constantly being told they aren’t good enough, not smart enough, not calm enough, just plain and simple…

not enough.

What would happen if instead of telling kids they are not enough, we changed the way we saw our children and we changed their inner language?

My new book, The Superkids Activity Guide, is aimed to empower ALL kids to speak up, share their superpowers and learn why they do the things they do so they can advocate for themselves!!

The book has a manifesto that I stand behind 100%. I believe all children should believe these things about themselves and often wish I had believed these things to be true as a child myself.

This is a small excerpt:

“Go ahead and say it, so you believe it: “I am a SUPERKID.”

There, didn’t that feel good? Go ahead and say it one more time, just to make sure it sinks in: “I am a SUPERKID.”

Before you start to think of all the reasons you can’t possibly be a superkid, I want to stop you. You see, even the most famous rock stars have doubt and don’t believe in themselves every day. This doesn’t mean they are any less super. And even superheroes have struggles and pitfalls. That doesn’t make them any less super, either. The truth is, despite your struggles, your mistakes, or your bad days…YOU ARE A SUPERKID. The Superkids Manifesto is yours. I want you to own it.

You are unique.
You are adventurous.
You are spirited.
You are creative.
You are fierce.

You are a SUPERKID.

You are going to conquer the world and I am going to help you every step of the way… ”

In order to make this movement touch every corner of the globe, we need YOU!!!

A NOTE FROM REBECCA EANES:  I can’t recommend Dayna Abraham’s new book highly enough! The Superkids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day has so many great ideas and projects for kids and their adults! However, my favorite thing about this book is that it teaches children to believe in themselves, to love who they are, and to feel empowered with all of the wonderful tools it provides!

What began as a simple book with 75 simple crafts, games and activities to help adults and kids manage the most difficult parts of the day (mornings, wait times, mealtime, playtime, learning, and nighttime), The Superkids Activity Guide, slowly became a movement. The Superkids Movement and Activity Guide is aimed to empower ALL kids to speak up, share their superpowers and learn why they do the things they do so they can advocate for themselves!!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dayna Abraham is the mother to three totally awesome superkids who inspire her every day to be the best grown-up sidekick they could ask for. When she’s not helping her kids conquer the world, she keeps busy by writing at lemonlimeadventures.com, writing books like Sensory Processing 101, STEAM Kids, and Learn and Play with LEGO®, and drinking lots of coffee. She loves getting her hands messy and creating crazy science projects and crafts to keep her super kids at home busy. Before she was a writer, she was a National Board Certified teacher, where she met some of the coolest superkids on earth. As a little girl, she wished grown-ups and other kids saw her as a superkid, so now she’s made it her mission to inspire kids like you to love who they are and embrace their differences.