Top Tips for Parents of a Highly Sensitive Child in the run-up to Christmas
Nina Khoo gives us some expert advice on how to support a Highly Sensitive Child during the hectic festive period.
Parenting is tough. The responsibility is enormous. You’re on call 24/7 – for the rest of your life, your efforts are rarely appreciated, & oh, you don’t get paid for it. But you know what? The majority of us parents wouldn’t have it any other way.
Throw into the mix parenting a Highly Sensitive Child (HSC), & the challenge steps up a notch. HSCs become easily overwhelmed, especially when overstimulated by lots of after-school activities or overtired after staying up late one too many nights in a row.
The festive season can be especially challenging, just because there’s so much going on. The ensuing meltdowns are trying for the saintliest of parents!
(If you’re not sure whether your child is Highly Sensitive, take a look at the 4 key characteristics here: https://www.winchesterbloggers.com/blog/2017/9/21/are-you-one-of-the-20)
Here are my top tips for maintaining a semblance of peace in your household, particularly in the busy run up to Christmas.
1) Acknowledge your child is Highly Sensitive
Understanding your child is different (& that it’s a good thing) is absolutely the 1st thing you need to do. Your child has a highly responsive nervous system & a brain that’s wired differently from those that aren’t Highly Sensitive. This means they really do feel & experience things more deeply – they’re not making it up!
Remember this when they’re complaining about scratchy labels in their Christmas jumper or seams in their woolly socks…
2) Practice extreme self-care yourself
Think of this as putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others. If you haven’t had enough sleep or eaten well yourself, you won’t be in the best place to deal with your overwrought HSC. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s crucial. Remember that childcare is twice as hard when hungover from the Christmas Party the night before!
3) Breathe (& breeze) through the tantrums
It’s easy to forget the importance of the humble breath. If everything gets to be too much & your HSC is in full-blown tantrum mode, pause before wading in. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale for a count of 4 & exhale for a count of 6. When we lengthen our exhale so it’s 50% longer than our in-breath, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system & our relaxation response. Doing this to help ourselves feel calm before engaging with an emotive situation can work wonders. You can even teach your child how to do this – they’re bound to forget when having a tantrum, but persist until they learn to use it automatically.
4) Remember your Highly Sensitive Child needs downtime
It’s tempting to assume our HSCs can keep up with their friends. The run-up to Christmas is busy. School fairs, concerts, nativity plays & parties, plus the excitement of visiting relatives & making Christmas lists & keeping up with family traditions. It’s all great fun, but a lot for a HSC to take in. Make sure they’re getting enough early nights & build in some down-time so they don’t get overwhelmed before you even get to Christmas day. Flashing tree lights, blaring carols, back to back feel-good-films on TV? Check in with your HSC & maybe tone things down a notch.
Here’s to having a relatively stress-free, Highly Sensitive–friendly & very Merry Christmas for everyone!