Is Your Child Too Fussy? Think Again!

Children are tiny bundles of big, raw emotions in their purest, most unassuming forms.  There is so little that escapes them, so little that they do not notice or take to heart.
There are very few filters between them and reality.
The adult is one of them.
As adults, we mediate their interaction with reality. We censor, we select, we curate life for them, whether we consciously decide to do so or not. Mindfulness of this fact, of course, helps.

Some children, around 15 % of the general population, are born with highly wired nervous systems, and feel more deeply, being more sensitive to stimulation such as sounds, light, colour, space, as well as the emotions of other beings. Research in Psychology in the mid-90s by psychologists such as Elaine and Arthur Aron has led to the further study of this personality trait, termed ‘Sensory Processing Sensitivity’. Often children who feel deeply, often do not know how to cope with the strong emotions they feel, or what to do with them. They usually need more time than other children to process and respond to stimulation. Overwhelmed, they tend to either cry or act out aggressively. When these expressions are met with anything less then understanding and assurance, they develop ‘abnormal’ patterns of behaving such as risk avoidance, excessive aloofness or introversion, problems sleeping or tend to be viewed as ‘hyper-sensitive’ or worse, ‘too wound up’, or even just ‘fussy’. Adjectives and labels such as these only add to the often extremely vocal pressure to be ‘normal’ or ‘be like the other kids’. When internalized, this dangerously cripples the development of a strong identity and a healthy self-esteem and a sense of trust.

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As an early years facilitator, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that children with SPS often see the world more beautifully and vividly than everyone else. Take this anecdote from one of my students for instance:

“How does a plant look like?” (Facilitator)
“Beautiful it is, flower sits (!) on it…” (Student)

One of Aron’s most significant contributions to Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) all around the world is a counter-narrative to the years of being told to ‘take it easy’ or to not be stubborn- the possibility that SPS may be a gift, an evolutionary red herring that makes them better artists or poets or scientists or parents and definitely better human beings. This of course, is contingent to open and understanding socialization and child-care.

I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making.

Adult care-givers everywhere, whether they be parents or teachers, need to be more attuned into the worlds of children with SPS. With openness, understanding and a fluid, non-authoritarian approach, much irreparable damage can be warded off in the first place. Children with SPS do not need to develop thicker skins or indifference, they only need a listening ear and a warm, accepting hug from time to time. I love the IB Early Years Programme for their approach to young children as competent, complete beings in their own right, not just projects in the making. If their sensitivity is nurtured and given mediums of expressions, and not thwarted or judged, highly sensitive children have within them, the innate strength and resilience to create unexpected joy and beauty out of our complex and chaotic world.

-Ferzine

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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT PARENTING AND TEACHING FROM THE OTHER SIDE

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Parents and teachers. Teachers and parents.

After each PTM (Parent-Teacher meeting) at our kindergarten, along with the class teachers, I participate in the process as the third person, trying to see and understand both sides.  According to my observations, there are several types of parents.

Some parents who  put a child in private school, expect their baby to be a genius, pushing him/her into different contests, forgetting the thing that every child needs his/her own time. The worst moment is when they start to compare their own kid with the development of others.

My observations give me the power to say that most of the children who are natural talkers (freely and constantly talk everywhere about everything), have some difficulties with drawing and writing neatly. I was among those who love to sit and do all the precise work, such as writing, reading and drawing and got all the high rewards for that. Later, step by step I excelled at speaking, and now I can’t imagine my life without talking.

An other type of parents nurture their child. They find time in their busy timetable and spend quality time with their toddlers, even coming up with their own approaches. Just recently, one father shared with us, that they brought alphabet magnets and put them on the fridge. From time to time, they ask their baby to go and bring some specific one. Isn’t it simple and incredible?! (Just thought about making some meeting parents to parents, where they will share about their approaches) Sometimes these parents send notes of gratitude or photos captured of the child taking action to teachers, making teachers feel on the ninth cloud.

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Talking about the third type, sadly, but there are some parents who just don’t show up to PTMs, or make a visit only for a couple of minutes, having more important things to do. In such cases, I’m just always wondering, then why did you decide to give a birth to a child. A Russian proverb literally states “Job is not a wolf, it won’t run to the forest”, meaning the child won’t never be at the same age again.

Now, as I have a chance to watch this process from the other side, I have some thoughts about parenting and teaching as well.

One day, one wise woman, named Ferzine pointed out something, which felt to me just brilliant: “I don’t have students, who are in the middle. Only who already knows this or just don’t get it. And it’s not about child’s brilliance, it’s just about time parents dedicate to their children. Now they know about numbers or letters, tomorrow it will be words, then sentences and after various concepts. And this little gap now will remain till the end of school and influence the rest of their lives.”

-Lunara