Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Highly Sensitive Child

For the past 3 years, I feel tired and stressful. But I'm glad to finally say, it's getting better and can be better.

We have passed the crazy infant stage when I went without sleep and only survived on cat naps throughout the day for the first 3 months. I continued to have at most 4 hours of undisturbed sleep right up till they were 2 years old. And they only slept through the night at 2 1/2 years old. The sleep monster was my biggest enemy. My boys were not good sleepers and they still aren't.

We should be passing (I hope) the terrible twos stage now that they are 3. But I have also come to realize that a lot of things that were happening were not a terrible two tantrum but due to their temperament.

I questioned myself frequently, "what went wrong? what did I do wrong? why are they behaving like that". I read lots of parenting books and none provided any answers until I read this book, The Highly Sensitive Child which shed some light as to why they may be behaving the way they are.

There is an online questionnaire that you can answer to find out if your child may be a Highly Sensitive Child. I personally think they may not all be very accurate but many of the questions may help you identify your child's temperament.

If you have a child, like mine, who...
  • is relatively high need as a baby, often cries and needs you for comfort. 
  • is very particular about clothing. My boys will resist certain clothes and will keep crying if we don't change them out of it, since the age of 5 months old. 
  • doesn't like surprise. We must always prepare them on the next course of actions, what to expect and who to see especially before any social gatherings. I even have to prepare them for the breakfast they are having the next morning to avoid a morning meltdown if the bread is not what they want!
  • cannot accept strong punishment or big reaction from people. I have to control my own reaction when dealing with them, they could go into a fit if I just reacted with a "oh no!!!" when they spill some water on the floor.     
  • seem to sense your mood swings, etc. If I feel crappy, my kids are usually more crappy than me. Recently, they have been asking if I'm happy. I'm not, in fact, very moody for the past few weeks and I know it's affecting them.  
  • uses big words for his/her age. My boys are quite good with their language and could speak in complete sentences at 2 years old.
  • notices the slightest change. Be it a change of position, hair parting, socks, taste, etc, they will notice it.
  • is hard to get to sleep after an exciting day. It doesn't take anything exciting, they can't settle down to sleep with just slight changes to their routine. Will keep crying after we come home from social gatherings, outings, etc due to being over stimulated and overtire as they can't wind down.
  • ask a lot of question. All 3-4 years old ask a lot of questions but I'm quite amazed at the complexity of the questions they ask. 
  • is a perfectionist. They cannot accept mistakes, from themselves and others. They will often go into a crying fit if the bottle they got was not what they wanted.
  • notice the distress of others. When one melts down, the other usually follow suit shortly after. 
  • prefers quiet play. They are not loud and rowdy kids and usually play quietly.
  • is bothered by noisy places.
  • considers if it is safe before climbing high. They are very cautious kids. 
  • performs best when strangers aren't present. They know all the alphabets and shapes very well but I noticed that when strangers or people they do not know very well test  ask them, they sometimes get them wrong. 
  • feels things deeply. They don't forget things easily. They remember the boy who snatched their police car 1 year ago and will still talk about it today.       
As you can see, I almost answered yes to all the questions. But I left some unchecked as I find that some of the questions can be very subjective and probably all parents will answer "yes" to "has a sense of humor". Recently, a reader wrote to me and shared with me a condition called Aspergers, a type of autism. After reading a bit on it, they fit the profile for most parts of it. I'm going to read up more about this. Whether Highly Sensitive or Aspergers, these terms does not matter to me. What's most important is to understand the condition and deal with the meltdowns. 

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