5 Things That Helped our HSC Cope With the World

I have been writing about our experiences raising a highly sensitive child (HSC) for three years now. Not as regularly as I would like, but still. My website stats tell me that there are people out there who are reading, every day, more people than I ever imagined would, and so that must be a good thing. I’d like to think that our stories are helping in some way, to some extent, and that’s all I really wanted. And that’s why I’ll keep writing, openly and honestly.

One thing I haven’t been able to do is offer advice like many articles do. I have very mixed feelings about advice, and although a lot of it out there is helpful, a lot more of it is not.

I got to see firsthand, after having two very different kids, that advice doesn’t often work as a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. What may work for one child may not work for another. What may work for most children, may not work for a smaller group of very normal, and lovely children. And the parents of those children should not be made to feel otherwise when the advice they think should work, doesn’t.

That’s actually my biggest problem with advice, as the mother of a child who belongs to the smaller group.

Many people have asked me what we’ve done to help our highly sensitive son. For those of you have been reading our stories, you’ll know that the little boy who once hated people and couldn’t deal with noise, is now one of the most sociable children I know.

To this day I don’t have any one answer to that question. The changes our son has been through are immense, and it wasn’t just one thing that was responsible for this. I do however have a list of things I know helped, and some that I suspect may have helped.

Here they are, the 5 things that helped our HSC cope with the world.

5 Things That Helped Our HSC Cope With The World, highly sensitive, support, understanding, growth

(1) The Move

When our son was 3, we moved to Singapore, a wonderland for families with young children. As opposed to our daily life back home, we started to spend most of our time outdoors. Since he was tiny, our son was always extremely peaceful when we were outside, in places that of course weren’t crowded or noisy. Singapore is also a very social place where neighbors just knock on your door and kids visit all the time. In the beginning that made him very anxious—it made me anxious as well; I’m highly sensitive too—but in the way that conditioning works, things slowly started to change and he now is the one who goes knocking on doors.

(2) Being There

When we moved I left my full time job and became a stay at home mom. I have no idea if my presence helped at all, but if anything, I was there to take him out all the time. I am in no way suggesting that other parents should consider staying home to be there. Sometimes that’s not really an option. And to be very honest, it drove me absolutely crazy in the beginning, which wasn’t good for anyone. But I’d like to think, now that I’ve been through it, that it wasn’t for nothing.

(3) Finding the Right School

Our son’s first school was a nightmare for all of us. The teachers were inflexible and judgmental. They never missed a chance to let us know how difficult he was. When he started at his new school after the move, he was suddenly surround by teachers who were calm, patient, and allowed him to sit in the “quite corner” of the class for as long as he needed to. The teacher would put him in her lap during circle time if wanted to take part but was nervous. She would meet with me frequently to talk about his development at school and at home, and together we would agree on the next steps. She was firm but gentle. She knew when to gently push him to do something she knew he was ready for. She gave him his time and her love and understanding.

And as I type this, I can’t help but cry, because we felt our life change when we had her in it. I strongly believe, with all my heart, that a teacher can make the whole difference. This one did.

(3) Play Dates

Play dates were something we never had before the move. The opportunity to meet with kids after school was great to help our HSC learn to play with others, starting slowly with one child at a time. We avoided group play dates because those were too much. There was a time when I thought they were useless, watching my son play in one corner by himself and his friend entertaining himself in another. But eventually, one baby step at a time, play dates became more social, and very educational.

(4) Story Books

Since he was very little, our HSC has been inspired by stories. He will often go to the bookshelf and find a story to help him with his struggles. Unfortunately, not many stories speak to the HSC—although today I feel like that number is increasing—and that was when I decided to write stories to inspire him. My first draft of All Too Much for Oliver, which I’ve since published, really resonated with him and he wanted me to read it over and over again. Now I can’t say if that helped him, but I’d really like to think it did.

Of course, I’m not saying your should go write a book for your child, but you can refer to this list of HSC-friendly picture books recommended by mothers of HSC from all over the world. You can also sign up for my other blog where I review books that are perfect for kids like ours.

(5) Knowing What’s Up

When we found out our son was highly sensitive—which was when we discovered Elaine Aron and her book, The Highly Sensitive Child—our attitudes and expectations automatically changed. Everyone at home seemed to calm down and relax about things. Instead of worrying about why he wasn’t doing something yet, we understood that he was taking the time to observe and understand, and that he would go ahead when he was ready.

I really think that when parents are calmer about things, kids will pick up on that which helps them become more confident. The opposite of course is also true. We weren’t horrible parents before we found out, but we were worried and tired, and we were desperate to have “normal” lives. Once we let go of all that and accepted things as they were, things started to change.


I’ll say again that children are so very different, even if they share the sensitivity trait. So what worked for us may not work for other families. Some kids require much more time to adapt and understand themselves, and that’s fine. I will never take credit for the changes our son went through, but I do like to think the support we offered helped make his journey a smoother and happier one.

Now on to you: Is there anything you did that you felt may have helped your HSC grow? There’s a lot we can learn from each other, so I look forward to reading your stories. 

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High Sensitivity is NOT a Disorder – Back to Basics

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to discuss high sensitivity with parents and teachers over the summer holiday, which honestly feels very good for two reasons: one, it’s great to be able to clear up some very common misconceptions about what it is to be sensitive or to have a highly sensitive child, and two, people are actually interested!

I still find it very hard to believe that not long ago, I had no answers to any of my questions regarding my child. None. My husband and I had no clue what was up.

We were constantly struggling to try and answer questions like “Why is he like that?” and “Why won’t he join the other kids?”

Too many times we’ve been told by friends, family, teachers and caregivers that our child was different, that we were encouraging this, and that that was not a good thing.

For years it hurt. It hurt to be blamed for the struggles our child was going through. It hurt to worry and wonder whether there was in fact a serious problem we should be trying to solve or manage. It hurt that we were at a loss.

And after we did find out that our son was highly sensitive, it hurt to get that look from people when we tried to explain there was nothing wrong with our child.

But here we are today, at peace and happy (knock on wood). Our child is more carefree than he’s ever been, makes friends in seconds, and is enjoying life the way we all should. And I find myself at this point, not long after the dreadful sleepless nights filled with questions without answers, discussing this thing called “high sensitivity” with people who want to hear about it.

High Sensitivity is NOT a Disorder - Blog Post by Sensitive and Extraordinary Kids - Leila Boukarim

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by a lovely journalist, Brigitte Rozario, for her parenting site called Thots n Tots. I was asked to explain what high sensitivity was, and how it was different from autism. I’ve also been asked by several people over the last few weeks how sensitivity differs from sensory processing disorder. Those are all very valid questions because after all, even though they essentially very different things, a lot of the behaviors displayed can be very common. But that’s also why it’s a good idea to have our children screened if we feel like they might need more help than we can give them on our own.

The best articles to read on the subject are, in my opinion, those written by Elaine Aron herself. Dr. Aron is the researcher who coined the term “highly sensitive”, has been studying the trait since the nineties, and has written numerous books and articles on the topic. This one sums up the differences very nicely while this one goes more in depth.

To sum things up even further, I have highlighted a few of my interview answers below. But if you have the time, please go ahead and read the whole thing.

What does “highly sensitive child” mean?

High sensitivity is an evolutionary character trait found in 20% of the population regardless of age, race and gender. It is also found in over 120 other animal species. Highly sensitive people are genetically programmed to feel things more deeply and experience the world more intensely due to a highly tuned nervous system. Most importantly, high sensitivity is not a disorder and does not need to be treated.

How is it different from autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that requires treatment and behavioural therapy. High sensitivity is a character trait that does not need to be fixed. Although some of the behaviours displayed might be similar to some extent, the causes are very different.

Not much is known about it. Do you see this as a problem to parents and children? How?

It is a serious problem not knowing why your child stands out of every crowd and not knowing why that is or what to do about it. When we found out our son was simply highly sensitive, not only did we get the peace of mind that we were desperate for, but we learned how to manage our expectations and how to speak to our child and deal with him in a way that made him feel supported, loved and understood. Knowing what he needed helped us figure out when to back off and let him do things at his own pace. When our attitudes, expectations and behaviour was changed appropriately, our son eventually began to metamorphose into a confident and independent little boy.

Not knowing your child is highly sensitive and setting unreasonable expectations that obviously will not be met can be frustrating to parents and detrimental to a child’s self-esteem.

And, what is your opinion on labeling your child as highly sensitive?

Like most people, I am not a fan of labels. However, I do believe that understanding the challenges your child faces daily and the reasons for this is crucial if we want to help our children. The label should serve to explain to those who play an important role in our children’s development (teachers, doctors, caregivers, etc.) what they need to flourish and why. What the label should not do is segregate our kids from the crowds to which they belong.

Head on over to Thots n Tots for loads of interesting articles. Also please do read the ones I’ve linked to in my post; they are very helpful to those trying to understand or explain what high sensitivity is.

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Clash of the Sensitives

When Parent and Child Are Both Highly Sensitive

My six year old is highly sensitive. He is growing and learning about himself and the world around him. He is constantly thinking about everything, over analyzing every situation and occurrence so that even the most trivial of things become challenging. Because his brain is in overdrive, he has trouble falling asleep at night. Tired, confused and emotional, he tends to get overwhelmed with everything, much too often.

I am a highly sensitive mother of two boys. I am an expat living oceans away from my family, trying to run a house, juggle two jobs, and raise my kids right while desperately struggling to take care of myself and enjoy life’s journey. I think too much. I analyze everything to shreds. I have trouble falling asleep. I am tired all the time. And I get overwhelmed with everything, much too often.

Clash of the Sensitives: When Parent and Child are both Highly Sensitive - Sensitive and Extraordinary Kids, Highly Sensitive Children, Relationships, love

A few weeks ago, my son was making his way through yet another phase. During this unpleasant time, there was a lot of arguing, yelling, teasing, and door slamming. There was defiance, anger, and yes, even tantrums. The storm has since passed, but I find myself thinking about it now, wondering if it was triggered by something specific, fearful that perhaps that something might have been me.

I have spent countless hours over the years asking myself if I’m doing the whole parenting thing right, spending enough time not at home with the kids but rather with the kids. Am I listening as much as I should? Am I giving them what they need? Am I yelling too much? Am I a yeller?

And if I don’t like the answers to those questions, how can I change?

Most days I honestly feel like I have nothing left to give. I am drained physically and emotionally, incapable of even speaking to my husband once the kids are in bed. If I conclude that I in fact need to “give more”, how in the world would I do that?

So here comes the big question: How do you give your highly sensitive children everything they need when you’re not getting what you need?

Too often, I come across advice articles online giving stressed out moms the secrets to a happy life in the form of lists of things to do designed to help you cope with the grind of daily life. One common theme that stands out is “self-care”, and that’s about the only thing that makes sense to me while reading through them. The how-to’s on the other hand, while very sensible and lovely, serve only to plant a seed of doubt in my head that I can easily do without.

Drink a cup of tea in a quiet room. Run a warm bath with essential oils. Exercise. Eat healthy, balanced, warm meals.  Get plenty of fresh air. Yeah, right.

Over the years, I have come to learn that life doesn’t always accommodate routines that are ideal, routines that make room for tea and relaxation and sunshine. The days are long, and they’re full on. There is constantly something happening and things need to get done. There’s no time for loveliness, which is very unfortunate because loveliness is essential.

That’s not to say that I don’t get any pleasure out of life at all. I do. Life is good (most of the time), even if it doesn’t involve candles and sweet smelling oils. With time, we adapt to the pressures of life and find our own little ways to empty our buckets. I have my coping-strategies list, but it’s one that works for me and my lifestyle and my circumstances. It consists of things like listening to music while cleaning the kitchen, drinking hot cocoa on a stool in the bathroom while the kids are in the tub, reading books on my daily commute, and meditating with Andy for ten minutes on Headspace. I can’t claim it works for everyone, but it works for me.

When I get my music, cocoa and ten minutes in the dark; when I empty out my bucket, I’m ready to help my child empty his. Once we’re both calm, we can sit down and talk to each other, share our feelings, discuss what went wrong and how we can prevent it from happening again. We apologize to each other and promise we’ll do better tomorrow. We hug, we kiss, we cuddle, and love washes over us, neutralizing all the negativity that consumed us when things got to be too much for either of us to bear.

The lovely people who brought Dr. Elaine Aron’s work to life last year with their documentary “Sensitive, The Untold Story” are working hard to do it again! This time, they’re working on an important piece called Sensitive In Love, which focuses on highly sensitive people and relationships. It was actually this project that got me thinking about my relationship with my highly sensitive son, one that has come a long way from the day he came into my life, a sweet little stranger, and will continue to change and grow as we both grow together.

Being highly sensitive involves emotions that often feel too big for us to contain, which is why being in a relationship with a highly sensitive person (HSP) or as a HSP (or both!) can pose challenges that are still unfamiliar and misunderstood. Let’s all work together to make sure this film is made possible by supporting it on Kickstarter

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Highly Sensitive Children Will Not Grow out of It

My son was three and a half years old when we discovered he was highly sensitive. We didn’t know much before that moment, and even after we’d read the books and articles and community discussions, we still didn’t feel like we knew enough. One thing we’d known all along however is this: Parenting a highly sensitive child is hard.

For those readers who don’t have highly sensitive children, I know what you’re thinking. Parenting is tough, period. And I can’t but agree with that argument. I also have a non highly sensitive child, and things can get rough with him. Like really, really rough. But the rough I get with my non highly sensitive son is typical parenting rough. His behavior is textbook infant / toddler / little boy / younger sibling. Yes, he is very unique in many ways, but those generalized rules you read in parenting books, they work with him most of the time. His older brother however has defied every rule and logical pattern since he was born, which, back then, basically meant no one could help us or show us the way. We were on  our own, desperately trying to figure things out.

Then we found out, thanks to Elaine Aron’s incredible book, that our son was simply a highly sensitive child, and things started to fall into place very quickly. We also learned that although we were in the dark for so long, we did know that we had to use an approach that was different to what everyone else seemed accustomed to. That’s when things started to get better, and little easier for all of us. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.

Three years later, it almost feels like my son has transformed into someone else. Someone more confident, more assertive, more carefree; someone who is more sociable than I could ever be. Some days I forget the struggles we were faced with not long ago. I forget that we were lonely because we couldn’t be around anyone. I forget that our little boy drove us to our wits’ end over the most trivial of things.

Some days, my husband and I wonder, is it possible he’s no longer highly sensitive? Has he grown out of it?

The obvious answer to that question is no. One does not grow out of genetic programming. But it’s easy to forget that as we grow, many aspects of our behavior, thoughts and attitude change. Our experiences mold the way we think and express ourselves in different situations.

A lot of people sincerely ask me if sensitive children “grow out of it”, and I can see where they’re coming from, especially when all they know—or think they know—about “sensitivity” is that it makes people cry and overreact. To them, sensitivity is weakness, and that’s all. They look at your sensitive child, perhaps while he/she is being difficult, and think, “Oh, well I’ve never seen adults cover their ears and cry because the music is too loud, so this must be something kids grow out of.”

Highly Sensitive Children Will Not Grow out of It

As children grow, they change; they’ve had more time to learn about themselves as well as their surroundings. They become more mature and their behavior develops into something more socially acceptable. With the right support from parents, older kids become more familiar with the magic of self control and how to use it. But no one ever grows out of being highly sensitive. High sensitivity not a flaw, it’s a character trait you’r born with, and like most other character traits, it has both a beautiful aspect, and sometimes a less attractive aspect. It’s not something that dictates how we behave, but rather affects the way we feel and how we view the world.

Sensitivity is not weakness; it is the power to see more clearly. Sensitivity does not lead to tears, but rather to kindness and empathy. Sensitivity is not isolating; it helps us form stronger, more meaningful bonds with others. In my opinion, it is our only hope for a better future for humanity, a quality no one should ever grow out of.

It’s one thing when a friend, relative or parent claims our kids will grow out of their sensitivities. And it’s a whole other thing when a teacher, caregiver or doctor insists they will. Our highly sensitive kids need us to understand what they’re going through. They need us to love and support them, and take their struggles seriously, no matter how small they might seem. Assuming they’ll “grow out of it” is denying them what they need to grow into healthy and happy adults. If the people they depend on most  brush them off, assuming they’re just spoiled little brats, hungry for attention, leaving them to question themselves and face the world alone, they will grow up to have problems that years of therapy can’t fix.

So let’s get our facts straight before it’s too late. I am starting with myself.

Has anyone ever told you your child will grow out of his/her sensitivities? I’d love to hear your stories.

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10 Tips For Parents of Highly Sensitive Boys

It wasn’t long after I read Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Child about three years ago that I found Dr. Ted Zeff’s The Strong, Sensitive Boy. Naturally, as the mother of a highly sensitive boy, I quickly bought and read the book, hoping I would better know how to bring out the best in my sweet child without damaging him. I needed to know that my expectations were realistic and fair. And I was desperate to find out how I could better equip him to deal with a world that expects boys and men to be tough and virtually emotionless.

The Strong Sensitive Boy is based on Dr. Zeff’s interviews of thirty highly sensitive men from five different countries, demonstrating the factors that had the biggest impact on these individuals growing up, such as relationships with fathers, school, making friends, and sports, just to name a few. Reading these men’s stories and finding out what helped and hurt them the most is not only moving, but also helps to open the eyes and hearts of fathers ̶ and mothers ̶ who may be trying to “toughen up” their sensitive boys.

It is true that the high sensitivity trait can be found equally in both males and females, regardless or age, race or culture. And it is true that, because of the heightened sense of awareness that comes with the trait, making it very difficult for the highly sensitive person (or HSP) to filter out all the input from the environment, it is a challenge for both males and females to live carefree, happy lives without getting so overwhelmed with the world. However, because of society’s expectations of men to be a certain way, a way that is more characteristic of the opposite end of the sensitivity spectrum, raising a sensitive boy to be a healthy and happy man can pose a bit more of a challenge.

Here are ten invaluable tips for parents of highly sensitive boys which I really wanted to highlight. There is so much more to take away from the book, but these are points I believe we should always keep in mind, especially when times get tough.

The Strong Sensitive Boy by Dr. Ted Zeff, a Book Review, 10 Invaluable Tips for Parents of Highly Sensitive Boys

(1) Moms cannot, and should not do it all on their own. I know some of us want to, or think we can, but we need to remember we’re only human, and parenting a highly sensitive child can be challenging even for the strongest, most super of parents. As Dr. Zeff so cleverly puts it,

It takes the patience of a saint to be able to always exude unconditional love for your children. That’s why they invented grandmas!

Yes! I can at least speak for myself when I say that there is a point I reach every so often (at times more often than I’d like) when I feel like there’s nothing left for me to give. I am completely wiped out, both physically and emotionally, and will snap at the slightest thing, which needless to say isn’t good for anyone. In his research, Dr. Zeff shows that those highly sensitive men who grew up with loving relationships with females other than their moms had happier experiences as children than those who didn’t.

(2) We need to do our best not to put our sons in situations in which they will be extremely uncomfortable or humiliated.  This of course is true for all children, but with the highly sensitive boy, these situations can seem very trivial to most people, especially if those people are not highly sensitive themselves. Joining friends for a BBQ, getting in the pool, or going to a crowded mall are just a few examples of challenges that aren’t seen as such by the majority of the population. But as parents of highly sensitive boys, it is important we always try to remember what our sons are going through, and remind ourselves that to them, these are real problems that cause real stress.

(3) Dad, your presence might just be the most important influence on a child growing up. Spend special, quality time with your son, doing anything at all. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re present and supportive of  your boy. Your acceptance of your son’s character and your love and understanding will play a huge role in building his confidence and self-esteem. Connect with your sensitive boy, even if your interests are completely different. He needs his father.

Fathers would do well to let go of the cookie-cutter model of masculinity.

And remember, sensitivity does not equal weakness.

(4) Gentle discipline works best with the highly sensitive child. Dr. Zeff points out that boys tend to receive much harsher discipline than girls. While physical punishment is terrible for any child, it’s effects could be devastating and possibly traumatizing for the highly sensitive. Gently and calmly talk to your sensitive boy about what he’s done wrong, and try and work with him to correct his behavior. I do realize this is easier said than done, especially when you have a lot on your plate and emotions are running high, but I have found time and time again that when I take the calm approach to discipline with my highly sensitive boy, the response is always positive. Oftentimes I find that he already knows he’s made a mistake and is upset with himself before I even say anything.

(5) How can we expect someone who is highly sensitive to noisy environments to learn effectively in one? We can’t, and we shouldn’t. That means that the typical large public-school classroom can be extremely overwhelming for the highly sensitive boy. With so much stimuli to deal with, it’s no surprise our sensitive children can’t tune out the noise and focus on what needs to be learned. According to Michael Gurian, sensitive boys crave love and attention in a school environment in which they feel uncomfortable. Dr. Zeff repeats that a boy needs more one-on-one time with his teacher in order to do and feel better at school. Another point that may reflect badly on sensitive children in school is that they are often reluctant to speak up, which may be misinterpreted by a teacher that these children are either not listening or not understanding the subject matter. One thing Zeff says in this chapter about school really resonated with me:

Even one humiliating experience by a teacher could damage a sensitive boy’s entire scholastic career.

Talk to your son’s teachers. Explain to them why your son is the way he is, and clarify what he needs to function better. I have heard of many parents who left schools where teachers and principals did not show any kind of empathy or support towards their children’s needs, and were lucky enough to find better schools for their kids. It’s a lot of work, and sometimes a hassle, but it pays off big time.

(6) Watch out for signs that your son is being bullied. According to  Zeff, sensitive boys are more prone to being bullied because of their quieter, non-aggressive nature, but are unfortunately less likely to ask for help for fear of getting embarrassed or of causing further bullying because they spoke up. Read more about warning signs and prevention of bullying on Dr. Zeff’s site.

(7) Oftentimes, the highly sensitive boy likes and needs to spend time alone. Don’t nag or force your son to “go out an make friends”. Remember that for them, it’s not always as simple as that. However, it is worth noting that having friends can really increase the quality of your son’s life and give him the confidence and strength he needs to face the world, so gently encouraging your son to spend time with a couple of good friends (not necessarily at the same time, of course), while he still gets his time alone is key.

(8) Sibling rivalry is trickier when one child is highly sensitive. We need to be extra careful about how we give out praise to our children, while making sure we don’t use comparisons to make one child feel less worthy than the other because of their nature. While children teasing each other is perfectly normal, we need to minimize teasing that is directed at your son’s sensitivities. It might be a good idea to have a talk with your non-highly sensitive child about what makes your sensitive one uncomfortable, while being clear that these are not weaknesses. Perhaps even discuss the things that make your non-HSC anxious, and point out that this is what his/her brother feels like hen he/she is too loud / physical / aggressive / etc.

(9) Highly sensitive boys are not all the same. We often make the mistake of making generalizations when we discover a major commonality. But just because highly sensitive boys all share the “high sensitivity” character trait doesn’t make them all the same. Don’t assume that just because your son is sensitive, he won’t enjoy certain activities. One thing to watch out for is sports. Dr. Zeff talks about the positive impact that sports can have on a boy’s self-esteem, but if sports are not his thing, don’t force him to join a team!

(10) Body image can be a bigger problem for males than females. Studies have shown than the less satisfied a boy is with his body, the lower his self-esteem. Try to help your son accept the way he looks by listening to him and explaining that the stereotypical image of masculinity the media bombards us with is not real. Finally, try and help him find an athletic outlet that suits him. Dr. Zeff points out that the men in his study who took part in team sports were confident about the way they were built, regardless of their physique. If your son doesn’t feel comfortable in a team, there are always individual sports like running, biking, martial arts, etc.

I could go on and on about all the helpful information Zeff gives us in The Strong, Sensitive Boy, but I don’t want to give it all away. If you have a highly sensitive boy, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of this book.

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Taking Oliver to my Son’s School

A few weeks ago, I was asked to go to my son’s school and read All Too Much for Oliver to his class.

It was by far one of my favorite parts of this journey we’ve been on. Seeing the kids’ faces, hearing their thoughts, seeing the pride in my son’s eyes… It’s all too much to put in words, but I’m going to try nevertheless.

Our wonderful teacher has been talking to our kids about art, artists, and the different ways in which we express ourselves, be it through dance, song, books, paintings, and so on. I’ve been to my son’s class many times, and many times as a mystery reader like all the other parents (every week, one parent volunteers to surprise all the kids with a book of her or his choice). But this time, I was there as the author of the book I was reading, which apparently, meant a lot to them. Some of them didn’t believe me at first when I told them I had written the book. Others simply ignored the information and later asked me who’d written it, asking me if I was serious when I said I had.

Reading All Too Much for Oliver to my son's Class - My Quiet Adventures - Picture Books for the Highly Sensitive Child

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that. But what I enjoyed more was hearing the kids’ thoughts on Oliver, the way he was in the beginning of the story, and on his “transformation” throughout. The first thing I observed was how easy it can be to filter out the highly sensitive kids in the class (roughly 20% every time). They immediately understood why Oliver behaved the way he did. They could relate to Oliver and smiled at the end when they saw him be brave. You could tell that they knew just what it took to be able to do some of the things that come so easily to most. And best of all, they explained to me why and how Oliver managed to do what he did towards the end.

The rest of the class was very quick to jump up and say, “I love noisy places!”

I can’t say I didn’t expect it. It was clearly a point-of-pride for them, and understandably so. How powerful it is to be able to function and be happy in such an overwhelming environment, at least that’s how we sensitives see it. What I didn’t expect however, is that they kept listening closely and with interest, and somewhere towards the end, many of them seemed to suddenly relate. After all, we are all sensitive, some of us more than others, and some to certain things rather than others. All of us, at some point, have felt overwhelmed by the world we live in, and all of us have had to build up the courage to face our fears and start enjoying ourselves. Even my audience of 6-year-olds knew that.

I have since read All Too Much for Oliver to several classes, and have a few more to visit in the near future. It’s been heart-warming, enlightening, inspiring, wonderful! And nothing has been more rewarding than the gleaming smile on my son’s face when I read the book to his friends, and his words as I was walking out of the classroom:

“Mommy, I’m so proud of you.”


This post first appeared on My Quiet Adventures – Picture Books for the Highly Sensitive Child.


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Seven Reasons Not to Compare Your Highly Sensitive Child to Anyone

“Why is my child different?”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve compared your child to your friend’s child, the child at the playground, the child next door, and worst of all, your child’s sibling.

We all know it’s not right, but sometimes we really can’t help it. We compare to reassure ourselves everything is okay or to prove to ourselves that things are not. And what other reference do we have than other children?

For a number of reasons, my husband and I have caught ourselves too many times watching other children in awe as they climb trees or jump into a pool, completely carefree and with such ease you can’t help but conclude that this is what all children are built for. Splinters, bruises and water up their noses mean nothing to them. Because, we tell ourselves, they’re kids. And that’s what kids like to do.

Too many times we have wished our child could be a little more like those other children.

And way too many times, we have compared our son to his little brother, who, since he was born, was so different from our eldest in the way that he behaved, the way he took risks, and the way he was around other kids, just to name a few. It was something we weren’t used to, and so it naturally gave way to many unfair comparisons.

Even though we will still sometimes do it secretly, my husband and I have learned through the years that one of the worst things you can do to your child—and yourself as a parent—is to compare your child to other children, or yourself to other parents. This is obviously true for all children, regardless of whether or not they’re highly sensitive. Nevertheless, I do find the topic especially relevant to highly sensitive children because we generally resort to comparisons when we feel our children stand out in ways we—or others—perceive as negative.

I know it’s easier said than done because we naturally tend to look to the world around us for differences and similarities to better measure and understand what we know. But before you compare your sensitive child to another—and then make judgments and set expectations based on that—consider the following:

Seven Reasons Not to Compare Your Child to Anyone

Highly sensitive children tend to be perfectionists. This means that while other children might be drawing, painting, building, using scissors, or playing an instrument, yours might still be perfecting her skills before she shows the world what she can do.

Highly sensitive children are cautious. Climbing, swimming, swinging from trees, and going up and down the stairs might be second nature to most kids. Yours, however, is assessing the risks of those physical activities other children enjoy so much, and calculating his every move, trying very hard not to get hurt. And really, is that such a bad thing?

Highly sensitive children have a lower threshold of pain and discomfort. Yes, it is frustrating—perhaps even a little embarrassing—when our children seem to “over”react by wailing uncontrollably over minor scrapes, bumps and bruises, while other kids seem to be able to pick themselves and dust themselves off, moving on to the next thing as if nothing happened. Although it feels like our sensitive little ones are exaggerating, chances are they’re not. They do feel pain more intensely and will react accordingly.

Highly sensitive children have rich and complex inner lives. Too often, I feel like I’m talking to myself when I try to say something to my highly sensitive child. It almost feels like he’s not there, and the blank look on his face doesn’t help. He will later demonstrate that he was very much “there” by repeating every word I’d said and then giving me his deep analysis on the matter. Even though it feels like the lights are out, there’s actually a whole lot going on in there.

Highly sensitive children are like sponges. Their thin skins will allow everything to affect them. To make things worse, they can pick up on the subtlest of changes in their environments—including those changes in your attitude, tone and facial expressions. When you start to judge your children based on what you see in others, whether you like it or not, your child will know something’s up, and the result won’t be good for her confidence and self-esteem.

Highly sensitive children are very hard on themselves. The last thing they need is for you to be hard on them.

Everyone is unique, highly sensitive or not. Because children are all different, regardless of the similarities they might share, the will behave differently, feel differently, think differently and even develop differently. As a parent who has once freaked out about every little difference she noticed and every milestone that wasn’t reached “on time”, I learned the hard way that as long as my child is learning, developing, and not hurting himself or anyone else, there’s no need to worry.

Needless to say, parenting a highly sensitive child comes with some very specific frustrations, some of which can be very isolating. But parenting in general is usually a frustrating and challenging thing, no matter what our children are like. And always keep in mind that the child you see at the playground, next door, and in your daughter’s classroom may not be the same child at home. In other words, you’re not with those other children all the time and have no idea what happens when you’re not watching. I can grantee it’s not always as peachy as it seems.

Our highly sensitive child, from day one, has shown us such wonderful things in the way that only sensitive children can. The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s been magical in so many ways, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter how much easier it could’ve been.


As a side note, I want to add that comparing our children to others can sometimes help us point out serious issues which need to be dealt with. Comparisons on their own are not necessarily a bad thing. However, it’s when we start judging our children or asking them to be more like other kids and less like themselves, that things can turn very sour and real damage can be done. I hope I was clear about that in my post.

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. We can all learn so much from each other!

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Sensitive the Sequel

The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

Last September, something big happened!

Fifteen months after Dr. Elaine Aron announced her “big project”, she presented the world with a movie that would change the lives of manyUp until the release of Sensitive – The Untold Story, sensitives around the world were coming together, forming support groups and communities, letting each other know they weren’t alone, and trying, each in their own way, to shed light on what it means to be highly sensitive. There have been blogs, news articles, books and podcasts all of which have contributed to the increasing popularity of the topic, something many of us couldn’t even imagine might ever happen just a couple of years ago.

And then, on September 10, 2015 there was a movie! This character trait we’d been talking about for so long, while struggling to explain to others what it meant when we ourselves didn’t quite understand, was on the big screen!

Now, say what you will about the power of movies versus books, but having someone watch a documentary about a trait you desperately need them to understand is probably more doable than having them read a 350 page book. Presenting a friend, relative, teacher or caregiver with something that is so visually appealing will more likely guarantee you get your message through. Nothing will ever replace books as a source of information, but as the director of Sensitive – The Untold Story, Will Harper, said during his visit to Singapore, the movie will drive more people to read the book they need to read. The movie is a catalyst, helping to speed up the reaction we desperately want, leading to changes we desperately need.

When Diana Harper, the producer of the documentary, contacted me in October, asking me if I would be interested in being in the “next film”, I had to read the message a few times before it sank in. There were two aspects of this news that were thrilling to me: one, that there would be a sequel dedicated to highly sensitive children and two, that we were going to be in it.

Diana and Will Harper in Singapore; makers of Sensitive the Movie

Diana and Will Harper (producer and director of Sensitive – The Untold Story) in Singapore

I remember when that first movie was in the making, a significant number of people, including myself, were already asking for a movie that would focus on raising and caring for a highly sensitive child. After all, it’s with our children that it all begins. It is at that point that we can do things right and prevent problems they might otherwise have to live with for the rest of their lives. It is schools with impossible standards and teachers who are quick to judge that we need to convince. It is friends and family who point fingers and give unsolicited parenting advice we need to bring to our side. As adults, we can fend for ourselves; we’ve had time to live with and understand our sensitivities (to a certain extent, anyway). Our children however are still trying to figure out why they seem to stand out from the crowd, why they can’t seem to enjoy things all their friends do, and why no one else seems to find this world so overwhelming. It is our job as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, to help them understand themselves better, and to try and make this world a more accepting place. And what better way to do that than with the help of a catalyst, a documentary featuring parents with real stories about their sensitive children, a tool that can convey a strong and important message in sixty minutes.

This is a good time for sensitives. It wasn’t long ago that my husband and I were completely alone and hopeless, wondering what we were dealing with and whether or not there was anyone else out there going through the same thing. And today, we are part of a nice big, supportive community of people in the same boat, in a world that is a little more understanding and little more open.

And after the release of the sequel, who knows where we might stand. But we can already feel the changes the first first film has led to. We can hear the message louder now. We know more highly sensitive people now. We hear more stories told candidly with less shame now. After having the pleasure and honor of getting to know Will and Diana Harper, the talented, ambitious and passionate filmmakers and beautiful people behind this change, I know that a project of such importance couldn’t possibly be in better hands.

Sensitive the Movie: A sequel in the making focusing on Highly Sensitive Children

Luca and Will: The beginning of a great project!

All I can say at this point, now that my wishes for a documentary about highly sensitive children are coming true, is that I have high hopes for the impact ‘Sensitive The Movie’ will have on the  world our children grow up in, the schools they go to, and the people in their lives.

Does the release of this next movie mean schools all around the world will finally acknowledge the fact that some kids just function better in different settings? Does it mean highly sensitive children will no longer be misunderstood and treated unfairly? Will this movie put a stop to unrealistic expectations from parents and relatives who push their kids to be like everyone else?

I can’t say for sure, but I certainly can’t wait to find out!

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Movie. This one will focus on raising and caring for Highly Sensitive Children (Elaine Aron)

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

The film makers are calling for submissions of stories from parents of highly sensitive children! Here is the announcement from their latest blog post on Sensitive The Movie:

We are currently on the search for more families with inspiring stories about raising a Highly Sensitive Child, the obstacles they had to deal with, and what they might have done (or wanted to do but couldn’t). If you have a story you’d like to share with us, and would like a chance to be featured in the film, please email it to us in 500 words or less at info@sensitivethemovie.com with the subject line MY STORY.

To read more about the sequel that is currently in the making, and about Will and Diana Harper’s visit to Singapore, click here

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“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.” – Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, a country with a rough history and little hope of a brighter future, people have grown skin far too thick for their own good. On closer look however, one can see how a people can evolve in that direction, having little time to stop and consider the things in life that don’t have a direct impact on the now; having been forced to move fast and think fast, and fight constantly to get through every single day. Placed in this sort of situation, where practically nothing comes easy and the most basic requirements for comfortable living can’t be taken for granted, it becomes easier to understand why the general attitude towards sensitivity is, well, not great.

Suck it up, son. It's no big deal. - Damaging words we tell our children

Where I’m from, people are expected to get back on their feet again right after they’ve been knocked down. They’re expected to brush things off like they never happened. “Suck it up” (or man up / toughen up / get over it / pull yourself together) and “it’s no big deal” are things we say as often as “hello” and “goodbye.” Dwelling on something that may have hurt us or crying over disappointments is simply unacceptable. Whatever it is, you pick yourself up and keep going. That’s how it is. We don’t question it. We simply try to do what is expected of us.

But for those of us who are more sensitive than most, those words can be damaging. For those
of us who thoroughly process input (whether we like it or not), who feel much more deeply about the events that occur in our lives, and who require more time to collect ourselves after a difficult time, those words can leave scars that run deep.

Last year, we went back home for the holidays. During one of our family outings to a lake near my parents’ town, there was a young family standing close to where we were, feeding the ducks. At one point, the father climbs up onto a ledge for a reason that is beyond me, while his son, who must have been no more than four years old, pleaded with his father to get down while crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking, but what happened next was even worse. The father laughs at his son, stays up on the ledge a little longer, pretending he might fall over into the lake. He then jumps back down, tells his son “it’s no big deal,” picks him up and puts him up on the ledge where he panicked. The mother, carrying a baby, thought this was hilarious and laughed while her son begged his father to put him back down.

No one looked at these people like what they were doing was heartless and somewhat criminal. No one looked because to them, it was no big deal. Nothing happened. No one fell. And besides, boys aren’t supposed to cry anyway.

I suppose when a real threat a people has to constantly face is war, sensitivity is not the strength a country is looking for. Sensitivity might even be looked at as a major hindrance during a fight. I can’t even begin to imagine being thrown into a battle and have to watch people die all around me. I simply can’t.

But then again, without people who do over think and over analyze and over feel, how are things ever going to improve? When nothing is a big deal, what in the world would drive us to change our situation for the better?

You had a car accident, you say? So what?! An emergency C-section? Get over it, you both made it! Someone flicked you off for no reason? Big deal!

You’re worried too many trees are being chopped down? Too much garbage and pollution? Too much violence? Too many animals on the brink of extinction? It scares you that the planet might be in trouble?

“Suck it up, son. It’s no big deal.”

That’s what we tell our friends, family, colleagues, and worst of all, our children. If nothing is a big deal, if we’re taught to repress every feeling but anger, how is anything ever going to change? If no one cares about a thing, who’s going to fight for peace? For human rights? For gender equality? For sustainability? For the planet?


“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti


Unfortunately, this is not just something I witness back home. It’s something I see everywhere. Boys are expected to behave like men—whatever that means—and fathers, mothers, teachers, strangers don’t hesitate to point that out.

As the mother of two boys who cry whenever we pass by workers pruning some trees on the road (because “they’re cutting off too much”), I can only say that it fills my heart with pride and joy to see such young people  care so deeply about what goes on around them. It is true that parenting a highly sensitive child can be frustrating at times, but is asking our sensitive boys to ‘man up’ the solution?

My highly sensitive son, on his sixth birthday last month, asked his friends to help him support a charity his chose himself instead of bringing him presents. He cried for about forty five minutes after we read The Journey Home, a picture book about how some endangered animals might one day join the dodo if we don’t do something, and decided to support a charity that helps the planet on his next birthday.  For a school project, his Christmas wish (as we saw it up on the classroom wall during his Christmas party) was for there to be no more war in the world so that people would stop dying and getting hurt. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is, we have very little to do with the opinions he has and the plans he comes up with. That’s all him. That’s the way he is.

And in my opinion, that is the way all “men” should be.

A six year old supporting a charity on his birthday instead of receiving gifts - The way all "men" should be

Too often, I hear of mothers complaining that their husbands don’t understand, or won’t accept their highly sensitive sons. A great book every parent of a highly sensitive boy should read is “The Strong Sensitive Boy” by Dr. Ted Zeff, in which he interviews thirty highly sensitive men form five different countries, demonstrating the factors that had the biggest impact on these individuals growing up, such as relationships with fathers, school, making friends, sports, just to name a few. Reading these men’s stories and finding out what helped and hurt them the most is not only moving, but also helps to open the eyes and hearts of fathers ̶ and mothers ̶ who may be trying to “toughen up” their sensitive boys.

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Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories – My Guest Post on Happy Sensitive Kids

Amanda van Mulligen, one of my favorite bloggers, asked me to guest post on her blog, Happy Sensitive Kids, which is an absolute honor!

Amanda is the mother of three highly sensitive boys and a brilliant writer. She asked me to tell her why I decided to write picture books for highly sensitive children which required me to go back to a time when I didn’t know what “high sensitivity” was; a time when my husband and I felt painfully alone in our struggles; a time when worry and doubt consumed us.

Head on over to Happy Sensitive Kids and read our story.

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories

Inspiring Highly Sensitive Children Through Stories