In order to ensure that your highly sensitive child flourishes, and succeeds in school, you need to understand your child, and what they actually need.
Your highly sensitive child will struggle in school at some point. That’s a fact. A highly sensitive child (HSC) needs the right support to flourish in school. Working out exactly what they need is half the problem.
Here are seven tips to help you.
First Days Matter
My son started primary school at the beginning of 2011. It was a rough ride from day one. One of his regular teachers was on maternity leave so every week the void was filled with yet another face.
From one morning to the next it was hard to know which face would greet him at the classroom door – it didn’t give me a comfortable feeling, let alone my four-year-old son.
My HSC is unsettled by uncertainty, change, and new environments. Like most highly sensitive children.
His first day at school was a drama that will occupy a space in my memory for all time. His father and I had to physically drag him into his new classroom.
Although the teacher was great with him, for my son she was an unknown entity. He kicked, he screamed and he cried. We left the classroom with the desperate cries of “mama” and “papa” ringing in our ears.
I could feel my heartbreaking as we walked through the recently abandoned hallways. If I could go back in time I would go back into that classroom, scoop him up, and take him home. It was a sign of things to come.
Related: 10 Signs Your Child is an Old Soul
This nightmare was the morning ritual for his first week. The kicking and screaming in the classroom stopped but the daily tears at the classroom door took weeks to dry up.
The reluctance to go to school lasted for months and the tantrums trying to get him back to school after lunch didn’t end until the school year did.
It is clear, in hindsight, that his teacher and I weren’t on the same page from the off. His teacher insisted that the best thing for my son was to throw him in at the deep end and have him come to school full time as soon as possible. My mama instinct said a softly softly approach fitted my four-year-old HSC better.
Two and a half years later, my son returned smiling from his familiarization morning at the new school we had chosen for him.
Two and a half years after he first started school I was a much wiser mother tuned in to my son’s needs in the classroom – and it helped us find a new school that was more in tune with my son’s needs.
He is now a ‘happy to go to school’ (most of the time) eight years old and we haven’t looked back.
Here are seven pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up during our school journey.
1. Get It Right From the Start
High sensitivity is not understood in every school, despite up to 20% of children being highly sensitive.
If your child is just starting out in school you have the perfect opportunity to get it right from the start.
Talk to the school director about high sensitivity and what it means for your family. If you get blank stares or cries of “it’s not scientifically proven” (or worse) then move on to the next school on your list.
2. Educate the Educators
A teacher needs to fully understand the sensitivities of your child and the implications of these in the classroom for your child to thrive in school.
Many HSCs need a trusted environment to flourish and will sense if a teacher does not behave genuinely with them. They will be frightened by stern or a teacher that regularly shouts at the class.
My eldest told us, once he had changed schools, that he went many times to his former teacher to tell her he felt so tired in the classroom.
It was his way of explaining that his bucket was full and he needed the time out. Her response was that he should go to bed. It didn’t help him and he stopped communicating how he felt with her.
There was no going back from there. It is imperative that teachers understand that an HSC needs downtime and feel quickly overwhelmed in a busy classroom.
Share the ‘Tips for Teachers’ sections that some books on the topic of HSCs have with your child’s teachers.
A great starting point is the teacher tips in Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Child book.