Small Fry

Children phototechnique.com

They may be small

They may be young

They may often get taken, transferred, pushed around.

They may get little voice

About things that affect their lives.

They may have few actual ways

To keep alive.

Their views may be ignored

Laughed at

Minimized.

Their needs may all too often be relegated

To agendas others have.

But small as they are, they are mighty

They are brave of soul

And heart.

They hold opinions

Dreams

Ideas

Insights.

Our care makes all the difference

To the future

That they hold

Inside.

For The Daily Post

 

See Through

looking through
Photo: Borzui.tumblr.com

 

Not all that shows outside, is what may be within.

Not all reflection knows the spirit

Light or dark or dim.

Be kind to those whose face is blank.

Be kind to those whose face speaks more.

You never know

The depth of life

That simmers, yearns, below.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Being sensitive: A blessing or a curse?

 

In her great blog Adele and the Penguin, Adele Ryan McDowell posts about all manner of lovelies (well worth peeking in!). Her recent post is about sensitivity, about those of us who may be labeled “too sensitive” or “highly sensitive people.”

Adele and the Penguin

http://adeleandthepenguin.com/is-being-sensitive-a-blessing-or-a-curse/

Reading it made me think–and not for the first time (Adele’s blog posts do that–they touch the everyday in novel and eye-opening and heart-opening ways).

 

 

The highly-sensitive people thing? Yep. I can totally relate …

So can many of my little clients.

Personally I don’t see being sensitive as a bad thing. Like any quality, I think the ability itself is neutral. It is how we react to it, what we do with it, how it affects our lives, and whether it adds or detracts from the person we are and can become, that is the most important aspect of it to me.

There seems to be more good than bad in sensitivity. Creative people are often sensitive. Artists, writers, thinkers, inventors. I certainly see more positive than negative in the more sensitive children who come to see me. They perceive the world minutely, they read people amazingly well (even if they don’t always know how to verbalize it), they feel deeply.

They are also, all too often, overwhelmed. There is too much, everything, everywhere, from everyone. In reaction, they snail in, lash out, fidget, shut down, alternate being acutely perceptive and deeply numbed out. They can have spectacular tantrums, meltdowns for seemingly nonsensical slights, go from happy to weepy in a blink of an eye. They get all kinds of acronym diagnoses, sometimes rightfully, often not … They can walk through the days feeling raw, exposed, vulnerable, tender, empathetic, perceptive, disorganized and evocative.

Emotional regulation is a must for all children to learn. Without ability to do so and find a place of calm attention–they will struggle at school, in public, in getting along. All caregivers of children are tasked with the teaching and modeling of emotional regulation to the children in their lives. It is even more crucial for highly-sensitive children … who can tax even the most patient caregiver. The sensitive children need more help, much more help, to learn to regulate, to know when they need to take a break, to recognize the beginning of overwhelm and be able to apply a tool for grounding.

They need more time. To play. To rest. To think. To cuddle. To get bored. To dream. To get used to new things. To gather their courage to try. It is a luxury of time all too many of them do not get these days, in our modern world that does not make it easy to be sensitive.

Our world–and within it the education system and children’s schedules–is currently calibrated for very low sensitivity: there is information everywhere and increased pace galore. Blinking screens, beeping car horns and phone messages, jingles of all manners, multi-sensory bombardment, loud, fast, multitasking everywhere. There is stimulation all the time. Every. Where.

Wake up and rush to school, bend over homework in the car to complete what didn’t get done the night before because there was a birthday party and soccer practice. After a long day at school in a class of 30 and no recess or playground because it rained and a two hour assembly in a noisy auditorium followed by lunch in an equally ruckus lunchroom, grab your bag and gobble down dinner on the way from dance to chess before you go home and try to do homework with the TV in the background, someone angry with tech-support on the phone, the vacuum and the dishwasher rumbling along. Get a math problem wrong and dissolve in tears onto a kicking puddle of misery on the floor. It is not the math problem. It is the everything and that little bump of difficulty simply toppled tolerance. Everyday stuff mushrooming to a thunderstorm.

Sometimes I think that sensitive people may be better calibrated for slower life … for long walks from place to place, bigger nature around them, more connection with animals (and their highly regulating energies), more connection to the earth and its calming breath.

It is not how most children grow up anymore, and it is not about going back to lack of modernity (there’s much to be said for running water, electricity, and even the Internet …). However, it is about helping children–especially sensitive children–learn how to stop, pause, breathe, step away, maintain boundaries.

All children need that. Sensitive children need it even more. Their drama-streak, their tantrums, their meltdowns, their whining, begging, shutting-down are all their ways of communicating to us that they need our help to manage. That they are feeling raw and need a hug, a pause, a hand.

What to do?

First what not to do … It is not about ‘helping them grow thick skin’ or expecting them to ‘suck it up’ or ‘toughen up.’ Shame has yet to heal any sensitivity. Expecting one to be what they are not will not resolve anything other than create a distance and thicker pain, not skin.

What does work?

Try to keep things simple. Establish routines and try to maintain them reasonably consistent (we’re not talking OCD here, just predictability). Make time for quiet. At the very least relegate a certain space in the house that is off-screens: a place to read, do homework, dream. Be aware of competition–of stimuli, that is–if there is much background noise you cannot control, consider noise-canceling earphones for the child to wear when they need to concentrate. Keep it comfortable: temperature and clothing, yes, but also tone of voice and your own emotional regulation. Sensitive kids pick up on your state of mind and internalize it. It filters in. It gets under their skin. They are too young to manage your adult feelings for you … and they already have plenty of their own. Keep it soothing: quiet cuddling, snuggling together with a book or a few precious moments at the end of day, offer comfort when they are distraught. Let them know you see them, hear them, feel for their discomfort. It is real.

Sensitivity is like a fragile gift. It is precious, it is beautiful, it can light up the room and make for excellent potential. It is also delicate and needs some special care. It calls for careful holding in times of transition. It needs a very safe space, for sure.

Have no worries, if you treat your child’s sensitivity (and yours, if you need to) with care and … yes, sensitivity … you will not spoil them. To the contrary, you will teach them how to control and modulate their hyper-acute-perceptions. They will learn from your attuned care how to keep aware without drowning in information, how to keep empathetic without taking on other people’s needs, how to keep their senses vibrating brilliantly without becoming blinded or overwrought. They will learn from you to take time to breathe, to pause, to consider. They will recognize their own cues and clues and find ways to respond to them healthily.

They will blossom like the rare delicate beings that they are. Come fully wonderfully into their own. Sensitivity seen, understood, utilized, known.

delicate2

 

 

Superhero Story

superhero

The little boy loves chocolate. He adores candy, cookies, florescent sour sticks. His idea of a balanced meal is french fries and ketchup with some chicken fingers on the side. He cringes at anything that grows on trees and runs away from any shorter plant life, especially those grown on farms with salads in mind.

He thinks brownies are a food group and can name all the junk food in the aisle of a mega-mart. He’s a keen critic of the varieties of cheese doodles, pasta shapes (no sauce), donuts, and icing from a can.

He perfected pouts and frowns to span the whole range of disgust, denial, and gradients of ‘no-way-Jose’ with which to respond to any and all attempts at offering healthy nutrition. You can dress vegetables however you like, try to hide fruit in a smoothie or an ice pop, claim that dried fruit are “as sweet as candy”–he sees right through the sneakiest disguise. The only way a vitamin will pass his lips is in a gummy.

His world revolves around sweets, snacks, and superheros.

Of the latter, he owns every size, shape, and denomination; in clothes, sheets, watches, slap-on-bracelets, stickers, backpack, cup, cap, hat, and mittens. He is genially inclusive of all superheros, identifiable by characteristic puffy chests, disproportionate arms, odd skin color (tending toward green), and various kinds of billowing plastic capes and armament. There are of course the Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, Green Lantern man, and Darth Vader, but also many others that adults keep confusing and, more’s the pity, cannot even name … 

The boy lives, breathes, sleeps, plays, narrates, and animates his superheros. He is rarely found without one–they are constant companions–at home, in the car, in the tub. He takes one with him to the toilet, for some friendly company and conversation.

He keeps a place at the table for his superheros. He lugs a carry-on packed with them onto the plane. He delights in having them, ecstatically anticipates upcoming birthdays and holidays as opportunities for enlarging his beloved collection.

Some may think his ‘fixation’ willful or limiting. They may frown upon his adulation of plastic figurines with overstuffed musculature and unrealistic proportions and stereotype. Others see him walk along the street in full superhero regalia, grinning, prancing, proud as rain … and they cannot hold back a smile. He is absorbed, enchanted and enchanting. At almost-four, he bobs easily in and out of the bubble of delight in mystery and magic-thinking.

His parents tolerate sheets and towels becoming capes, draping furniture, and sweeping fragile items off of shelves and coffee tables. They have learned to live with constant sound effects as Spiderman climbs walls and Superman flies atop buildings and other superhero this-or-that saves all manner of fallen toy-victims. His parents accept that going anyplace takes longer when there’s a world to rescue with each move, a hero to swoop wide from every stair, a never ending battle between good and bad to wage and master.

Speaking of battles … there is the matter of his aversion to tooth brushing. Sugary and colored yellow with sticky cheese powder, he refuses to allow any mention of teeth cleaning. He clenches jaws against attempts at probing. He flees, superheros in each hand, at the sight of toothpaste or mouthwash.

Oh, he has some valid reason to–medical professionals have spliced his little mouth all too many times in efforts to reshape what a birth defect distorted. They came from care, but his experience left him wary and refusing further vulnerability. He controls access to his mouth with iron will that puts maximum security detention centers to shame.

His parents despair — they loathe to force him when so much was forced already and yet they know that to neglect his mouth is to invite issues in the future and invasive dental work besides. They admit helpless caving in to his refusal. Embarrassed, they are torn between their worry for his pain and the need to work beyond it.

So we had a hubbub, he and I, and we’ve come to an agreement. An understanding. A plan of action. Superheros brush teeth, too, you see. They floss regularly with gusto. They gargle mightily. They epitomize mouth-care and a fighting spirit against germs a-hiding. The proof is seen in any superhero movie, cartoon, or poster; where one is certain to be dazzled by the light reflecting from their pearly white perfection ….

Now, superheros line the sink, the toothbrush is adorned with muscled plastic. Towel cape on shoulders, feet in puffy superhero slippers, he seeks to destroy all hidey-holey bugs that wish to burrow cavities.

Superheros brush teeth, too. Whew. Next, they will be eating vegetables…

superheros