photo by Carlie Jeen Co. via unsplash
It continues to completely amaze me how many people have responded to the Highly Sensitive Parents post that I published last June. Even more than amazed by the response, I have been utterly humbled as I have heard from so many parents who have said that discovering they are HSPs has changed their lives. That's big stuff, y'all.
I've given a lot of thought to how to continue building a community of conversation and support for those of us who are highly sensitive and in the trenches of parenting. I want to take each of the sensory categories we discussed in the original Highly Sensitive Parent post and expand on those, as well as trouble-shooting some of the questions and scenarios you shared with me in the follow-up survey I created.
Before we dive into practical application, though, I wanted to talk about some of the philosophical aspects that I think are fundamental to becoming healthy, confident, and peaceful parents so that we can navigate each day without hiding under the covers in the dark by mid-morning each day.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PARENTS
1. Reject the practical; choose the helpful
Much of what we need to do for ourselves to soothe our overstimulated responses to family life is not going to be practical.
It's not practical to take a break to sit and just be during naptime - there are always laundry or dishes to be done, right? It's not practical to take the kids on a walk right before the dinner hour - the house needs to be picked up and the table needs to be set. It's not practical to not know the story behind every headline screeching for attention - we might feel left out when current events topics come up in conversation.
Our culture's conventional ideas on what is practical are not based on what is helpful for an HSP. And that's okay. We probably aren't going to start a cultural revolution or change the world with our approaches to family life. But we can change the worlds inside the walls of our homes by creating environments that are helpful to us.
And when our environments are helpful to us, we can be better helpers to others. And that leads to the next fundamental:
2. Devote yourself to self-care
This one is really hard for some of us, particularly if you were raised under the teaching of JOY in life being Jesus first, Others second, You third (or some variation on that idea). Self-care feels selfish and self-centered.
In reality, a more holistic approach to self-care recognizes that when we are devoted to being the most healthy, centered, and balanced people we can be, we are in the best possible position to care for those around us.
Even amongst HSPs, we are all incredibly diverse. We all have different needs and trigger points, and we all have different modes of self-care. Figure out two or three practices that soothe your system and be devoted to actually practicing them! When you are in the habit of consistent self-care, you are equipping yourself to a blessing to those around you. And that gives you the freedom to explore the last fundamental:
3. Embrace the power of being sensitive
For far too long in my life, I've been apologetic of my sensitivities. I think many HSPs are because, as I said above, our culture is not wired for the sensitive person. Many of us might view our sensitivities as a defect, a curse, or a hindrance.
As we begin to create home environments and rhythms of family life, however, I think we will discover that we have the power to create warm, memorable, and supportive home lives for our partners and our children.
I like to hope (and pray!) that when my children look back on their childhoods, instead of remembering me frazzle-haired and crazy-eyed, mumbling about how "my nerves are shot!" they'll remember things like
"Gosh, it always smelled so nice in our kitchen" or
"Mom always had classical music playing while we got ready for school. I liked that." or
"I don't know how she did it, but my mom could always tell when I was upset. She was really intuitive about feelings."
When we invest the time and emotional energy into honoring our sensitivities instead of trying to deny them, I think we'll be surprised at the result. There is a certain strength that comes from fully living into the person we were created to be.
background photo by Keith Misner Photography
Friends, like or not, we cannot do anything about the way our brains are wired. And we probably can't do much about the often loud and frantic culture we live in. But we absolutely can and should figure out how to carve out patterns and practices that allow us to be strong, compassionate, peaceful parents who are wonderfully, amazingly sensitive.