A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
There are many excellent books on raising HSP boys – Dr. Ted Zeff’s book The Strong, Sensitive Boy, and Dr. Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them are just two that come to mind. You should find them and read them if you have an HSP boy. Don’t think because you are an HSP; you will always have intuitive guidance on this subject. Those of us who have raised HSP boys at some time will make these same mistakes, in spite of our high sensitivity. The following mistakes are from my own experiences both as an HSP parent and as an HSP child.
# 1 - Trying to Normalize HSP Boys
This might be a mistake many fathers make with their HSP sons. I suspect some mothers may do this as well. HSP boys are never going to be like the “normal” non-HSP boys. They will go against type from the get-go, so trying to shoehorn them into a typical set of boy traits will only frustrate the HSP boy and make them feel inadequate or inferior. Instead, you should allow them to experience life through their unique lens. Be supportive and nurturing to their sensitivity.
#2 -Not Teaching HSP Boys to Regulate Their Emotions
Emotional reactivity is a big thing for HSPs. Emotions very often run high in HSPs, and HSP boys are no exception. Emotional overwhelm can be at times challenging to deal with and be frustrating for you and your HSP son. Teach them to flow their emotional highs and lows, ride them like a wave, experience the emotions but not drown in them. Our emotional abilities can be a gift, but only if we have some sense of control. Teach them meditation, mindfulness, visualization, and calming techniques that will quiet down their minds when overwhelm kicks in.
#3 – Not Providing HSP Boys with Gentle Challenges for Growth
HSP boys are not glass objects or fragile rice paper. They can and should be handled gently but must be provided challenges to expand their comfort zone. What they learn now about overcoming challenges will follow them into adulthood. Encourage them to push boundaries outward and be there when they fail or stumble. Gentle but firm guidance will give them confidence to face life and its challenges.
#4 – Not Celebrating Their Differences
Help your HSP boys to celebrate their uniqueness. They are inherently different- acknowledge that. Show them that this characteristic is a gift. Then show them how to use this gift by encouraging them to step out into the world and be themselves. Being genuine and authentic will help them live their best life.
#5 – Not Teaching HSP Boys Confidence
Confidence is not innate, it is learned. Teach your HSP son to have confidence. Encourage life experience, then show them that failure is simply feedback. Applaud success but dwell more so on effort. Show them that curiosity and persistence will be their greatest teachers. These are the seeds of a confident boy who will turn into a confident man.
#6 – Not Helping HSP Sons to Understand Their Gifts
All humans have unique gifts. HSP boys have their unique gifts as well. These include insight, intuition, deep emotions and feeling, empathy, an ability for deep thought, and inherent creativity. Point them out early and often and give HSP male role models for them to emulate. If you are an HSP male, be the hero.
#7 – Not Being Emotionally Supportive and Nurturing
Studies have shown HSPs do best in supportive and nurturing environments. This is the HSP key to happiness. Provide that environment to your HSP boy, and he will thrive. Deprive him of that, and he will wilt. It may be more work, but remember you are raising an Orchid in a world full of Daisies.
#8 – Questioning Their Masculinity
Never put your HSP boy down for not being masculine enough. Understand that masculinity is a cultural construct that is learned from birth. Your boy may not exhibit what might seem to be classic western cultural definitions of what a young man is supposed to be, yet I assure you he is still a male. Gender roles are very fluid and are becoming more fluid all the time. The human genome and individual personalities express gender roles in many ways. Teach all boys that masculinity is not devoid of emotion or vulnerability that some characteristics we deem as feminine are indeed human characteristics, such as nurturing and intuition. We want our boys to embrace their humanity fully.
#9 – Thinking This Trait (sensitivity) Is a Disorder or a Phase
Your HSP boy is not going to outgrow their sensitivity. It is a lifelong trait that will shape them and their world. The sooner you understand this, the more helpful you can be to your HSP boy protégé. It is also not a disorder. There is nothing wrong with your child because of their sensitivity. They are normal along a human spectrum of sensitivity and sensing. It is possible your child may have some other disorder, i.e. autism or hypersensitivity, but high sensitivity is not one of them.
#10 – Not Giving Your HSP Boy His Space
All HSPs need space at some time or another. It is our nature to retreat, recharge, and rejuvenate. It may seem quirky or anti-social, but it is not. It is the HSP way. Make sure your HSP boy gets that space; it may be alone playtime or time to read or time to reflect and rest. Regardless, do respect it. He will thank you for it and will thrive because of it.
HSP boys will be the next generation of HSP men. They will be poets, artists, counselors, religious leaders, visionaries, and political advisors. Letting them grow up to be the wise and sensitive men they are destined to be, will benefit all of us.
Bill Allen currently lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.