A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
There has been a lot written about raising HSP children. Because they are more sensitive to criticism, the environment, and boundaries, what overarching principle should be in place to raise them? Under the right circumstances and environment, HSP children can thrive. In fact, under the right conditions, they outperform their peers in school, have lofty moral attitudes, have greater social competency, better self-regulation, and greater confidence and security.
In my years of having my own business, BrainPilots, a neurofeedback and hypnosis coaching practice, the use of a particular type of neurofeedback system provides an interesting adjunct model to use on HSP children. It is a push/pull methodology.
The tool, Neuroptimal™, uses EEG sensors to monitor the brainwaves of the individual's training, then pushes back feedback when the optimal learning opportunity occurs. Then it repeats and allows the client's brain to capture the anomaly in the brain and make its own correction. The assumption is that the individual's brain will autocorrect for the highest function in its own time and method. No guessing when to push instructions; just watch and feedback. It's an automated loop, and it works.
Would this make a good method for raising HSP children? Let's see.
Best practices for raising highly sensitive children.
With the consequences so high in raising SPS children, what are some of the suggested best practices for raising HSP kids? First, we must acknowledge that raising a highly sensitive child is often challenging and can energetically be draining for the parent. This is a two-parent/partner project. Dr. Ted Zeff, In his book on raising highly sensitive boys (and this equally applies to HSP girls) that it important for men to be involved in raising HSP boys.
Considering today, we have more same-sex couples, involving a trusted family member or friend of the opposite sex would be helpful for the HSP child to spell the primary parents if needed. It is important to not put the HSP child into situations where they can be humiliated or extremely uncomfortable, yet gently challenge them to learn by experience.
Gentle discipline is very important in raising HSP children. Unfortunately, HSP children often internalize harsh criticism, and much can be achieved by explaining the discipline and toning down the emotion while disciplining an HSP child.
Being aware of the environmentals for HSP children is key to understanding perplexing reactions from them. Loud, noisy, crowds, or environments where sensory overload is pronounced can affect the HSP child's behavior. Always remember that HSPs need alone time to recharge, revitalize and regroup. HSPs are perhaps the most environmentally sensitive of all humans. The proper setting is important for raising an HSP child.
Just remember, HSP children are not all the same. Some are easier than others to raise, primarily because of the wide blending of personality traits that are shared with the HSP personality. Treat each child as an individual and learn who and what they are – more on that shortly.
Perhaps the most important goal of raising a child is to develop a strong, confident self-image that will allow them to be who they are and enable them to live an authentic life, regardless of the challenges or obstacles. For HSPs, this can be a slippery slope. It all begins with acceptance. Help them to embrace the trait, however difficult that may be at times. By providing routines, calming respites from overload, emotional validation, guided self-exploration, and a celebration of their uniqueness, you will be providing a sound foundation for growth into adulthood.
Studies have shown over and over that HSPs raised in a validating environment produce exceptional individuals. The converse environment has an especially egregious impact on emotional and behavioral development. Again, the environment is everything to HSPs.
My model based on neurofeedback
To add another layer to the above-mentioned HSP child-rearing methods outlined, I would like to add another suggestion for raising HSP children. This idea is based on my experiences working with clients in a neurofeedback or brain training environment. The model is based on how the neurofeedback loop works with Neuroptimal™ brain training.
It is essentially a push/pull method, where the child tells the parent by their behavior and examples of what they are naturally drawn to, what to encourage in the child's development. This is the beginning of the feedback loop from the child to the parent. The parent must remain objective about the feedback, understanding that the child's developing personality sets foundational interests that should be encouraged. The child will also feedback the limits in which they can tolerate exposure to the new interests and reactions to the challenges.
The parent then listens, observes the child, and provides guidance and necessary boundaries to provide a sense of safety and security. That is the push part of the model. The push is the continuation of the feedback loop. The child, receiving the feedback, recalibrates and adjusts, and provides more observational feedback to the parents. This is the pull part of the loop.
The parents again listen, incorporates the aggregate feedback, and sends back guidance and boundaries. It is a continual dialogue between the child and the parent. The parent does not dictate to the child preset expectations but guides as the child explore their environment and the world. As with the aforementioned neurofeedback, the loop from parent to child is about awakening the child to the moment for best learning. The child, especially the HSP child, is not alone in navigating the world but is purposefully guided by an aware and present parent.
This is a simple feedback loop but requires the following:
What does this mean to parents of HSP children?
It means that as parents, we must acknowledge that we are dealing with a special child who has a keen sense and awareness of their environment and themselves. The methods employed in raising an HSP child will have lifelong consequences, perhaps, even beyond that of a less sensitive child. It behooves parents of HSP children that they allow the child to tell the parent who they are and to listen. But this requires diligence and guidance from the parent. You are still the parent, and the child will look to you for help in forming their ego/personality. Authenticity is very important to HSPs. Allowing the child to guide you as the parent in helping them find and become their authentic self is paramount in raising a happy, well-adjusted confident adult.
Here's some good reading for Parents of HSP Children.
Elaine Aron's book on raising highly sensitive children.
Dr. Aron's book on being an HSP parent.
Ted Zeff's classic on raising HSP boys.
Website for Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child.
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Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived 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.