Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hypersensitivities in Children during the Holidays

What your child may be telling you during a blowup.
     Here they come! Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas...and you want to duck. For good reason, if memory serves you right.
     Your gifted child may have what we call overexcitabilities or hypersensitivities on the most ordinary of days. When you add the chaos that surrounds the holidays in our consumerist culture, your child's feelings of being out of control can ramp up significantly, and be well beyond his or her ability to contain.
     It is at this most difficult of points that you are asked to remain the most serene, as it is your serenity that is the most likely antidote, and, as you know, even that is not a surefire success.
     I posted this photo as a reminder to all parents that when a child acts out, there is always the underlying message of conflict represented by the sign. The temptation to blow when your child blows can be great - after all, parents are not immune to holiday chaos, either. But you know in the wisest part of your heart that what your child needs is a hug or a quiet moment without advice, without discussion, without contradiction - and the blowup which attracts your attention is also a confused statement that the private emotional interior life of your child is not begging for interpretation or understanding in that particular moment: it is a private sign, and you are not meant to read it.
     What are you meant to do? Witness it. Hug your child. Keep your child from harm's way. Wait for the storm that is the holiday season to blow over. It will. It does every year.
     Once it is behind us, and signs of spring begin to emerge, you can breathe deeply again. And so can your child. The disorganized energy he or she has been taking in during the holidays has waned. Now you return to your regularly experienced bumps and detours. But you understand those as they have an air of predictability about them - you know which situations and places are likely to upset your child, and you have learned to avoid or manage contact with them.
     Remember, also, that your child learns from each of these explosive episodes. You will have opportunities to discuss the emotions suggested by this sign once the storms subside. Then your wisdom and your child's growing wisdom can meet.
     In the meanwhile, remember that all episodes of outbursts do not require immediate attention beyond a hug and acknowledgment that things must feel rough.
     Reading - and interpreting - the private sign can come later.