Dr. Ted Zeff’s wonderful new book, “The Power of Sensitivity: Success Stories of Highly Sensitive People Thriving in a Non-sensitive World,” gives us many insights into what it means to be a sensitive person. It gives us the privilege of looking through the window as many different highly sensitive children and adult lives change for the better.
One such story that deeply touched me is told by Cecilia Bonnevie, who talks about the gifts and challenges of raising an HSP son. Cecilia talks about the deep appreciation that they have for their eight-year old son’s sensitivity. He has deep sympathy for people. He has recently turned vegetarian because he feels so sad for the animals that get killed. He is not afraid of expressing his warmth and deep love for people who matter a lot to him.
At the same time, this greatly heightened sensitivity also means that he gets easily overwhelmed, especially when he is entering a new situation. He needs to be well-prepared to perform at his best. He needs guidance in understanding and dealing with his emotional reactions.
What’s so heart-warming is the love and thoughtfulness that Cecilia and her husband pour into guiding him in learning about who he is and how he can use that to the greatest advantage. Cecilia tells us about how when her son needs to enter a potentially over-stimulating environment, her husband and she take extra care to prepare him for the shift.
“For example, a week before school started we went to his new school as a family, played at the playground, and talked about his feelings and fears of starting a new school and meeting new friends. We assured him that he wasn’t alone in feeling overwhelmed and anxious and let him know that other kids felt the same way on their first day of school. Since the teachers in our school put up a list of children’s and their teacher’s names before school starts, our son felt more relaxed and confident having this information beforehand.”
Cecilia talks about how they work closely with their son’s teachers and help to inform them about his trait in a way that would not “label” him. They also give then a copy of “The Twenty Tips for Teachers” from Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Child. This proactive approach helps create a much more understanding environment for her son.
Cecilia also shows us how love can shape a child’s sense of self. When she notices that her son does not participate in big groups because he is overstimulated by the noise and commotion, she starts volunteering for field trips and in gym class. She plays with other kids so that her son can see how much fun it could be to join in on all the fun and games. He just observes her the first few times she volunteers, but pretty soon, he starts participating. As he starts discovering himself and his abilities, he finds that he is, in fact, very athletic and a fast runner. This, further, adds to his confidence.
Cecilia and her husband show us how parenting a sensitive child is about working with their sensitivity, and not against it. They don’t try to impose any outer standards of behavior on their son. Instead, they unconditionally love him for who he is.
They see all the amazing gifts of sensitivity, and give it shape and direction. Their love and acceptance ensures that their son become more and more confident as time goes on. He participates in the world around him, and discovers who he is in the process.
This heart-warming real-life story tells us of the ways in which parents can nurture their sensitive children. When the child feels this love and interest, it is natural for him to grow into someone who also loves and accepts themselves. This is one of the gifts that understanding parents can give HSP children – the self-acceptance that is at the core of later success and happiness in life.
By Ritu Kaushal, reviewing Ted Zeff’s The Power of Sensitivity: Success Stories of Highly Sensitive People Thriving in a Non-sensitive World