Sensitive and Spirited Children

I would also like to share more about spirited and highly sensitive children. We also hear about indigo, crystal, rainbow and diamond children. I feel I need to give those children as much support as I can and educate parents, teachers and in general adults about those wonderful children, who don’t always find it easy to fit into our world. Having been and still being in that spectrum myself I know how our uniqueness is programmed away.

“The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and more uncomfortable with change than other children. All children possess these characteristics, but spirited children possess them with a depth and range not available to other children.” Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Raising your spirited child

I feel there is a connection between what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka terms as “spirited children” and the newer generation often termed “indigo children” but also children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. Reading Mary’s book felt like reading a book written about my son.

I am blessed with a spirited and highly sensitive child. I admit the first couple of years were not easy and even know the journey can be bumpy, especially when it comes to schooling. Most of the time I feel like starting my own school so that children like my son have a safe space to learn and grow to be at their full potential.  The start was a rather challenging time and I was always wondering why my child was different –  why he was more of everything compared to my friends’ kids.

It started from day one in hospital. Had I known then, what I know now I would have been much more able to understand what he needs and how to stay more present in difficult times. The biggest learning that my spirited son brought me was that I had to embrace my own sensitivity and that I had to learn to understand him. After all I am the adult! From a physiological perspective children don’t have the capacity for reasoning until age 10 and certain parts in the brain are only fully developed by age 25!

I came across the term “spirited child” for the first time in Tracy Hogg’s book “the baby whisperer”. There was no doubt it had helped to read that book. One of the main things I learnt from the baby whisperer was that spirited children get very easily overstimulated and they need routine even more than other babies (and she does not believe in controlled crying!). Even when my son was 2 or 3 weeks old he was refusing or struggling to fall asleep. He just wouldn’t close his eyes. He always wanted to know what was going on around him, always worried he’d miss something. That hasn’t really changed and he is 13 now. If you miss that critical point of when to let them nap and if they are overstimulated you are in for a really tough time. People (even family) often didn’t understand why we were so strict with my son’s routine – and that’s something that is very important for a spirited child . Well, our son just was not that easy going child that would fall asleep anywhere. He needed his routine and he needed his familiar environment – or we’d have a screaming baby for an hour. I might add that from day one I thought he’d be an opera singer as his lungs were so strong and his screams were so loud (still are!). Even though we stuck to his routine during the day he would need at least  an hour in the evening to unwind before he could fall asleep. That hasn’t really changed. He still needs quite a long time in the evening to unwind before he can fall asleep. His brain is constantly working and processing.

There was no point on going on holidays  – he would sleep even less as it was not his familiar environment.

I always worried about him starting nursery/kindergarten. I always thought the teachers would have their hand’s full. His first teacher was fantastic and my son settled in rather quickly and was happy.  Things didn’t go so well with his second teacher. That’s when I came across Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book: Raising your spirited child. At the time it was a life saver. The new teacher was not experienced and had to deal with too many kids in a rather small class room. For my son the new environment with not enough space was just too much. When we moved him to a new kindergarten he was a completely different child again. In the next school with an IB program he developed into a rather well-mannered, inquisitive, caring, bright and wonderful boy. That does not mean that he does not challenge parents and teachers quite regularly 🙂 but that’s part of life and his temperament! When we moved to Switzerland he spent four years in the Swiss system. That didn’t really work for him. An additional 2 years in an alternative school started off well but then went downhill as the owners didn’t practice what they preached. I moved him then to an international school with an IB and entrepreneurship program. He is an entrepreneur and inventor at heart. His still loves to learn and his mind is still buzzing and working a lot but he has become more resilient. He has a different information intake compared to others and he processes information differently. He will get easily bored in school if the subject is not presented in an interesting way and heightened noise levels in class can be disruptive for him. As a mother it takes a lot of presence and patience but I have some amazing conversations with him that I couldn’t even have with some adults.

What is particularly interesting in Mary’s book is that she asks parents to describe their kids. Often a lot of negative words pop up first. What she then asks parents to do is to try and use positive words to describe the child’s strength. For example:

  • Old negative labels                               New exciting labels
  • Unpredictable                                      flexible, a creative problem solver
  • Nosy                                                        curious
  • Inflexible                                                traditional
  • loud                                                         energetic and zestful
  • demanding                                             holds high standards
  • and many more

That comparison was a real eye-opener. Once I was able to see the true potential that my son had I found it much easier to deal with the difficult times.

Through Mary’s book I was also able to understand my son’s  behaviour better, for example: Why he got upset about things that we didn’t consider a big deal. Well, for him it was a big deal. He had expectations and if suddenly and unexpectedly those expectations weren’t fulfilled than he had a major meltdown.

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka also gives the opportunity in the book to find out into which category the parent falls.  It came as a shock to me that I fell into the category “spirited”. My then husband acknowledged that my son and I had a lot in common. I had never seen it before. All of a sudden I could relate even more to my son’s temperament. I now often say: he is my mirror. Because he is so sensitive he immediately knows when I am out of balance.

If you are a parent with a baby and reading this page – then I can highly recommend Tracy Hogg’s “Baby whisperer”

For all older children please read Mary Sheedy’ Kurcinka’s: Raising your spirited child or visit her website