How to Support & Parent a Highly Sensitive Child, with Alane Freund
If your child seems to be “extra” impacted by things—whether it’s light, noise, pain, or even other people’s emotions—he or she might be a highly sensitive child. High sensitivity is a genetic trait that affects up to 20% of the population, and is often misunderstood and mistaken for other differences and disorders. What makes it difficult is that when unrecognized and unsupported, highly sensitive children (and adults) tend to exhibit high levels of anxiety, overwhelm, and emotional outbursts, due to their finely tuned nervous systems. But this sensitivity can also be a rich and valuable way to experience the world.
My guest today is Alane Freund, a licensed family therapist, an International Consultant on High Sensitivity, and a highly sensitive person herself. In this episode, Alane explains to us what high sensitivity is, how it shows up in children, teens, and adults, and gives her insights on how parents can help their highly sensitive child flourish.
About Alane Freund
Alane Freund, MS, MA, LMFT has helped adults, youth, and families focus on solutions through psychotherapy and consultation over three decades in the mental health field. An International Consultant on High Sensitivity (ICHS) working closely with Dr. Elaine Aron, Ms. Freund has developed and implemented programs for highly sensitive people, children, families, and clinicians who serve them. She also holds Masters’ degrees in clinical psychology and school counseling. Ms. Freund specializes in family therapy and education with and about highly sensitive people and LGBTQ+ families. A skilled facilitator and therapist, an HSP herself, and the parent of a highly sensitive young adult, she teaches workshops, offers consultation, has a twice monthly live Q&A webinar, and leads groups and retreats, including the HSPs & Horses™ retreats at Heart and Mind Equine in Northern California with Elaine Aron, PhD (CEs offered). Ms. Freund is an instructor at retreat centers, Kripalu in Massachusetts and 1440 Multiversity in California, as well as teaching at the Community Institute for Psychotherapy and the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- What is meant by the term highly sensitive person and how it differs from sensory processing disorders
- The four traits associated with high sensitivity (HS): depth of processing, over-arousal/overwhelm, emotional reactions and empathy, and sensitivity to subtle stimuli
- How HS is often misdiagnosed as other disorders
- How common is HS (even among other species)
- What to know about differential susceptibility and why it is so important for parenting HS kids
- How to best support HS kids
Resources mentioned for supporting a highly sensitive child
- Twice monthly live Q&A webinars 50% Discount Code: TILT
- Finely Tuned (Alane’s blog about highly sensitive teens)
- Are You Highly Sensitive website
- The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron
- The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
- The Strong, Sensitive Boy by Ted Zeff
- The Highly Sensitive Parent: Be Brilliant in Your Role, Even When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
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Debbie Reber 00:00
Today’s episode is brought to you by Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers with instruction to help students catch up or get ahead and learning summer programs for reading comprehension and math. Learn more at lindamoodbell.com/tilt.
Alane Freund 00:16
These are our highly sensitive children, as long as we create an environment structure, time for transitions for them. They can be those wise, creative, gifted Yes, not in the IQ sense necessarily, but gifted children who will help us save our world.
Debbie Reber 00:38
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. If your child seems to be extra impacted by things, whether it’s light, noise, pain, or even other people’s emotions, he or she might be highly sensitive. high sensitivity is a genetic trait that affects up to 20% of the population and is often misunderstood and mistaken for other differences and disorders. What makes it difficult is that when unrecognized and unsupported, highly sensitive children and adults tend to exhibit high levels of anxiety, nervousness, perfectionism, overwhelm, and emotional outbursts due to their finely tuned nervous systems. But this sensitivity can also be a rich and valuable way to experience the world. My guest today is Alane Freund, a licensed family therapist and international consultant on high sensitivity and a highly sensitive person herself. In this episode, Alane explains to us what high sensitivity is how it shows up in children, teens and adults, and gives her insights on how parents can help their highly sensitive kids flourish. And before we get to that if you’re looking for some ongoing support as you navigate the summer please join me for the Parenting in Place Masterclass series, nine live weekly webinars with prominent parenting experts who gathered together to help parents thrive during this challenging summer. The event runs June 10 through August 5 and replays of all the webinars are available. So no matter when you join, you won’t miss anything. tomorrow, Wednesday, June 24 is a conversation that has been perhaps most requested and that’s a conversation about screen time understanding and mentoring and making peace with kids use of tech with Devorah Heitner and Catherine Steiner-Adair. To learn more and register go to tiltparenting.com/masterclass. And now here is my conversation with Alane.
Debbie Reber 02:49
Hello, Alane, welcome to the podcast.
Alane Freund 02:51
Hello, I’m so pleased to be here.
Debbie Reber 02:54
Well, I’m excited about this conversation as we were just talking before I hit record, this is a new topic with more than 200 episodes. And I always get very excited when I can bring yet another new topic to the show. So can you just before we get into the meat of our conversation, just take a few minutes to introduce yourself kind of who you are in the world. And if you can tie in with that your personal why for doing this work, that would be awesome.
Alane Freund 03:22
Sure, I’d love to. So I’m Alane Freund and I’m out in California and I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist there. And mostly in my therapy practice. I focus on working with families and highly sensitive people. And I’m especially interested in that 20% of the population, especially the children who have the trait of high sensitivity. And I know we’ll dig a lot more into that. I’m highly sensitive. I have a highly sensitive young adult child, I’m married to a highly sensitive person, my parents are highly So anyway, you get the picture. We’re a sensitive family. I grew up my whole life being told I was just too sensitive. Come on, get over it back up. Why are you always crying? Why do you have such strong reactions to everything? And, you know, I think that’s probably one of the reasons that I became a therapist. I also got into Al Anon and I’ve been in Al anon for more than 30 years and in the mental health industry for more than 30 years so I got a lot of tools for living my life. But it wasn’t until almost a decade ago that my friend at the barn. I’m a horse woman. I love horses and have several and practice equine assisted psychotherapy here in California. But my friend at the barn, another therapist came up to me and said Alane, you’re highly sensitive and I think your equine assisted therapy work would be so fantastic for highly sensitive people. The reason being they love nature and they love animals and we have talked a lot about my practice and my equine assisted therapy and but I Why are you telling me I’m highly sensitive? I’ve been hearing that my whole life, I really don’t need to hear from you. I thought we were friends. And she said, she said, Well, have you ever read the book? And I said, No. She said, Well, why don’t you look it up? Well, it turns out that my friend who was telling me I was highly sensitive was Elaine Aaron. And she’s literally the author of the term, highly sensitive person and a number of books on the topic that have sold over 2 million copies internationally. And I wanted to say, for your podcast, her new book just came out this month, and it’s called The Highly Sensitive Parent, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. For your listeners, you know, because we’re all parenting together. Right? Awesome. So, you know, I went out, read about it. Ah, the light went on. And I hope I can turn the light on for a lot of folks in your audience, although I bet a lot of you know about the trait of high sensitivity already. So, okay, awesome introduction. And I love how this was kind of the work that you were doing or who you were, and that you had that serendipitous relationship that took your work to a new level and connected all those dots for you.
Debbie Reber 06:10
That’s so cool. So let’s actually start then, with defining highly sensitive person, I will say that I knew for many years what Sensory Processing Disorder was, and I know this is something completely separate. But when I first heard this term, highly sensitive, I didn’t recognize that there was a difference. I was living abroad, and I had met a friend to describe herself and her son as being highly sensitive people. And as I started tilde parenting, she’s like, is this part of your work? And I was like, I don’t actually know I’m not that familiar with what you’re talking about. So could you explain what it means to be highly sensitive? And, you know, maybe, as part of that, explain how it is different from sensory processing disorder or integration issues.
Alane Freund 07:02
Yes, indeed. And it is confusing, in fact, the actual scientific name for this innate trait. So it’s a trait that people are born with. It’s not something you develop over time at all. But the actual scientific name is sensory processing sensitivity. And it’s unfortunate that we wish it hadn’t happened that way. And it just, you know, science, especially Psychological Science evolves in a certain way. And it is confusing, because it’s so similar to sensory processing disorder. One of the main differences is that the trait is just a personality trait. It’s not actually a disorder. In fact, there are very few disadvantages to being highly sensitive. One of the main ones is that highly sensitive people can get mislabeled and misdiagnosed with disorders and mental illnesses. So this trait is something as I mentioned, that you’re born with it occurs and equally across gender and sex. So male and female men and women, boys and girls equally, even though it’s easier to see girls as being highly sensitive, because we’re more likely to emote and be stronger in expressing our emotions. But the boys who are more or who are highly sensitive, when they’re young, they may be really intense, which is another temperament. And so you might see their sensitivity, but a lot of boys and especially men, learn to hide it, they become more reserved, are quiet. They learn not to cry in public and crying easily is a trademark of many highly sensitive people. Here’s another really interesting thing. People usually assume if you’re highly sensitive, you’re introverted. And while 70% of highly sensitive people and children are more introverted, 30% are extroverted. So it’s interesting to be thinking about the fact that there can be as many different ways to be highly sensitive or to have this trait as there are people who have it. And, you know, based on the growth of world population, there’s almost 1.6 billion highly sensitive people in the world. Okay, so I know Debbie, part of your question is, how do we recognize it? How do we identify sensitivity in our children, we have four main characteristics. And there is an acronym for it and the acronym is d o e s does. So the first one is depth of processing. People with this trait have a more reactive brain. It’s been documented with functional MRI studies, that certain parts of our brains are more active in situations, especially those involving emotional content. But it means that we think about things more deeply. I have a nice blog, maybe we can include a link to it in the show notes call finely tuned. It’s very brief, that I wrote about youth with high sensitivity, they might be the ones who become perfectionists, and have a really hard time producing that paper or that book report for school. They also can be the young people who become very passionate about something. When I was a child, I’m older, but when I was a child, my thing was picking up litter. Gosh, did litterbugs make me angry, and I grew up in Oklahoma, where there was a commercial with Native American man. And someone drives by he’s standing near the highway, and somebody drives by and throws out a bag of fast food trash. And then they flashed to his face up close, and there’s a tear running down his face. I could cry right now thinking about how much that commercial touched me. And it changed my life. You know, I still to this day, think about what trash is doing to the wildlife or to the oceans. You know, I’m, that’s a really deep processing. For somebody who’s seven years old. A lot of teens who are highly sensitive might get very involved in a political issue, or environmentalism, they just think a lot at the same time, they may be really bothered by their peers. Again, they think a lot. Now one more classic de-processing example is that, and I bet many of your listeners can relate to this. You take your child to the first day of preschool or kindergarten, and many of the children run in and start playing right away. But this child, this sensitive child stops in the doorway, and pauses. And the teacher might say, Oh, is he shy? And the parent would say, No, he’s not shy. He likes to get the lay of the land before he dives in. So the child is standing in the doorway, seeing what toys are where, which children are aware, and maybe they’re smelling something cooking in the kitchen and wondering, what is that smell? And they don’t just say, oh, something’s cooking in their heads, they say? Is it sweet? Is it lunch? Am I going to get to have some are we cooking today? Oh, is that chocolate I smell or maybe butter? Maybe it’s chicken soup. They have to think about everything. And it makes things a little slower. When you spend all your time deep processing. So can you think of something, Debbie that you’ve noticed? of a sensitive person processing?
Debbie Reber 12:29
Well, I just you know, even as you’re, you’re just I feel like you’re describing so much of what I see in my child. And there seems to be so much overlap with what I hear about gifted, you know, from gifted kids and gifted people and just feeling things so deeply. I remember a friend of mine, her son, I think, lost a couple nights sleep when he was really little because he had stepped on a caterpillar and killed that caterpillar. I mean, he just was despondent about that. So what you’re saying makes sense. And, you know, and maybe we’ll talk about this later, maybe I’m jumping the gun, but so many of the trades that you just described, the depth of processing, thinking about things in a much deeper level, that perfectionism that also is something that is such a trait of gifted kids. And so I imagine that a lot of gifted kids are highly sensitive. Is that how that works?
Alane Freund 13:30
I imagine that too. And we don’t really have the research yet. But if a gifted child, I have seen many highly sensitive children who are gifted, and many gifted children who are highly sensitive. In my work. What the research is not showing what we haven’t researched is IQ. And we don’t want to say, you know, gifted inherently relates to IQ, as well as these other things. And IQ is not statistically linked to high sensitivity. So a gifted child who has these four characteristics, and we’ve just gone over the first one, most likely has the trait and like I said, I have seen a lot of correlation. I I know they exist, but I haven’t seen that many gifted children who are not highly sensitive. Just anecdotally. You know, one of my qualifications and certifications, if you will, is that I’m an international consultant on high sensitivity. And we’re a group of professionals working in the field, who have been trained and certified in the research and the science by Elaine Aaron. And we are committed to really making sure that scientific evidence is put out there and that everything that we teach and say is based on the research, and the reason for this is I’ve digressed, but please bear with me for a moment. It’s so critical that pediatricians and teachers and school professionals of other sorts, psychotherapists, mental health professionals, just basically everyone who has power over a child needs to be able to recognize that this trait is real. And it’s well researched. And it is truly well researched. It’s been found in the research for over 100 years, it was just called different things. And so we want to be sure that when we’re talking about sensitivity, we’re not going into anything woowoo. You know that that word, it’s a, it’s a California technical term. We want to be sure that we’re always basing what we’re saying in the facts. So that’s why I have to say, the research around giftedness isn’t there, but I’m sure your listeners will and everyone with a gifted child will be able to recognize whether that child is highly sensitive or not.
Debbie Reber 15:44
Okay, so let’s move on then. What does the O in DOES stand for?
Alane Freund 15:50
Well, oh is the one thing in high set the highly sensitive trait that most highly sensitive people just don’t like that, really, I would go so far as to say that I just absolutely hate it. And it stands for over arousal. Now, that’s a psychological term. It could also be called overstimulation, or overwhelm. And what it means is, when you do all that thinking, or you do one of the E or S things, which is emotional reactivity and empathy, and S is sensitivity to subtle stimuli, we notice every little thing, when a highly sensitive person goes out in the world into a loud, noisy bright, in some way, whatever triggers you overwhelming environment, we’re much more likely to become over aroused, our heart rate goes up our muscle tension, our breathing becomes shallow, we become distracted, and it can very easily ramp up into low level or even high level anxiety. So O is also for me, you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the screens. Since we’re doing social distancing. And working from home now I’m doing most of my work on zoom or something similar on the computer. And I’m overstimulated just from having the camera on me all the time. And being able to see myself on the screen and holding my attention. You know, even in person, as a therapist, when I’m working in person, I, sometimes I might close my eyes or look around the room, but the pressure to look at the screen and all my clients, my young clients who are spinning, some schools, you know, are making the children, especially the teenagers stay on the screen with their camera on the whole school day, a traditional school. And I, I guess I want to give kudos to those teachers who are working so hard in those schools are working so hard to keep education going to the child and the students. But for the highly sensitive child to be staring at the screen six hours a day is there’s just pretty much nothing worse for them. And already school was probably overstimulating for most highly sensitive children. So most of us say that this is the one negative aspect. You know, I mentioned before being misdiagnosed is sort of from the parent and the caregiver perspective, but from the highly sensitive child. Actually, parents, I know that you’re a highly sensitive child if you have one, becoming overstimulated is one of the hardest things in your life. And people ask me all the time, what do you do when they’re having a meltdown. And I think this is true for many different reasons that these meltdowns happen. And you will all know that once the meltdown has happened, there is very little that you can do. And with a highly sensitive child, once overstimulated, you can’t teach them, give them a consequence, punish them, no one can learn in over arousal, or over stimulation, because the brain starts to shut off and goes into fight or flight. So your whole, whatever has been happening is pretty much lost when that happens. So what do you do about overstimulation as a parent, you prevent it. And we’ll get into that a little bit later, I think I’ll move on to E, which is emotional reactivity, and empathy. So there’s two sides to this. I already mentioned about the brain research that we have strong, really strong reactions, emotional reactions. And even just looking at pictures of happy or sad content, a person with a highly sensitive brain will have a much stronger brain activation. The good news is, lest you think we’re always sad, we actually have a stronger positive reaction to the happy images, which I found really fascinating.
Alane Freund 19:57
Empathy is a really important differentiator. diagnosis category or characteristic of highly sensitive children and adults, we seek relationships. We don’t want to be at the party usually because it’s overstimulating and even the extroverted HSPs want to go to the party, but they’re done a lot sooner than the average person is. But highly sensitive people tend to love deep relationships. They really care about the underdog. And I always say this, so forgive me if you’ve heard me on a different interview saying this, I have to say it as many times as I can. That does not mean they have empathy toward their siblings, especially younger siblings. The highly sensitive child generally finds their siblings overstimulating. Alright, think about it. If you’re a highly sensitive adult, one of the questions on the questionnaire which you can take on the website, HS person comm one of the questions is I need to retire to a dark, quiet place at the end of a busy day. Now, we know that’s good for everybody, just like meditation is good for everybody, but a highly sensitive person needs it. So a highly sensitive child living in a home with other people, be they sensitive or not, will find that pretty overstimulating, so I’m sorry, the empathy doesn’t come in there. But they probably have empathy for the planet, or for animals. I remember, even at two and a half, my highly sensitive son was the one child in the preschool, it’s a small preschool for younger, two to three year olds, he held the preschool teacher’s six month old baby in his lap, much of the time at school, and was so kind to a two year and a half year old boy, well, that’s not normal, right. But for a highly sensitive child, it really can be. Okay, so empathy, deep relationships, and onto S, I mentioned briefly sensitivity to subtle stimuli. So, a highly sensitive child is the one who noticed that you redid your highlights, or you got a new shirt, a highly sensitive person will be the person who walks into a room and sees right away child or adult, that the blinds need to be tipped the other way because the light is shining in somebody’s eyes, or that if a window were cracked, the temperature would be much more comfortable. It’s just that noticing every little thing and people often asked with all that empathy and all that noticing, are these highly sensitive children psychic. There’s no research on that at all, people asked me about the therapy horses all the time, because it seems like they can read your mind too. And here’s what I say, I don’t think it matters. What matters is, we are so good at noticing, and so good at feeling that we might as well be psychic, because it’s very different than the other 80% of the population. So it seems sometimes weird to the 80 percenters. That highly sensitive child seems to notice every time you’re off, you know, it’s really hard as a parent, because you never get a minute to fake it. Because they know, they notice every little thing. Maybe it’s just the tension around your eyes, you know? So do think about your child for a moment, or yourself. If all four of these characteristics are present than likely, you’re looking at high sensitivity.
Debbie Reber 23:24
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Debbie Reber 24:12
So as you’re describing those and thank you for walking us through that it’s super interesting to me and I love having this new framework. It feels to me that this would be exhausting. Like I you know, as you’re talking about this, especially once you got to the last point of being sensitive to subtle stimuli, that these kids are in some ways, kind of like open vessels, you know, and just receiving so much and that sounds really tiring.
Alane Freund 24:42
It is … It’s so tiring. Hopefully at the end of every day, people in my households can hear me say, I’m so tired. And the reason is that I don’t take care of myself. Now. You’re leading me to This little mini book that I’m writing, called The Highly Sensitive Person’s Five to Thrive, the HSP, Five to Thrive. And there are five things that a sensitive child or adult needs in order to thrive in this world in order not to be in tears and exhausted at the end of the day. And I want to tell you that if your child right now, all the highly sensitive children of the world might be overstimulated at home. But basically, they’re having a better experience most likely, especially if you don’t let them have exposure to the news. I know it’s hard with the teenagers, but highly sensitive teens, you can explain to them how it impacts their brain. And many times they will agree. Although I’m digressing again, I apologize. But I’ve got a lot to say that teenagers, highly sensitive teenagers, look less sensitive, because they also have their hormones driving them to risk taking. So it’s sort of a foot on the gas and a foot on the brake for sensitive teenagers. So parents with teens, you can reach out to me and I can help you figure it out if you feel confused by how adolescence has changed your child. But the five to thrive. The first one is to know you have the trait and believe it’s real. So I hope we have accomplished that you’re able to identify whether the trait exists or not. Once you do, you have to believe it. And the way you can do that is read one of Elaine Aaron’s books that will really, really, really help you find the validation to think it’s not just this, you know, this kid should just get over it sort of thing. The second one is to reframe your childhood, in light of the fact that you have the trait. Now since we’re talking to parents about children, I’ll put this in child terms every single day, we need to help the child reframe their experiences in light of the fact that they have more empathy, stronger emotions, and a more reactive brain. So here’s an example. The kids on the yard at recess, were only playing a really aggressive game of soccer, and your child didn’t want to and no one would leave the soccer game and play with them. And what your child wanted to do was pick up all the different colors of fall leaves that they could find on the playground. Or if it was me, she wanted to sit in the shade and read her book, but she would have maybe liked it not to be alone. So you reframe that? Yes, everybody’s different. Different children have different kinds of brains and different kinds of interests. And the way you are is wonderful and the way they are is wonderful. The third HSP five to thrive is heal from past trauma, that for children and some children do need to heal from past trauma. And there are many good ways to do that. Most of them involve a qualified therapist. However, if you seek a therapist, which I strongly recommend, it’s very important that you have a therapist who is open to learning about or understanding the trait of high sensitivity if your child is highly sensitive, otherwise, they will become diagnosed with something that they may or may not have. And there are talking points in the back of the highly sensitive child, things that you can say to teachers and therapists to help you identify whether someone would be willing to consider this because here’s the sad thing. I have two master’s degrees, one in school counseling and one in clinical psychology, I was never taught word one, about temperament or about traits and other traits of high sensitivity in particular, never told about it. And I’m out there in the world trying to educate every therapist in every school I can about it. But I need your help, parents. So healing from past trauma also involves, for children, preventing trauma. So when something happens that you think might be traumatizing to your child or teen, right then and there, talk about it and let them act out what happened. Somehow they got an owie, and it was really scary. They fell off their trike and really bloodied up their knee. It was their first really big bloody owie as I call them. So right then and there, instead of saying, oh, you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re gonna be fine, this is gonna numb it’ll sting at first and then it’ll you won’t feel it, you’re going to be good. Instead, you might say, Wow, that was really scary. What was that like and let them talk it through a little bit. And then you prevent a trauma reaction. It’s quite amazing how we can prevent trauma. But highly sensitive children do react to trauma in a stronger way than those who are not highly sensitive. You can imagine they have stronger emotional reactions and a more reactive brain. The fourth is, I’m going to keep this in fourth. This is the most important one for how exhausting it is. We have to design a life compatible for being with highly sensitive people. We went over the fifth and come back to the fourth. The fifth one is to know other highly sensitive people and other highly sensitive children. It’s very important that highly sensitive children, no adults and children who are highly sensitive, it isn’t hard, it’s one out of five people. In fact, we’re now thinking it could be as high as one out of four. So they need to have friends with both children who are highly sensitive, and children who are not highly sensitive, so that they can learn to interact with the different kinds. And to plan a playdate or an event even for a 15 year old. You might invite not during the pandemic, but in normal life, you might invite your highly sensitive teens highly sensitive friend, to go see a documentary, or some kind of movie that engages them or to go to a jazz concert, or a folk singer concert, or a quiet restaurant, something that is HSP friendly for the kids, you know, making cookies together, just you, your child and one other child. That’s a great play date. Now, when the child who is not sensitive comes over, the highly sensitive child probably has toys that are really special and precious to her. And if that’s the case, those toys might get put away with the child you say, you know, someone says coming over, and sometimes they play a lot more rambunctious Lee, or sometimes you don’t like to share these toys. So why don’t we decide which special choice we’re going to put out and decide ahead of time with the child? What would be three options of things that they would like to do with the child who has the playdate? Who’s not highly sensitive? So can you see how if you did this, you would prevent the meltdown and exhaustion or at least lessen the probability of it from just a playdate? Yeah, absolutely. It’s knowing who your your child is. And doing that proactive problem solving makes total sense. I mean, that’s good parenting, regardless of how your child might be diverse. And I come from the bias that all children have some level of diversity that makes them unique, and that we parents need to identify it, know what it is and help them work with it. That’s, you know, there are nine temperaments in the in, you know, most psychological models, we consider nine temperaments, and everybody’s different on them. And sort of knowing your child’s temperament. And identifying the temperament of people they spend a lot of time with, both in your family and among the friends can really help you learn and help your child learn to accept and honor the differences while still taking care of their own temperaments.
Alane Freund 32:52
Okay, so one more thing about exhaustion. Often it is said that highly sensitive children are bad at transitions. And probably many people with children who are some way neurodiverse have an experience of transitions being challenging. There are different reasons. For the highly sensitive child transitions are not challenging at all. They are not, I promise you, the issue is that they’re deep processing. And that takes a lot of time. Oh my gosh, it can be so aggravating when you’re trying to get out of the house, and you walk into the bedroom and you find your nine year old, still hasn’t dressed and is reading a book or doing something involved in something that has nothing to do with leaving the house. So it takes so long. In fact, as an adult, I like to plan to be thinking about leaving the house an hour and a half before it’s time to go. Then if I have to change outfits a few times because I’m processing what I’m doing. I have plenty of time for it. You know, the adult concerns and the child concerns are not all that different. So when you have your young child at the park and it’s going to be time to leave. This is a good tool for many different neurodiverse children for highly sensitive children. It’s absolutely imperative. We’re leaving in 20 minutes. We have 10 more minutes. What would you like to do with that time, you know the countdown is a very long countdown, whereas most parents can say we’re going to go on five minutes and then 30 seconds before Okay, it’s time to go head on over pack up your snack. This does not work with the highly sensitive child because they have to think about every little thing. So when you design a life back to the five to thrive, that’s compatible with your family sensitivity and all their different temperaments. Then you Okay, well, it’s kind of sad, really because you can’t do as much as you want to do if you’re a go getter, or a high sensation seeker like myself. I want my kid to get to do every single sport Every single enrichment class, and I want to do them all as well, I can’t. That’s when I end my day saying, I’m so scared, and having an adult version of the meltdown.
Debbie Reber 35:14
Super interesting. Thank you so much for walking us through the five to thrive. Our listeners are getting so much value. These are all such tangible ideas to contemplate if you have these kids, and I’m looking forward to I know you said, before we started recording, you said you have a book coming out about this in 2021. So we’ll look forward to sharing that.
Alane Freund 35:34
Yeah, the highly sensitive to the teens are the least understood and the most needy, in my opinion, of understanding.
Debbie Reber 35:42
Yeah, teens are complicated, even in the best of circumstances. Right.
Alane Freund 35:48
So true. Spoken as mothers of teen.
Debbie Reber 35:51
Yes, exactly, exactly. Before we say goodbye, I just wanted to touch upon one last thing you’ve mentioned a couple times this idea of acceptance. And it’s important to find a therapist or who understands and accepts that this is a real thing. For many different types of neuro divergence. You know, ADHD, even though there’s a lot of science behind it, there are still myths out there, that it’s just, it’s not a real thing. And, and so oftentimes, we find ourselves kind of fighting against systems to show that actually, this is what’s happening with my child. And I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts for parents who are coming up against that kind of pushback of not accepting people, you know, they’re trying to get on their side, or to advocate for change, or for accommodations, that they’re getting pushed back any thoughts on how parents can advocate for their kids, and for better understanding of highly sensitive people?
Alane Freund 36:54
Well, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna put, if there’s room in the show notes, I’d love to put a few talking points. But if not, you can reach out to me. Here’s the thing that’s so important. This is a trait that is found in over 100 species, we think it may be an every species, why it gives an evolutionary advantage. We need one out of five people, one out of five dogs, one out of five horses, one out of five cheetahs, one out of five, fish, even that are more likely to sit back and watch and look for danger. Notice that when it’s coming and encourage the herd, the tribe, the school, the family, to go to safety. We have wildfires every summer and fall now in California, and it’s the highly sensitive people who smell the smoke first, and alert everyone that needs to know that there’s fire. So when we’re talking about this trait, most people you know, who I think some of the hardest ones are the grandparents that you know, are around the children and like why can you not control your child? Where are the manners in this child, and we have to really give them the opportunity to understand it. And I can’t recommend highly enough reading the highly sensitive child or Ted Zeff’s book, Strong, Sensitive Boy. I read both those books about my child and for my child, and I found myself in them. So I think when we really are able to point out that the research backs it, you know, you mentioned seeing my Google Talk, Debbie, I encourage people to go look up Alane Freund Talks at Google and watch it because I go in just a very brief overview of the research to help to help people be able to talk about it more. But the advantages, so I’ll give you this one image, think about a tribe, an early tribe of people, it could be on any continent, and you have the the main group of the village, the tribe, the clan living together, and then you have the shaman or the healer, or the priest who lives in a hut about a quarter mile away and across the creek. And this person can give such wisdom and advice. They can create amazing concoctions or ceremonies. They advise the chief and help the chief decide when to when and whether to battle other people and help the chief remember that there will be losses. They provide marriage counseling, and they help heal the children. They study herbs. The reason they can do all these things for the tribe is because they have that heart that they go to and they rest and they relax and they meditate and they read and they spend time in nature alone and when they do that They are the shining stars, they can’t do everything. They’re not swinging their sword in battle. But they are whispering wisdom in the chieftains ear. And these are highly sensitive children, as long as we create an environment structure, time for transitions for them, they can be those wise, creative, gifted, yes, not in the IQ sense necessarily, but gifted children who will help us save our world. There’s nothing more important.
Debbie Reber 40:34
I love that reframe. And that just mirrors so much of what I talk about with just neurodivergence in general. But I do see these different ways of being wired as evolutionary advantages and our kids, these nonconformists, these kids who see the world differently are so critical. So I love that you ended with that reframe. And before we say goodbye, you’ve already mentioned so many great resources, but anywhere else that parents can interact with you and just tell us where people can find you.
Alane Freund 41:07
Absolutely, I’m really, really excited that I have a new webinar series. And it’s live question and answer about all things highly sensitive, once a month on general adult sensitivity and general sensitivity questions, and once a month on parenting sensitivity. And you can find me and my webinar at ru highly sensitive calm, written out all the words, no punctuation, are you highly sensitive, calm, and I’m gonna offer everyone who hears this podcast 50% off for the first month, it’s normally only $37. And that amount just pays for the webinar, not me. And for half off, you can join with the discount code, tilt, ti lt all caps. And I would love to see you there. You can also reach out for consultation to give everybody a complimentary 15 minute phone call and also do coaching even across state lines around sensitivity. And my main website for that is my name, alanefreund.com. So I’d love to see you in either of those places. And please let me know how I can help you.
Debbie Reber 42:15
Wonderful. Thank you. And thank you so much for the special tilt discount. That’s awesome. And listeners, I will have links again to that in the show notes page along with the discount code. Tilt, easy to remember. But thank you that’s so generous. And thank you for just sharing with us today. I had so many questions and you shared so much I didn’t even have to ask most of them because you just covered so much and in what you talked about, but so many wonderful takeaways. And definitely I think it’s going to have many of us just looking at our kids a little differently. So thank you so much for that.
Alane Freund 42:50
It’s been my pleasure. And I wish we could talk for three hours because I’m a highly sensitive person and I’m thinking deeply.
Debbie Reber 43:01
You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode where you can download the transcript to find links to Alane’s website and all the resources we discussed visit tiltparenting.com/session214 if you want to be a part of Tilt Parenting and get my short weekly emails where I share resources, relevant news articles and personal messages for me, you can sign up on tiltparenting.com. Don’t forget to join the Tilt Together community on Facebook if you’re looking to connect with other parents and caregivers in your community who are raising differently wired kids and share our philosophy of optimism and positivity. Just go to facebook.com/groups/tilttogether. Lastly, please help this podcast stay visible and easily found by subscribing and leaving a rating or review on iTunes. Thank you so much. And that’s all for this week. Stay safe and well and take good care. And for more information on to parenting visit www.tiltparenting.com