Emotional sensitivity is wearing me out!

Kelli - posted on 08/25/2009 ( 27 moms have responded )

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I only recently began to research giftedness for my nearly-5 year-old. I found an article saying that emotional sensitivity is so prevalent that it is often a determining factor of giftedness for young children. Whether that is true or not, I have one really emotionally sensitive little boy on my hands and I'm wearing thin. It takes so little to set him off and while it is getting better as he approaches 5 years old, it is still such a trial. He usually doesn't react to things that wouldn't bother most children, but his threshold is so small that it doesn't take much of a disappointment (a toy that won't do what he wants, a misplaced book, falling blocks, not getting something first-before his sister) and his reaction is almost always over the top. He can usually settle down after a few minutes, but the intensity of the initial reaction and the quantity of them is overwhelming me.

He's supposed to start K in a couple of weeks (an entirely different set of concerns) and I'm worried there will be trouble. Any suggestions for riding the storms? Any similar experiences?

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Lisa - posted on 10/09/2009

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My youngest son was so over the top emotionally, we actually had him evaluated for autism at one point. He is not autistic, nor ADHD, but he is extremely gifted, and sensitive to over-stimulation.
So, I know where you are coming from with the feelings of exhaustion. My husband and I were at our wits end with him as a toddler, because over-stimulation to him, was normal stuff to us. The good news is that he went to Kindergarten and SUCCEEDED! We were so happy. I had visions of tantrums in class, etc... But he rose to the occasion. (Yes there were a few incidents) Now he is in fourth grade and I do not have to talk to the teacher at the beginning of the school year about him. He is hyper, but he has learned to stay 'between the lines' at school. He will always dislike crowds, but that is no biggy. I am just thankful that I can relax a little bit now. My advice: don't let his behavior dominate 'you'. Let him express himself(which I sure can be interesting), but if you have to go somewhere, just load him up in full roar, and go on about your day. He will realize that you are in control, and he has the freedom to feel enraged without causing everything to come to a grinding halt. I think that is very re-assuring to these sensitive kids. If their actions can derail Mom or Dad, that is scary, and they get worse. They need your confidence in them in order to get over themselves!

Patti - posted on 10/10/2009

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hi kelli i am sorry you are going through this. i have some advice and before i give my advice let me say i mean no harm and i am going by my own personal experience. now with that being said, i can offer my advice. has your child ever been to a conselor? the reason i ask is my son started out like you are describing, he got to school and it became a real problem. the school isnot as patient as you are and believe me you are in for misery with this. public schools are terrible,to say the least.i had a nightmare on my hands and it resulted in conseling and a christian school. maybe if you are comfortable with this idea, you can take him to talk to conselor or even his peditrician and just see whats going on. if nothing else you will get some great advice and coping skills from whatever resource you use. good luck and god bless

Michelle - posted on 10/14/2009

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My daughter is 9 and she has always been my sensative child. She has been titled gifted and this is very common. Make sure to talk to your teacher and stress they need to work with your son on ways to use his words when he gets upset vs. tears or fits. I also have my daughter in karate now and it has brought up her confidence and she is stronger so maybe a sport he enjoys. Try liquid B vitamins and talk to GNC rep as to why- helped Abbey. Has something to do with nervous system I believe.(could be wrong on why it works)

Amy - posted on 08/26/2009

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My 4-year-old is gifted and she is the same way. The smallest of things sends her screaming and crying. In the beginning it would really get to me and I wasn't sure how to handle it but now we've got a routine. I don't know if it will help you since every child is different but I can share what works for my daughter.

Normally we can see if something is going to go wrong because she will begin to get frustrated and you can hear it in her voice or see it in her face. We now stop her from what she is doing and ask "What's going on" in the lightest and most positive voice we can so she'll explain her thought process. If there is a way to help her, we make suggestions. For example, yesterday she was looking for her Harold and the Purple Crayon book but couldn't find it. I started to hear her "Oh man"s starting so I went to her and asked "Whatcha doing baby". She told me that she was looking for her book to "do her homework" with Sissy (her sister is 16 and in AP courses in high school so there is a LOT of homework after school). I knew I had seen it in her room so I asked her where she had looked. She told me that it was lost from the bookshelf where it should be (the tears are starting and her voice is getting louder). I asked her to think about where she saw it last and she said that she was reading that morning before school. I asked her where she was when she was reading it and she said her chair in her room. I then just smiled at her and let her process what we just worked out. She was still sniffling but she went to her room and was proud to find her book in her chair. She came and exclaimed to the house that she found her book and could now do her homework.

It takes a bit of practice along with trail and error but you will soon learn to recognize his signs before he has a meltdown and perhaps you can teach him to stop and assess the situation before losing it. I was actually really proud the other day when I was cleaning up the living room and I could hear my daughter through the monitor talk herself through where she had last seen her blanket (the most sacred of objects to her). She found it and just went about her day. I didn't say anything about her doing it but I could tell that she was very pleased with herself and that was enough for me.

I hope this helps but if nothing else, you now know that you are not alone. Good luck!

Sara - posted on 06/03/2014

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Hi! I figured it out! My son is far more "neurotic" than most 8 yr olds because he KNOWS what anxiety is. He KNOWS what it feels like to receive a back-handed compliment or when someone's tone is off because of his intelligence. They go hand in hand. Rather than a negative "side effect" of gifted-ness, I've come to see it as part of the whole package. You can't understand complicated social issues and how the human body works (not to mention the countless "adult" books he cannot possibly be stopped from reading, or TV shows/movies/games he will play--his favorite show at 2 yrs old was House, which prompted his career choice, although he understood that House was crabby because his leg hurt lol) and not understand human emotion. He had begun to get a poor self image because he knows that other kids didn't FEEL things the was he does. Two things helped immediately:
1). I told him that he only feels bad because he's smart enough to know what his feelings are and that people call th "issues," which makes it worse--but that I feel the same sometimes and did as a child a LOT.
2). Td him that HIS thoughts are HIS to control. Period. I gave him the go ahead to have complete mastery of how he thinks. And I suggested that when he behind to think/feel these fears and things , to tell his mind to think about something else (something specific that he chose.) I told him this was replacement therapy and that it works 100%. And do it did. The power of faith and thought!

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Tamara - posted on 07/03/2014

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Hi Sarah S,

I got your messages, thanks so much. Am kicking myself for not seeing them before I made the next appointment but it ok, I feel certain we are doing the right thing for our situation. Thanks so much for your help.

Tamara

Sarah - posted on 05/07/2014

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Hi Tamara. How is it all going? I sent you a private message. If you go to topics and messages hopefully it should be there. My impression is that the issues you discus with your sons school experience are shared by many gifted children.

Tamara - posted on 04/30/2014

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I am in Australia Sarah. Western Australia to be exact. Most schools returned on Monday but our School decided to allocate two pupil free days (staff training) this term at the very beginning.

He apparently had a good day yesterday despite being made to sit facing the cupboards for doing something silly following a science experiment. That didn't phase him as much as the fact the teacher took a bigger chair away from him because a classmate tattled that he had a bigger chair (reserved for the higher grade within the class). I just had a chat with the teacher about it this morning and explained that he might feel more comfortable with the bigger chair seei g as he is very very tall for his age (he towers over some year five children and he is a year three). She promised she would endeavour to get him a bigger chair.

Personally I think they should have one size to stop the arguments.

I spent the holidays reading some of the smart parenting for smart kids book. I am thinking we might be having a few issues with dealing with authority. Hence the question from the teacher about why he didn't come to her and ask. The reasoning behind it is that everytime the poor kid opens his mouth to say something he is either told to zip it or gets into trouble for calling out and other reasons. It just says to me there are trust issues evolving between my son and adults at school.

Tamara - posted on 04/30/2014

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Thanks. That rules the school psych out then. I think she just goes along with the majority it seems and never really gives her full view point, or else the teacher who did the survey on my son a couple of years ago would have been raked over the coals for doing things the wrong way around and not asking my permission first.

School has only just gone back for us today so I am hopeful he had a positive one. We go for a hearing test next week and then on the 22nd we see the lady doctor I mentioned previously. It will put things more into perspective as to whether or not we really need to pursue a special needs diagnosis or go with IQ testing - not that this would in any way change his behaviour or get the school to try and understand him but I think for us we would have a clearer path to take.

Sarah - posted on 04/15/2014

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Hi Tamara
IQ tests help identify giftedness. Trust your instincts. If you do decide to get an IQ test done it has to be done by a registered psychologist - It is important to choose one who specialises and has experience in testing gifted children and if possible one that is recommended to you by friends. There are a number of different tests so it is also helpful to look into which are most accepted and relevant for your purposes. Also look into how comprehensive the final report written by the psychologist is. Some just summarise results, others will suggest approaches to learning based on the results.
I also suggest contacting the local gifted association in your area who may be of help and meet with the parents may also be supportive even if you are not sure whether your son is gifted at this stage. Many of these parents may understand where you are coming from.
Asynchrony in the Gifted Child published by Fireworks Press and Parenting your Gifted Child by James Delisle and also Helping Gifted Children Soar may also be of help.
There is a website Play at Home Moms that is also helpful in the sense that the contributors seem to be Moms that value and foster the individuality of their children.

Tamara - posted on 04/11/2014

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I was hoping the doctor who visits a nearby town would do the assessment. She works in paediatrics too and I have spoken to her before regarding school being on our backs - they tried telling me he needed an aid to "teach him to play" when he was in year one and only six and also tried diagnosing him themselves which is against the law. I could ask her to write the report. She was very supportive last time. How do you know your child fits into the giftedness category? would i need to ask for an IQ test too?

We don't have cookie cutter kids so there is no reason why a child should be compared to others. Sensitivity and anxiety tend to also run in the family. IT could all be temperament related. But we need strategies for school that actually work and that is the challenging part.

How do you help your kids cope at school?

I am currently reading smart parenting for smart kids and working through an emotion coaching heart of parenting course just to rule out any at home contributing factors. But it is just so difficult to get through to school that this is who he is and to accept and not criticise.

Sarah - posted on 04/11/2014

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Hi Tamara. It may help to get the psychologist who does the assessment to write a report on the sensitivity of gifted children.

Tamara - posted on 04/11/2014

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My son is eight and on Wednesday this week participated in the school Spelling bee competition. He unfortunately didn't win but did come fourth and. I was very proud of that. Unfortunately, he had what the teachers refer to as a "not coping" moment where he started crying before the judge had finished telling him he was out. He went back to sit with the class but continued to sob, quietly but loud enough for it to be distracting to others.

Apparently it happened during the practise sessions the previous two days.

The school is concerned there is something wrong but I have always known that he is super sensitive to criticism. I know how to relieve it but school is putting it in the too hard basket and I suspect they want some sort of label to. "Make life easier ".My son hasn't been assessed for giftedness but is very switched on and considered very bright by his teachers.

He has a fabulous sense of humour but is very easily hurt feelings wise and often takes the wrong end of the stick in perceiving the joke was on him.

I have decided to investigate further and ask for a nuts and bolts assessment just to rule other things out but I just can't help being agitated at hearing the teacher compare my son to the other children when they are all very individual.

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hi , I have a 11 year old who has always been my "Drama Queen" she do's fine in school the teachers ( the good ones ) usually cope Fairly well with the over sensitivity from my experience. My daughter on the other hand informed me last year that it wasn't enough and wanted me to get her a counselor . I have always taken the approach that kids will let you know what they need , if its overwhelming (if its anything like my house it is!) then you might want to look around there are counselors that specialize in gifted children and according to my daughter it helps.Good luck

Kerry - posted on 09/29/2009

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Even now it doesn't take much to set off my youngest, who is 10. He hates anyone to be mad at him and any negative word will just undo him. He has never done anything that would really get him punished from birth. Always listens and never steps out of line. I have just learned to deal with his outbursts and breakdowns as they come. His older siblings are great in helping with him, except when they decide to tease him (they are still siblings after all). Now my 15 yr old has always had emotional issues with school and even took to making herself throw up at the ripe old age of 6, so that she could get sent home from school. Many times I had the school, before i pulled her to homeschool her, threaten to send me to attendance review boards because if she had a bad morning then I didn't send her to school because her day was ruined and they wanted me to send her anyways so they could deal with her behavior. They knew she would have a bad day and yet didn't care...they just wanted her there. So when it comes to the public school system I don't know what to tell you about K. Many teachers will tell you its ok and then you find out they are using timeouts to take care of his outbursts. My 15 yr old would get isolated or made to sit by the teacher for little things. She was in the 4th grade when i pulled her out of school after repeating the 3rd grade. When I pulled her it was because the school not only was threatening me with attendance review, even though when i put her in that school i told them ab out the attendance issues and why I kept her home at times, and because they told me that I would need to sit with her in class if she was having a bad day. I don't know what to tell you but please watch the situation closely with the teacher.

Nicole - posted on 09/19/2009

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Taking a look into Sensory Processing Disorder seems like an excellent first step in this situation. My oldest, now 10, had extreme emotional reactions to just about anything and everything, but it was coupled with a negative attitude. We discovered at age 7 that he was suffering from depression/anxiety/oppositional disorder. When my youngest, now 7, displayed the same outbursts at a young age, we took a closer look at him. The more I evaluated what set him off, his type of outburst, I realized that those displays coupled with some other unique issues (feeding, clothing issues, strange movements) that his underlying issue was SPD. Very different approaches to treatment and help, but similar behaviors. Please look closely at the requirements/symptoms looked for in each disorder and evaluate your child and their behaviors. Trust me, the light will turn on for you when you have identified the right one!! Good luck.

Lori - posted on 09/07/2009

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Yes! My daughter cries a lot when she sees or hears other people in pain. "My eyes are gonna cry, Mommy." Even a song on a TV show will spark her to tears. We had to go into the lobby at the theatre when we went to see the movie UP. She was sobbing uncontrollably when the bird got hurt and couldn't walk. (The rest of that movie being PG and for kids is another story...I was not happy at all...) I just try to offer as much support and encourage her to verbalize her feelings and that its ok. Some good mommy humor usually works to distract her a bit, included in a quiet settling down process.

Sandra - posted on 09/02/2009

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Mine abruptly closes books or panics during a tv show when the lead character has signs of emotional distress. I think the empathy is highly developed in him. We can't get him to sit through many movies because he takes their feelings on or relates to them deeply. This is the kind of emotional intensity I think gifted kids have that regular kids don't.

Kelli - posted on 09/02/2009

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You've got to be right about K teachers used to emotional outbursts. I'm still very worried about not having any educational challenges in K, but I think I can take that thought with me and relax a little about the outbursts. Thanks Sandra!

Sandra - posted on 08/30/2009

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I think most Kinder teachers are used to emotional outbursts. I have found it is not the outbursts themselves that are extreme, but rather when they are contrasted with the intellectual level and maturity he displays at the same time. I guess I am saying that all kids have extreme reactions from time to time so Kinder teachers know how to deal with it (the good ones, anyway). The gifted component that is so hard to handle is that they are still figuring out why things work and dont work on a more advanced level and are more convinced that they are able to change things that they really can't change and learn things at a pace that they really cant do. l think this high opinion of the self is what is unique-- like what sets him off may be weird for the teacher, but the reaction and how to handle it probably remains the same.

Kelli - posted on 08/30/2009

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That's really interesting Cathy! We continue to have some sleep problems with bad dreams, but it's much better as he gets older. It was rather difficult when he was younger.

Looking back, I think I was somewhat emotionally sensitive. I can recall my mother telling me I "thin-skinned". My husband, to this day, has strong reactions to things and then moderates himself. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that Isaac reacts the same. (We were both gifted children without the benefit of gifted schooling.) This has been really helpful! Thanks for the website. I'll check it out.

Cathy - posted on 08/29/2009

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Hey all, did u know that about 35% of gifted people have a sensory processing disorder (they process sensory information differently). This can make coping with frustration, change or emotions difficult for them. I have it & so does my 3 year old, & he wears me out, but at least I can empathise with him. Go to www.spdfoundation.net to find out more! We're learning strategies that really help, like using movement to help modulation & special music to improve attention and even sleep (my 3 year old finally sleeps through the night!).

Christy - posted on 08/28/2009

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Yes! I not only have similar experiences but I have been through this kindergarten nightmare not once, but twice....it's so difficult for gifted children, they just break down for what for us seems like no apparent reason. For them though, it is HUGE, and we have to remember to be open to that and to listen to their experiences as they start this whole school adventure. One thing I had to remind myself of is that this is a normal transition-something we cannot control, and maybe that's best, because especially our gifted children need to adapt to the world around them and unfortunately also the negative experiences. Kindergarten certainly opens the door to this while at the same time enriches them and you will find that they will always be just one step ahead of their fellow classmates while socially they are either at level or sometimes slightly behind the others. This is all normal and I have learned that this is just the pure fact that our gifted children find the other classmates to be a little silly or they just dont understand why they act that way or say the things that they do.

I have found, however that they do adapt rather quickly and they learn to 'ride the storm' instead of falling apart....they are gifted for a reason, and that being that they have the ability to observe their surroundings and learn from it ! I promise you in six months time you will reflect and think 'wow, did I really worry about this?'

Good Luck to you both.....

Jennifer - posted on 08/27/2009

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Quoting Dawn:

My 8 year old is the same way. We finally had to take her to a psychologist because it got to the point where she was starting to be abusive to her younger sister when she would get so emotional. In school they put her in a special group to help and it really helped letting the school know about her issues. When she goes off we have to talk with her and try to get her to calm down or we will tell her to go have some me time in her room. It helps with the cooling off period because sometimes she just doesn't want anyone to help her. A lot of her issues are because she is a perfectionist and if things do go the way she wants them to, she loses it. It is very hard, but hang in there. She did have problems in school last year and in Kindergarten, but for some reason didn't have the problems in 1st grade. We do not understand why, maybe it depends on the teacher.


i have also seen a psychologist & many more specialist with my son whos 7 due to his aggressive outbursts, time in there room works fantastic most of the time just takeing the stress of other people out of the pic helps mine a lot, mine has been more & more content in school as hes got older mainly because the works got harder & because hes older the teachers will chalange him more, i think teachers play a big part in how well & happy kids do for the last 2 years my sons had the same male teacher & hes gone from strenth to strength

Jennifer - posted on 08/27/2009

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my son is 7 nearly 8 and he has always suffered from exstream emotional sensitivity "as a result of his giftedness" whitch is turning out to be quite rare in this contry (england uk) i can sympathise with your situation i cant tell you how offen i have broken down just unable to deal with it anymore i find it heart breaking at times to see the frustration & pain he goes through for the simpliest of things, i also have only resently done research on giftedness esspecialy his type i have found it very helpfull just little tips & advice i have come up with, as for school i was terified my son wouldnt beable to hold it together enough to deal with the day to day trials but he has only had one outburst in school in 4 years, however he bottles it all up he is unable to exspress his emotions he feels everything so intencely he has massive aggressive outbursts he has to be fisicly restrained for everybodys sake he is like a wild animal when he goes & people in this country dont understand giftedness its quite a new thing to get egnoulaged so see it that hes out of control & should be punished i dont trust people to care for him as you do get deffensive when he looses it with you its just a natural reaction he doesnt hit out like a little boy he attacks like a fully grown man however i have had many meetings with his school i didnt leave them alone untill i knew they understoud the situation & would provide the appropriate care for his needs i would advise anyone in this situation to set everything up with the teachers/carers straight away after all they are special & unique and deserve to have there needs meet just as much as a less challanging child, good luck with it all & it does get slightly easier as they get older

Dawn - posted on 08/25/2009

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My 8 year old is the same way. We finally had to take her to a psychologist because it got to the point where she was starting to be abusive to her younger sister when she would get so emotional. In school they put her in a special group to help and it really helped letting the school know about her issues. When she goes off we have to talk with her and try to get her to calm down or we will tell her to go have some me time in her room. It helps with the cooling off period because sometimes she just doesn't want anyone to help her. A lot of her issues are because she is a perfectionist and if things do go the way she wants them to, she loses it. It is very hard, but hang in there. She did have problems in school last year and in Kindergarten, but for some reason didn't have the problems in 1st grade. We do not understand why, maybe it depends on the teacher.

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