People who know me know that I’ve had my share of challenges with my kids. They are both very bright in a book-learnin’ sort of way, which means that I seldom worry about things like test scores. In fact, I’m sure I’ll write at some point about my search for schools that are academically rigorous but don’t stress testing as the end product of learning.
What I don’t want to do with this blog is get into my kids’ personal lives too much. I’ve seen other parents do that and I think it does a disservice to the kids. But last week at a party someone was asking me about resources I’ve run across, and I thought it would be a good idea to write a sort of book (and website) review of materials that might be helpful to other parents.
From their earliest times, I have been interested in figuring out how to help my highly sensitive little people negotiate the world. A book that has some really great advice is The Highly Sensitive Child (isbn 0767908724). I’ve never found that sticking my kids into a category really worked for them or us, but this book applies even if you don’t want to pigeon-hole your child as “highly sensitive.” It has some really great common-sense advice for dealing with your children’s sensitivities — not coddling them but finding techniques to help them succeed in a world that is full of stimulation that they might not appreciate.
Advice I appreciated from this book included helping non-highly-sensitive family members understand the difference between coddling your child and helping them learn to live with their sensitivities. I also liked the emphasis on finding the positive side to something that may seem all negative. When you can’t go out in public with your two-year-old because you don’t know if he’ll freak out at any unexpected loud sound, it’s easy to be negative. But the book helped me to appreciate and even draw on my children’s sensitivities.
The Out-of-Sync Child (isbn 0399531653) is to a certain extent a general manual on child-rearing. What child hasn’t been out of sync in their abilities at any given age? I have tried not to “pathologize” this in my kids as much as possible — I fully expect that an “out of sync” child will go in and out of being in sync his or her entire childhood (and possibly further). But again, whether or not I view a child has having a disorder or just having some challenges that are discussed in the book, the book can be helpful.
My homeschooled daughter benefits from my having read this book every day. I keep reminding myself that it’s OK that she’s not particularly good at certain skills, and that pushing her won’t help. As a strong-willed person, she reminds me when I’ve forgotten and I start to push her. She pushes back… hard! The skills that she lacks are ones that we need to work on, but she’s happier when we work on them slowly and in a positive way. And all the work we do on the things that don’t come easily to her has to be overbalanced with lots of fun doing the things she excels at.
The Mislabeled Child (isbn 9781401302252) is one that I happened upon at a particularly difficult time in parenting one of my children. It taught me to question the wisdom of lumping children into categories rather than looking at them as individuals. The professionals I liked working with were ones who were willing to admit that labels are convenient but not necessarily “real.” Every child can go in and out of displaying symptoms of various disorders, even if they’re perfectly normal. (Someone I know called me in distress one day because her child’s preschool teacher had suggested she get him evaluated for autism. The suggestion was based on the fact that he flapped his hands like an autistic kid when he was excited!)
In The Mislabeled Child they show how often behaviors can be misunderstood: a partially deaf child is labeled learning-impaired, a gifted child is labeled ADHD, etc. While dismissing the use of drugs as a cure-all for behavioral problems, the authors provided an entire chapter on the drugs available and what their effects and side-effects are. That chapter on drugs really made me think about how easily our culture falls back on drugs as a simple cure-all, and helped me take a firm stance in my own situation.
In the midst of a very difficult parenting year last year I wrote an article on PVUSD’s GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program, run by the talented Lyn Olson. GATE is the bewildered step-child of the California public schools. (You can read the article on my website, sukiwessling.com/familystories.html.) Lyn led me to an amazing website, http://sengifted.org, which serves as a virtual library of information for helping a gifted child stay mentally healthy.
I could write more, but I’m just about to hit my maximum word count! Good luck in your parenting journey…