It was around Thursday on our trip that Enzo’s tantrums started to get extreme – some of the worst he’s ever had, and that night was not an easy one. Friday night would prove to be even worse, but we won’t get into it. We were all tired and both kids were just ready to get home to their own beds. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered major mood swings with Enzo, though.
When Josh used to have to travel for work, if he was gone for longer than 3 days, Enzo would start to get really cranky and start having more intense tantrums than usual. He’s always had intense emotions, and that’s when I started looking into whether or not he’s a Highly Sensitive Child at the suggestion of a coworker. It turns out he may take after me, as I definitely have the characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person (I scored 20/27).
“A highly sensitive child is one of the fifteen to twenty percent of children born with a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything. This makes them quick to grasp subtle changes, prefer to reflect deeply before acting (hmm… maybe not so much), and generally behave conscientiously. They are also easily overwhelmed by high levels of stimulation, sudden changes, and the emotional distress of others. Because children are a blend of a number of temperament traits, some HSCs are fairly difficult–active, emotionally intense, demanding, and persistent–while others are calm, turned inward, and almost too easy to raise except when they are expected to join a group of children they do not know. But outspoken and fussy or reserved and obedient, all HSCs are sensitive to their emotional and physical environment.” The Highly Sensitive Child
Granted, we could be completely wrong (there are some things on the checklist that are not him at all), but it seems to make some sense considering his moods get very extreme when there are major changes in his environment and he often gets very upset over seemingly small things. It’s definitely tricky because he’s also at an age where most toddlers/pre-schoolers often have tantrums over random things and can easily be set off by hunger or not enough sleep, so my biggest question is what is considered “normal” and what would be considered “extreme.”
I have definitely discovered a lot about myself in just the past week, though, and have come to realize that quite often Enzo and I set each other off because we both feed off each other’s emotions and are often sensitive to the same things, but react in different ways. As an HSP, I can definitely say that the hardest part of parenting for me is the crying/screaming. I am very sensitive to loud noises and they make me very uncomfortable. At times, such as the past week, they are unbearable and that is when I tend to lose it and become slightly irrational and fly off the handle and I hate to say it, but basically have my own tantrums. So his tantrum sets me off, then my reaction sets him off some more. It’s taking a long time to try and figure this all out. Almost every day lately he has at least one bad tantrum. I’ve been able to stay mostly calm for the past couple days, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Little Phoebe gets so upset when she sees her brother upset and it breaks my heart that he is struggling with his emotions and the world around him right now. So…
We are starting therapy/counseling. I’m not an expert, but it does seem like something is off, and there must be a better way to parent him. I know you should never compare your children, but when I look at the difference between Enzo’s tantrums at 15-16 months and Phoebe’s… there’s a definite difference. I would love to be able to help teach Enzo how to calm down in the moment and not let so many things upset him, so we’re (Josh and I) going to do whatever we can to learn how to communicate better between the two of us and in turn figure out the best way to help our kiddo.
That being said, it’s not all bad being a highly sensitive person. I found several websites that focus on the advantages of being highly sensitive rather than the difficulties, and it’s always nicer to hear the positive than the negative, right?
- The ability to concentrate deeply
- Notice subtleties
- Good at tasks requiring attention, accuracy and speed
- Able to process material at deeper levels
- Able to learn something new without being aware of learning it.
- Highly conscientious
- Highly empathetic
In reality, being highly sensitive is something I consider a strength overall. We all have something we struggle with and have to work at, so my “curses” are just something I have to learn to deal with, and if Enzo is truly the same, we’ll have to learn how to cope and work together. We can’t go through life avoiding everything that makes us uncomfortable or challenges us (and boy does parenting ever challenge you at times).