Nurturing the Mind, Heart, and Body of the Gifted or Sensitive Child
By Dr. Paula Wilkes
Does your child have profound empathy to the point that he cries when he senses the pain of another person or other living things?
Does your child talk about feeling uncomfortable around people who make her feel “creepy?” On the other hand, does your child sense that some people have a nurturing and inviting energy?
Does your child have insights that make him seem like an “old soul?”
Does your child sometimes feel like an “odd duckling” who doesn’t fit with her peers because of the depth of her feelings and reactions?
Does your child feel alive and joyful when out in nature, as though he can feel the wondrous energy of the plants and animals?
Does your child feel overwhelmed by sights, sounds, textures, and smells?
All of the above are signs of a spiritually sensitive child.
What is meant by spiritual sensitivity? According to Judith Blackstone, in her book Belonging Here, spiritually sensitive adults and children have these traits in common:
- Profound empathy and exceptional emotional depth
- Visionary insight; ability to see the truth of situations
- A gift for healing
- May feel alienated from the world around them
One of the major challenges faced by spiritually sensitive children is that parents and teachers often misidentify the sensitivities of these children as weaknesses and defects instead of teaching them to harness and use their personal energy to self-soothe and modulate their sensitivities so that they won’t turn to drugs, cutting, or eating disorders as coping mechanisms. Some spiritually sensitive children end up with depression, anxiety, and autoimmune issues from the stress of living with sensitivities they don’t understand and can’t contain. These sensitivities can lead to loneliness and self-doubt, and for this reason, we need to nourish the minds, hearts, and bodies of these exquisitely sensitive children and help them develop their gifts while diminishing the challenges.
Strategies for Nourishing the Spiritually Sensitive Child
- Mindful Movements – There is a beautiful little book with an accompanying CD by Thich Nhat Hahn called Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being. This series of exercises combines body movements with mindfulness and focused breathing and is great for both children and adults.
- Four Pebble Meditation – Thich Nhat Hahn has a lovely metaphor-based mindful practice for kids that I enjoy doing myself. It uses four pebbles, and he has a new book for kids coming out this fall describing the process called A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles. These four pebbles are metaphors for our lives. The first pebble represents a flower: fresh. The second pebble represents a mountain: solid. The third pebble represents still water: clarity & authentic reflection. The fourth pebble represents space: freedom. I find holding each pebble in my hand with my focus on what that pebble represents to be a really relaxing way to meditate. Now that my brain has made the connection between the pebbles and the meditation, seeing the pebbles in my little wasabi dish continually reminds me of the four aspects of myself.
- Sending Love to Others - Once your child knows how to meditate, you can have your child practice sending love to herself, and then to others. You might begin with a photo of your child when she was a baby, and have your child look at the photo and send love to that person who is still a part of her. Once your child has had several opportunities to send self-love, your child can shift that focus to another person and/or animal. The purpose of this activity is to bring loving space to her heart.
- Gratitude Journal – Sending love to others is one way to help children open their hearts. Another way is through a gratitude journal. Having your child focus on what brought her joy that day is a nice way to end an evening and be focused on positive experiences before falling asleep.
- QiGong for greater awareness of personal energy – Lee Holden has a series of DVDs that include sitting, standing, and moving practices. I find my chi for energy work particularly strong after doing these exercises. I believe children who experience their personal energy will be better able to modulate their sensitivities.
- Spend, Save, Share Jars – Many religious and spiritual groups talk about opening your heart by doing good things for other people. With the spiritually sensitive child, we are looking for positive outlets for the pain they sometimes feel on behalf of others. You might consider having your child divide money he receives into three jars for spending soon, saving for later, and sharing with others. Give your child an opportunity to find an organization that has personal meaning. It is important for spiritually sensitive children to feel like they are making a difference in the lives of other people and animals.
A suggestion to parents: You are the most powerful model in the life of your child. Spiritually sensitive children need to see you focused on your own mindfulness and self-awareness. Give yourself the time and space to create your own spa moment, even if it’s just taking a luxurious breath when you are stuck in traffic. Thich Nhat Hahn talks about the monks at Plum Village who hear a bell and use it as a reminder to take a breath and be in the moment. He encourages us that when our phone rings, it should serve as a reminder to take a breath and be in the now.
Many of us who are spiritually sensitive do not feel safe in this world with all the chemicals, aggressive people, and over-bearing sights and sounds. It is a nice reminder that by building up our minds, hearts, and bodies (our personal energy), even a spiritually sensitive person can feel safe in, and have a positive impact on, this world.
Do you see other signs that leads you to believe your child is spiritually sensitive – or do you remember being a spiritually sensitive child? Please share below with our community!
About the author: The Summit Center’s (www.summitcenter.us) Dr. Paula Wilkes works with gifted children and adults on issues related to spiritual sensitivity. She is interested in helping spiritually sensitive people build on the potential of this sensitivity and diminish the challenges. In addition, Dr. Wilkes provides counseling and consultation for parents and students on gifted and “twice-exceptional” issues (including sensitivity and intensity); works as an advocate for gifted students to help schools understand and implement Differentiated Educational Plans; and performs educational therapy in the area of reading fluency.
Looking for programs or camps for spiritual children? Glad.is highly recommends the Silver Horse Healing Ranch in Topanga, Ca: http://glad.is/2011/06/silver-horse-healing-ranch/
More on Mindful Parenting: http://glad.is/article/mindful-parenting/