Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: August 2008.
This is for both HSPs and the parents of HSCs, whether those parents are sensitive themselves or not. So this time I will refer to HSPs in third rather than first person plural–they, not we. Most of these points I have made before in other places, but it does not hurt to review them here:
HSPs in the classroom tend to be:
Alert and observant
Quick to grasp what instructors want
Bothered more by timed tests
Uncomfortable performing unless well prepared and praised
Aware of deadlines and the need to plan ahead
Hurt by harsh criticism
Helped most by hearing what they did well
Not in need of punishment
Try to choose teachers and educational settings that will be best suited for someone with the above qualities! If an instructor has been especially helpful, ask this person for recommendations of others who are similar. Do not hesitate to let someone put in a good word for you (or your child) with the next teacher.
When starting school, HSPs will inevitably be highly stimulated by the transition and will need more down time to reflect and recover. Taking that time can be difficult, since social ties are often being made or renewed at the start of the school year. So rather than retiring to a quiet room, HSPs will need to go out and meet new people more than they usually would, in order not to feel left out later. HSPs need to accept that both social and academic goals are equally important for their long-run success. They must balance these two worlds, and at this time in their lives, they will not do either one perfectly. Exercise, keeping their living space tidy, or keeping up with family and old friends may have to take even a lower priority.
At the start of the school year there will be emotional ups and downs. Many things will not go well, or as well as was hoped. HSPs should expect this, so that they are not thrown off by a seeming failure or a period of anxiety, depression, or harmful self-criticism. Instead they need to stay grounded in the reality of the situation: this is a difficult time of transition. They have to get enough sleep, eat right, get out into nature now and then, and spend time with supportive people. If possible, they should be well rested and in a good mood when meeting new people, or wait until another opportunity comes along.
HSPs thrive when they are learning. The more education, the more they can contribute to the world. Of course they can study on their own, but higher degrees given by actual institutions can earn them the respect they need to be influential and to have their good ideas heard. So it is essential for them to become at ease in educational settings. This is the start of the academic year, and “well begun is half done.” So do start well, but in keeping with your child’s greater sensitivity.
Robert Stamey says
Hello Mrs. Aron,
I’m writing to you to thank you for your understanding of highly sensitive people. I’m a highly sensitive person myself and I have learned so many things about HSP’s reading your books. I’ve thought seriously about going back to college so that I can help others who are highly sensitive. I earned a B Div. and a Th. M. I’m an ordained minister also. I believe a degree in Psychology would help me in the ministry immensely. What is your input on the matter? Again, thank you my friend!