Dumpling is a highly sensitive child and she feels very strongly about certain issues. This coming from a kiddo who cried at 2 while reading an ebook on my phone about how teddy bears may not be real, I guess I should have seen it coming. Often times, the feelings are so big for her that she is unable to express herself why it matters so much and she'd have a complete meltdown. And if she is missing her nap or is somewhat a tad tired that day, wow, the thought is enough to make me tremble a bit.
The irony is that because she is articulate and reads well, people often equate her to being mature. Hence it is a double-edged sword when she does have a meltdown. I am not into labeling so, I have never tagged Dumpling as having gone through terrible twos, etc. I believe that for any parent, it is heartbreaking to hear such comments and for those who are raising an emotionally intense child, it can be doubly hard.
How hard can it be? Have you read about her supermarket scene (look under point 9)? And sometimes, it can even cause mummy-friendships to be somewhat 'broken'. The first major incident this year was where she was invited to one of her good friend's party. She sees the birthday boy very frequently and was looking forward to the party. Once she got there, she was so excited at seeing him that she ran over to hug him. Perhaps it was because the birthday boy was distracted or that he had other friends whom he has not met for some time, let's just say that he was not entirely as excited as Dumpling and he basically pushed her away. Dumpling was shocked but approached him again. He then told her point blank that he does not want to play with her.
Dumpling was devastated. Her lips trembled and big fat tears rolled from her doe-like eyes. The boy's mum was shocked and promptly spoke to Dumpling and told the son to play with her for a while. Well, the thing is with kids, you'd never know what they are gonna say right back and let's just say that the reply was not what Dumpling would like. So, she started losing it. We brought her out of the apartment and tried to calm her down (near her nap time so that did not work in our favour). When we got in, the boy's grandmother decided to step in and told Dumpling that she is "spoiling his party". Dumpling was hurt, felt maligned and started to bawl again and this time, she was inconsolable. Now, try imagining this scene where all 30 other parents are looking you as you are fighting a losing battle with a matriarch of a grandmother staring down your neck. We packed and left. One of the mums whom I speak to frequently (then), turned away from us and I have not heard from her ever since.
WOW. BIG. HUGE. GINORMOUS MISTAKE. She could not contain her feelings, the utter disappointment, ran off into another room and cried uncontrollably and started asking me in a devastated tone "WHY MAMA, WHYYYYYYYY?!? I REALLY WANTED TO GIVE THEM OUT, GIVE THEM TO MY FRIENDS AND THANK THEM FOR COMING. WHHHHHYYYYY!!!!?!???!" She lost her plot as she continued on and started raising her voice. Frankly, I was horrified because one of the first thought that I had was she was gonna spoil her party and the next (which I am not very proud of) is what would the guests think of her? And of my (lack of) parenting? So we started having an argument.
Now, to those who do not understand, please do not judge so quickly. I am a strict mum and if and when Dumpling is behaving in a bratty manner, punishment will be meted out. But in this post, I would like to speak up for her and for the other emotionally intense children.
To share a different perspective, their perspective. For these children, they are not being dramatic. Trust me, these 3, 4 and 5YOs do not know that much about dramatic flair. Rather, what is unimportant to us (a molehole) is indeed a mountain to them. Often times, these intense children have very set ideas of how things are (and most love routine) and they have very tender feelings too. If the flow of things do not go according to how they see it, they deemed it as 'not nice' and 'flawed' and that's when they cannot accept it. Some may not take to critical comments well too.
How do I know? I asked Dumpling a day after what happened at the party and what it was that she felt so strongly about (she usually makes more sense after she has completely calmed down, lol). She told me "Mama, I worked very hard to pack the items and I really wanted to give them to my friends. And tell them thank you for coming. It is not nice that I cannot do it because that is EXACTLY what we did for my Harry Potter Party."
So for Dumpling, the disappointment was so intense and she felt so strongly about it that she does not know what to do except to let it all out. Just in tears, incoherent words and in (sigh) screaming. Of course, it also seems that she has a perfectionist streak in her as the flow of events did not quite go according to how she'd imagine it to be ~ her being there, smiling and dishing out the loot to her friends and thanking them for coming. Sigh...
Emotionally intense children are just that; they have bigger feelings and bigger reactions towards things because they DO FEEL MORE. So please do not judge them as they are still learning to manage those "big feelings" (as she calls it). There are good days and there are bad days; just that with them, the bad days are like ginormously big (which equates to the size of the meltdowns, sigh). We are working on it as we speak, getting her to regulate her emotions. I do not want to tell her that she cannot get angry / upset / frustrated because that would not be realistic nor would it be healthy for her. I also do not believe in telling her that it is "wrong" to get angry but rather, manage those feelings in a healthier and better way.
For me, I am also learning to control my outbursts in front of her / to stop mad yelling because kids do model behavior (trust me, I learnt it the hard way!) because I do run very short on temper at times. Work, homeschool and a lack of sleep does that to me. What I would do is to talk a lot to close friends and my mum / bro and I ask my close friends to pray for us too as a form of 'release' for me. I also try to calm Dumpling down and react / pick up on it before she reacts to it.
Emotionally intense children are a lot of work but they do not deserve any less of our love or any less patience.
If you are a parent to one of such children, how to you handle them / calm them down? I would love to hear from you.