Highly Sensitive People Can Thrive

Highly sensitive people — boys & parents alike — are prone to overwhelm. 

They’re also likely to be misunderstood (and, perhaps, misdirected) by parents, teachers, coaches, and others.

“I was told my entire life, ‘You’re too damn sensitive,'” says Alane Freund, a licensed psychotherapist, highly sensitive person (HSP), & parent a of highly sensitive son.

Alane describes 4 characteristics of highly sensitive people, which can be remembered using the acronym “DOES”:

  1. Deep processing
  2. Over-arousal
  3. Strong emotional reactions
  4. Sensitivity to subtle stimuli

In simple terms, a highly sensitive individual has a “more reactive” brain, Alane says, and a “finely tuned nervous system.” (Fun fact: 15-20% of the members of all species may be highly sensitive. There are even highly sensitive fruit flies and sun fish!)

HSPs benefit from structure and routines in daily life. Be realistic about time, and include your child in planning. You can also teach (and role model) relaxation strategies to help highly sensitive children (and adults!) reset. These strategies can help any child thrive.

Unfortunately, highly sensitive boys are sometimes misdiagnosed. Because they tend to withdraw from overstimulation, they may be classified as avoidant or autistic, and highly active HSP boys are often diagnosed with ADHD. Society has yet to “make space” for the 50% of boys and men who are more sensitive and more thoughtful than the norm, Alane says.

We can make progress on that front by seeing, recognizing, and appreciating highly sensitive boys. “One of the most important things we can do for children to build resiliency is to give them adults who see them — who truly see them and are not their parents,” Alane says. Parents, of course, are important, but kids need the support, appreciation, and encouragement of coaches, teachers, and others as well.

With this support, highly sensitive boys can become “amazing partners, amazing leaders, and world changers,” Alane says.

In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Alane discuss:
  • Characteristics of highly sensitive people
  • Differences between sensory processing disorder & high sensitivity
  • Scheduling/time management for HSPs
  • How to prevent over-arousal
  • Managing overwhelm
  • Highly sensitive boys in school
  • Why the world needs HSPs
  • Helping HSP boys navigate masculinity and gender expectations
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

alanefreund.com — Alane’s website

Alane Freund’s YouTube channel

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron (book mentioned at 5:08)

The Highly Sensitive Parent: Be Brilliant in Your Role, Even When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron (book mentioned at 19:41)

Sensitive: The Untold Story — documentary mentioned at 35:55 (available on Amazon Prime)

The Strong, Sensitive Boy: Help Your Son Become a Happy, Confident Man, by Ted Zeff (book mentioned at 38:42)

Brain Power Wellness – YouTube channel mentioned at 23:21

Highly Sensitive Boys with William Allen — ON BOYS episode

Sensitive Boys (w Dr. Sandy Gluckman) — ON BOYS episode

You Asked About Age 14, Implicit Bias, & Sensitive Boys (Listener Q & A) — ON BOYS episode

Sensory Processing Disorder with Nancy Peske — ON BOYS episode

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