“Orchids are not broken dandelions but a different, more subtle kind of flower.”~ Dr. W Thomas Boyce
Happy soon-to-be Holidays my dear Marshmallow Peeps!
Yowza, I think we can all agree, it has been a busy busy busy few months. And as we enter the holiday season, we brace ourselves for things to get even busier (cringe). This is a tricky time for most families. The ramp up to the holiday season is a lot for everyone, but the sensitive kids are the canaries in the coal mine, so to speak. As the busy-ness cranks up, I’m sure more than a few of you are noticing the effects of your varied, harried states on your children and the overall family dynamic. Sensitive kids, or “orchid” kids, using the terminology from W. Thomas Boyce’s book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive, are especially susceptible to stress during this period of time. A big thing to remember during the lead in to the holidays is this: behavior is communication.
If you are seeing signs of stress (however that manifests in your children) in one or more of your kids, I would encourage you to slow down and take stock of the possible “micro-climates” affecting your child. Is your child running into some stress from group work at school for the special holiday project? Have you or other children been taking out stress on other members of the family? Have you had less time to listen to your children’s problems or challenges because of the extra holiday-driven tasks that have been placed in your lap? I, for one, know all too well when my husband and I have a disagreement and we are having the subsequent heated discussion, my daughter always injects by yelling at us both, a clear reaction to the tension she is feeling but has no power to diffuse it all on her own. She channels the charged energy between my husband and I, then sends out her own nuclear shockwave of stress through the space, normally right before she stomps out of the room in a huff. Her sensitive nature leaves her more open and porous to absorb both positive and negative influences around her. Really, this is true for everyone, but is especially consequential for the sensitive “orchid” kid. They are responsive to the environments that surround them and their experiences sculpt their future.
So, what is there to do? First, we can acknowledge and understand that everyone experiences things differently. What may be a non-issue for you or for one of your children may be absolutely intolerable for your other child. Here is where I come back to the idea from Dr Alison Gopnik’s book Kinder-Gardening (I wrote about it briefly in an earlier Editor’s Letter). Instead of a results-driven approach to parenting, perhaps this holiday season, try instead what science points to as a more constructive relationship between parents and children. Create a supportive, diverse and rich ecosystem where your children can feel safe to be themselves. Acknowledge divergent solutions to various stressors you or your children may need. As things ramp up, purposely take moments to slow down and take stock of how you and your family are doing (for more in depth information, see Vinay’s posts about holiday blues, anxiety and self-care). Model self-care and encourage your little “orchids” and “dandelions” to do the same. You will all experience the same holiday season differently, but perhaps you can all grow something beautiful together from that fertile common ground.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season,
Anouck, Maki, and the rest of the ETM team