Is Your Child an Orchid or a Dandelion?
For those of you following the Inspired to Change teams Facebook live sessions throughout the autumn you will have noticed that our Devon Associate Emma Treby has been talking about orchids and dandelions and “High Sensitivity”. So just what is it?
High Sensitivity or the scientific term of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) doesn’t mean that you are necessarily shy or over-sensitive emotionally, rather it is a biological trait or phenotype shared by 20% of the population, children and adults alike. According to Elaine Aron, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a more sensitive nervous system and hence are more sensitive to sensory stimuli – noise, smell, texture, movement and sight, and as a result people with High Sensitivity process more information and ‘feel’ more deeply. Therefore, people with High Sensitivity are more prone to stress as their systems can be overloaded with too much sensory input.
Indeed, this trait of High Sensitivity can be seen across many species of animal and if you think about it, it provides an evolutionary advantage. Within a social group, those highly sensitive animals or humans are the guards or ‘lookouts’; they notice subtle changes in the landscape or others’ body language and behaviours and so are naturally attuned to potential danger.
More recently Boyce suggested a spectrum of Sensitivity, with low Sensitivity at one end and high Sensitivity at the other. At the low Sensitivity end he termed people ‘Dandelions’ as like the plants, they thrive anywhere and at the other end ‘Orchids’ who need the perfect conditions to thrive, but when they do, they are spectacular. And of course, there are many people in between!
Whilst orchid children need a good environment (i.e., home and school) to thrive, it is important to note that any positive actions or interventions to support them will be very positively received as, whilst orchids respond more negatively to negative situations, they also respond more positively to positive situations and behaviours than dandelions do. Therefore, any positive action to support a Highly Sensitive child will really help them!
It is worth remembering that orchids are a household’s stress barometer.
If an Orchid child seems more anxious, their sleep patterns have changed or any avoidant behaviour has increased it could be because of pressures and stresses felt by the wider household rather than something they are trying to manage alone and of course they might have noticed this stress before anyone else.
“I remember being in school at about 8 or 9 years old and when the teacher shouted at one of the other pupils, I used to feel awful. I would get hot, my heart would pound, I would feel sick and just want to hide. I suppose I assumed that everyone felt like I did. Of course, for the child in question it was no big deal and they laughed it off, as a staunch dandelion would, but for me it was awful.”
Of course, in school I took any action I could to avoid being told off because the fear of feeling so bad was all the motivation I needed. Still today, I will avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs and when someone shouts or is confrontational (not necessarily with me) I feel just like I did as a child.
It is helpful to understanding that an orchid has a more sensitive amygdala response than a dandelion, which means that their flight or fight survival response is triggered more regularly and intensely. Also, because orchids feel the resulting symptoms more strongly too – increased heart rate, hot flush, sweaty palms, churning stomach and nausea – the biggest fear is often the feeling of fear itself. The fear of feeling the panic and overwhelm or other fight or flight symptoms, such as nausea, is often why children (often unconsciously) start avoiding things that might be stressful so that they can avoid the feeling so they might avoid going upstairs in the house on their own, say they don’t want to go on a school trips or refuse to travel on the school bus.
Whilst it is true that your orchid child has to learn to live better with the ‘feeling’, it is also important to have the understanding as an adult that your orchid child notices more and feels more and so it is likely they feel stressed or anxious more often and that the feeling of anxiety itself likely scares them. Children can learn to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ by building their resilience, but only when we help them to reduce their general levels of stress and anxiety and teach them how their brain works and why they feel the way they do. For dandelion children this is useful information, but for orchids it is essential.
If you would like to know more about supporting your Highly Sensitive child (or if you are a Highly Sensitive parent) or if you are a member of teaching staff contact Emma for a chat about her upcoming webinars and workshops or speak to any member of the team.
About the Author: Emma Treby works with people online and face to face in our Mid-Devon clinic: “I specialise in helping clients who feel stuck and want to regain connection in their lives – with themselves, their family and their passions. I have a particular interest in supporting Highly Sensitive People who often come to my clinic with anxiety, a lack of confidence or concern about their own Highly Sensitive child and how to parent them in a way that enables them to thrive.”
If you would like to explore how hypnotherapy can help Orchids to thrive get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
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