Four Tips to Sensitively Say ‘No’ to Children. Part 1 of 2

I’d like to share a special experience that occurred in our weekly Highly Sensitive Person Resilience Group.  This particular story is about hurtful ways that our group members were  parented, and their desire to be better parents to their children.

People who were once strangers have bonded in this group so they feel safe to share their vulnerable feelings. We heal emotional wounds so that we can express our Authentic Selves, just the way God intended. Our hearts open as the Holy Spirit enfolds us with unconditional love. Experiencing this tender feeling of love with the group is what I cherish so much.

After brief check-ins, one person volunteers to be coached while the others learn vicariously.

In one of our sessions, a woman wanted to heal her family of origin wound that arose when her father repeatedly dismissed her feelings and her requests.

She felt rejected as a little girl, and she still feels that way as an adult.

No one else felt like she felt, or wanted the things she wanted when she was a child. Her strong-willed father made most of the decisions and her mother complied like a quiet church mouse. My client submitted to her father’s will, too, never really feeling loved by him. She didn’t have a sense of belonging in her family. This is typical of 50% of highly sensitive people. We grow up with insecure attachment styles.

Lack of secure attachment hurts whether we are a child or an adult.

We used Brainspotting and Internal Family Systems to help my client heal. Amazingly, within half an hour, she no longer felt rejected. She realized that she could include herself in family discussions instead of remaining non-assertive like her mother. She reflected, “It doesn’t make me inferior if my whole family makes a choice that I don’t like. I was out-casting myself.”

At the end of the coaching that night, another group member asked, “How can a parent say ‘no’ to a child’s request while helping the child feel cherished?”

A couple of mothers answered this question. You’ll read the first response below. I’ll share the second mom’s answer in the next blog post.

The following essay was written by a highly sensitive introvert who wishes to remain anonymous.

Like most highly sensitive people, I try to be the best parent I can be. I’m going to share my philosophy and four tips for saying “no” while helping my children feel securely attached.

My girls are ten and six years old. When it comes to declining their requests, I want them to completely embrace who they are and who they will become. This is what I do.

  1. My ten-year-old is a highly sensitive introvert so extra time and patience go a long way with her.
  2. I allow my kids to share their opinions with me. We communicate in a way that they can share respectfully, and I do the same in return. They don’t have to be angry and talk back to be heard.
  3. I explain everything to them in a way that shows them that when I say no, I am serving them. There is no “don’t do this because I said so.” Children learn every second of every day. They have so much they have to learn on their own in this world, so I try to explain things to them so they understand. I try not to make them guess whenever possible.
  4. I help my children calm their bodies and emotions. For example, when my oldest daughter is over-stimulated, she has learned to take some alone time to compose herself so she will feel better. It’s not a punishment. She has matured in her ability to listen to her body when it’s telling her to take a pause and breathe. It’s a great tool for her.

My six-year-old didn’t understand this at first. She wanted to know why ‘sissy’ wouldn’t play with her right that second. She wanted me to make her older sister play with her right then. I explained it on her grade level by giving her a situation and an emotion she could relate to. I made sure she knew her sister didn’t need a break from her, but that she needed down-time to re-center herself. Then I made suggestions for fun things to do while playing alone.

After a few times of this scenario, my younger daughter saw that her sister felt better after having time alone, and then she was ready to play again. My youngest started to pay attention to when she felt out of sorts, and now she occasionally asks for time to color or draw on her own.

I have learned to apply the same self-soothing process when my Inner Child feels harassed by my Inner Critic. My Wise Self calmly suggests that I take a few deep breaths, relax and ground myself. Operating in the zone of resilience helps me be a better parent, and as a bonus, it often eliminates emotional and physical pain.

I am so grateful that I learned these tools. I hope they help will you, too.

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Contact Benita Esposito if you would like help to heal emotional wounds so you can express your Authentic Self. Ask for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted session. Choose from individual spiritual counseling and life coaching, or you might like to participate in a Highly Sensitive Person Resilience Group.

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Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self. Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor.

Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.

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