Our Story: How an unforeseen tragedy propelled Sally to becoming a High Sensitivity mentor.
I am an ordinary person with, what I guess, is an extraordinarily devastating experience.
I grew up in Melbourne and raised a family on the Gold Coast. Sami our girl is 21 months older than our young son Benjamin. Life was what one may call ‘typical.’ My insight into parenting prior to having children was very limited. In the early years my husband worked in the fishing industry often away for extended periods of time. Both our families lived interstate and so I was it. The one to make it all happen. I took the responsibility seriously.
Without realising, I questioned a lot of what were considered standard parenting strategies popularised in the early 2000’s. Mainly because my children seemed ‘different’ – more reactive. I had a strong sense that every single one of my interactions had an effect on their emotional development. As a result I thought hard about parenting. This meant stopping before reacting emotionally to something they did or said. Looking back, I am glad I took this stance as research clearly demonstrates the importance of early life experiences on the developing brain.
“One never knows what is around the next corner”
Born May 10, 2002 Ben was a robust hungry new born. As a youngster, I noticed his reactivity to sounds and temperature. He startled easily and his sleep was often disturbed. Shoes caused significant angst, his food preferences were limited and wet or sandy bathers and tags on clothing needed to be removed immediately. His sense of smell was finely tuned and he walked and talked early.
With maturity, Ben was inherently kind and gentle but more easily overwhelmed by events than other children. Time and again I observed his emotional reactivity to incidents that didn’t seem to bother other children. Ben commented on the emotions of others, distressed to see anyone upset when to me he could have just been playing. He asked deep reflective questions about many topics and noticed subtleties other children didn’t mention. He didn’t like unexpected plan changes but by around four years of age tried hard to curb these strong emotional reactions.
Ben was wary meeting new people but once comfortable really quite extroverted. Kindergarten went well but transitioning to school was very difficult. The first day was totally overwhelming and showing up time and again made Ben more and more anxious.
Thus started my personal journey to finding parenting support for my highly aware and emotionally sensitive child; unfortunately with very little success. Sadly in 2010, Ben became critically unwell with an aggressive illness and passed away three months later on November 13 at the tender age of 8.
A few months later, I stumbled across a book by clinical psychologist Elaine Aron and all the questions I had about Ben’s way of experiencing the world were answered by her amazing temperament research.
This discovery sparked a new passion and professional journey for me, one that has seen the creation of Highly Sensitive Kids, a place where support and personalised mentoring is available to help children like Ben and parents just like myself.
“Sometimes we will never know the true value of a moment until it is just a memory.”