By Sarah Vander Schaaff

A few years ago when my youngest child would not sleep, I looked for help. The honeymoon of “sleeping like a baby” had ended abruptly at four months, and after more than a year of frustration, I turned to almost every doctor I could think of.

“Is it her eczema?” I asked a dermatologist.
“Is it a food allergy?” I asked an allergist.
“Is it her teeth?” I asked a pediatric dentist.

They did tests; we changed our diets; we re-read the sleep-training books; we bought softer sheets for her crib. We did everything we could think of. Still, I asked: why does she spend more time crying than sleeping each night?

Finally, a pediatrician said, “Eczema in another child would not disrupt sleep.”
Another pediatrician in the same practice sent us to a psychologist. And that is where we began to find our solution.

My daughter would not sleep because she had trouble letting go of the day.
It was temperament, the psychologist said, and we’d better learn to deal with it now because it would manifest in other ways besides sleep.

That began a slow but gradually successful process of teaching our daughter how to let go of the thoughts of the day and embrace sleep. It helped that she was finally old enough to talk and, yes, understand the rewards or bribes we were instructed to give. Most of all, it helped to simply acknowledge that she was unique, sensitive, imaginative, and sometimes really difficult.

I took from that experience the idea that techniques that work for one child, or even a million, may not work for particular individuals, no matter what others say, and that sometimes the hard to define elements of temperament or “wiring” have profound importance.

That is why when I came across an article Nancy had added to a Mindprint page for parents, “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children,” I was intrigued.

“Emotional intensity in the gifted,” the article states, “is not a matter of feeling more than other people, but a different way of experiencing the world: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding—a way of being quiveringly alive.”

Because these feelings are often seen as instability, the article explains, our culture wants to label such individuals and parents attempt to minimize the emotions.

In fact, we’d do well to understand that for these children, that intense inner life is tied to their potential. It’s part of their giftedness.

While that emotional intensity may not be something to “fix”, it is certainly something to understand.

The brief but insightful article, “Emotional Intensity In Gifted Children,” was written by Lesley K. Sword and is found on the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education. It begins on page 9 of this link, following a short piece on Bibliotherapy.

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