Author Archive for Maureen Healy

Happier TV

Best-selling author of Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar, interviewed Maureen on how to raise happier children, especially the sensitive ones! Enjoy.

Let’s Be Friends

One common misperception I see in HSC is they get confused about what a friend is…

Friends need to be nice to you. They don’t have to be perfect, but they aren’t mean to you on a regular basis. Although this sounds straightforward as an adult, I’ve worked with countless children who settle for less because they desperately want to feel liked.

Josh, age eight, told me last week: My best friend, Bo, says mean things to me. Josh is a smart and sensitive boy who has been putting up with his “friend” bullying him because he wanted to be part of the cool crowd (as his mom puts it). But when I was straight with Josh about how friends treat you nicely, he had to pause and reconsider Bo as his friend – let alone, best friend.

Helping children like Josh not only learn what a friend is, but how to be a friend and choose friends that lift them up is a game-changer. One creative way to open this discussion is through watching a TV show like Amazon Prime’s Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (ages 7 and up), which sends positive messages about what real friendship is like. Because HS boys and girls need to see what healthy friendships look like so they too can create friendships that change their lives, for the better!

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Mentoring: Why it Matters

Being mentored by a highly sensitive adult can make all the difference for  a struggling child. He begins to see himself in the other, and receive guidance on how to turn his sensitivity into an asset. Yes, I said it. Sensitivity is a liability unless one learns to balance it with logic and skill. Some of the common challenges that mentoring helps with include increasing:

  • Self-Esteem
  • Awareness / Mindfulness
  • Ability to Self-Soothe
  • Emotional Self-Control
  • Calmness
  • Skillful Perception of World

Daisy, age nine, is one of my mentoring child clients. She’s been teased by her classmate, Sophia, for two months. Her parents just found out about how challenging this has been for her and enrolled her in my mentoring program. After just two sessions, Daisy’s losing her gloomy appearance and is beginning to stand up for herself. I helped by role-playing and explaining to Daisy that there’s nothing wrong with her (often what teased children think). We’re continuing to meet but it doesn’t take long to see progress, give a child practical tools, and help them see their world differently.

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Role-Playing

maureen healy therapist highly sensitive child growing happy kids Earlier today I was on Skype with a 10 year-old highly sensitive girl named Jessie. She was telling me about how a girl in her gym class who said, “Jessie, No offense – but you’re not very good at basketball” and Jessie was stunned. She didn’t have anything to say. Not only were her feelings hurt and she was humilitated in front of her gym class but she was left speechless.

What I did with Jessie was role-play this situation over so she could come up with the scripts (language) to use when she needed to stand up for herself. Jessie is naturally a sweet, shy and sensitive child who feels things deeply. Sometimes things go in so deeply with Jessie that she cannot access language, and that’s normal. Helping her to have “ready made” sayings that feel comfortable for her when she needs to stand up for herself is essential to her positive emotional development. One saying was, “I know I’m good and we all need to pick someone together” versus letting the pushy girl pick the center for the team.

The good news is after a few rounds of role-playing, I began to see Jessie’s confidence emerge. What I suggest for any parent, professional or caring adult is not to undervalue the immense gain some role-playing might give your HSC.

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Crying in School

boy crying Children cry. Adults cry. We all cry. Most traditional teachers and classrooms don’t want children to cry. They find it “problematic and disruptive” to the educational environment and other students. Of course, I understand and appreciate the need to teach — but isn’t learning emotional and social skills at the crux of successful living? I would say, YES. So recently when a slew of parents from my postman to long-term client stopped me to ask, “My child cries at school, what do I do?” I took a pause, and realized maybe this is something I need to write a blog on…

Why do children cry? 

Of course, every child is different but crying means they’re upset (i.e. overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, sad, feeling disappointed). Crying is an easy thing to do. It immediately relieves the energetic pressure a child is feeling. But when “you know better, you do better” as the motto goes. So these children aren’t yet aware or trained in other ways to handle their fast-moving, intense and need to exit energy. For example, my 8 yr-old client, Maddy, cried every time she was in third grade math. She became so frustrated, and angry that she doesn’t “get it” the way her teacher explains it. But after working together, I taught Maddy new ways to exit her energy (let her frustration go) such as deep breaths and also helped her see the situation differently. The good news is Maddy learned how to better manage her energy and the daily crying in Math disappeared.

What can we do?

So crying is healthy and natural. I would even say it’s a good sign. Tears are healing and certainly from an energy standpoint release pent-up energy. They are also one way of handling a situation when their are many to choose from. Giving our highly sensitive kids more choices, and helping them see their situation differently — whatever is happening, will be a powerful part of helping them to develop the emotional and social skills they need to thrive.

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Episode One

Kristie Reeves interviewed me for her web series, Children of the Rainbow.

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Emotional Sensitivity

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Someone called me yesterday, and said, “I assume you mean emotional sensitivity?

Yes,” I promptly responded but added that emotional sensitivity is usually commingled with physical and other sensitivities. But yes, I focus on helping your child develop skillful thinking and emotional responses so that life is easier for them. Before they get guidance oftentimes they’ll have “knee-jerk” responses, which may or may not serve them. For example, I had one child whose default was to begin crying when he was teased and of course, this only made matters worse. But with some suggestions and role-playing Joshua learned how to handle things differently, which made the bully leave him alone. I’ve got tons of real-life examples where kids with just a little guidance, lots of practice, supportive mentors and positive environments can really turn their sensitivity from a liability into a strength.

Web Series Trailer

Kristie Reeves interviewed me for the web series, The Children of the Rainbow, and here’s the trailer for the upcoming episodes.

The Magic of Mentoring

hand giving the baton to another seen from below. Focus on the hand with the baton warm tones accented because it was shooted at sunset.

Over and over again, I meet highly sensitive kids who love mentoring and hate therapy! And this is why I created a mentoring program so these children that are resistant to “help” from a professional can get the insight, guidance and practical tools they need to thrive. It’s “flipping the script” so what looks like a negative is actually positive. And of course, there’s no one on the planet who cannot benefit from an insightful guide – just think of Oprah who was mentored by Maya Angelou or Johnny Deep who had Marlon Brando.

Being supported by someone who has turned their sensitivity into an asset is also inspiring to children. They learn they’re not alone and someone with more experience can guide them to turn their intensity into something productive. Just yesterday, I was teaching a breathing technique to an 8-yr old boy and he loved it. He also laughed his patootie off when I told him I used that same breath at my age (which was funny to him) at the dentist this week. Because the tools I teach your children can last a lifetime. They’re not for just today but the long haul of learning how to become emotionally intelligent, which is setting them up for more life success.

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Highly Sensitive Boys

raising-gentle-boysBeing sensitive oftentimes starts as a struggle in our not-so sensitive world. It may be doubly so if you’re a boy and you feel things more deeply. Of course, there are certain families and cultures where being a boy is still equated with being tough (not highly feeling). Today’s highly sensitive boy can only truly thrive if he learns how to embrace his gentle nature (emotions) and also develop his strength (physical, mental, spiritual) so he can be fully himself.

One of the things I’ve recognized is that sensitive boys who’re mentored (formal or informally) are better equipped to handle challenges, develop self-confidence and share their unique gifts than their counterparts who only learn by trial and error. Specifically, I believe sensitive boys need a mentor because many times:

  • Men in their lives may not be highly sensitive. They love little Larry or Luke but they may not instantly “get him” so helping him manage his emotions may not be their forte yet they want him to be strong and soft — something they might not have learned fully themselves.
  • Emotions aren’t necessarily discussed among men. Helping a boy learn how to skillfully handle their emotions and discuss them sets him up for more life success. Just today, I was on Skype with Noah who said, “thanks for helping me” after we role-played how to handle a particular situation.
  • They are different. Imagine being a zebra in a herd of horses. Now that’s how a sensitive boy feels in his classroom unless he’s in art, acting or some sort of specialized school for “zebra’s” where most kids are sensitive. Helping a sensitive boy embrace his sensitivity as a good thing helps him in every area of his life.

Over and over again I see how mentoring can be a life-changer for many boys, especially if they are struggling with outbursts, making friends, being teased, feeling confident and handling their intense emotions. Once you find someone that can genuinely help your child manage their intensity and turn their struggles into strengths keep that person on speed dial. They may not have all the answers but the support and guidance can be invaluable!

 

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