Highly Sensitive Person? How To Tell, Cope, & Thrive

Do loud noises, strong smells and visuals, or rough textures tend to overwhelm you easily?

Does the need for a quiet and private place drive you to withdraw when you feel swamped during a busy day?

Do you get flustered when you have much to do but little time to do it?

Have others ever called you “sensitive” or “shy”?

These traits may mean that you are a highly sensitive person. How would you know for sure?

How to Tell If You Are a Highly Sensitive Person

In general, a highly sensitive person is extremely perceptive and affected by a variety of external stimuli. They are more aware of nuances that others miss, but they’re also easily overwhelmed by sensory input. The main reason for such a response is that their brain processes incoming information more deeply.

What specific aspects would help you determine if you fall into this category?

You may be a highly sensitive person if you…

  • Feel uncomfortable in noisy environments – You may have a lower tolerance for loud music events, fireworks displays, or busy open office settings. The sights, smells, sounds, and activities in those situations put your senses into overdrive.
  • Become quickly overwhelmed in pressure situations – When things are too chaotic, complex, intense, or different from the norm for a long time, your anxiety level increases notably. You may also struggle with staying on task when you have too many things to handle.
  • Retreat when your senses become overloaded – You’re in need of equilibrium at the end of a busy day or week. You need quiet time in a dark bedroom or another private place to find your balance once again.
  • Grow angry when you’re hungry – Lack of nourishment may hinder your functioning, and your frustration shows unmistakably.
  • “Choke” when you’re under scrutiny – You most likely work best in private. But when you’re put on display, perhaps in front of your boss during a presentation, you often falter under the pressure.
  • Have a keen sense of other people’s discomfort – You may easily recognize when someone else feels overwhelmed by a situation.
  • Are easily moved by artistic expressions – Paintings, music, movies, or theatrical performances tend to touch you more than others. It’s not just that you have a special appreciation for creativity, but it consistently stirs your deepest emotions.

How to Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Such aspects as managing your environment and time, as well as taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, lie at the foundation of coping if you are a highly sensitive person.

Consider some examples:

Eat healthy

Eating regular nutritious meals throughout the day will help you keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Intense hunger can be very disruptive for a highly sensitive person and make it hard to concentrate. Greatly limiting caffeine intake may also help you feel more calm and collected.

Reduce sensory disturbances in your environment

Limiting your exposure to stimuli that causes you problems can be done in various ways. For example: To lessen annoyance with bright lights, you could use bulbs with a lower lumen count in your home. Or you could avoid going to places you know have powerful lighting. To reduce agitation from noises, you may want to have at least one quiet space in your home to which you can retreat when you find it necessary.

(Tip: If you’re not at home, consider using noise-reducing headphones to block out the distractions so you can concentrate and have some personal peace of mind.)

Develop a schedule that works for you

A packed timetable will only frazzle you. Adjust your schedule and structure your work and home life in a way that it will give you the time and space to get things done. When you can start your day calm and unrushed, it can carry you through the whole day. And, in order to get all your errands done, you may want to consider living outside an average person’s schedule. That may mean going to the grocery store in the evening or to the movie theater on weeknights.

Make time to relax

After a busy work day or an event that challenged your senses, you must take some time to decompress and find your equilibrium again. Aside from your quiet space and soft lighting, you may want to find other ways to make your home more calming to your senses. Perhaps you can decorate it in a way that is pleasing to your eyes, reduces clutter, or uses gentle and calming aromas. Seek out beautiful surroundings outside your home, during regular walks in nature, restore the peace and balance you desire.

How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person

Aside from just coping with your high sensitivity, you may also want to consider how you can tap into the benefits of your traits.

Yes, there are a lot of benefits. Being a highly sensitive person isn’t anything bad. You don’t need to be fixed!

Consider, for example, that while you may feel difficult emotions with more intensity than others, you can also feel the most beautiful emotions more deeply.

In fact, you can be highly aware and observant of your environment. Also, your capacity for picking up on matters that others miss can provide insight most people don’t have. In turn, that can help you be more empathetic—a very positive and endearing quality that draws others.

This deeper insight can also inspire your imagination, allowing you to construct an intricate and vibrant inner world that fuels creativity, intuition, and clarity. As a matter of fact, high sensitivity and creativeness often go hand-in-hand.

So, don’t ever think that as a highly sensitive person you can’t thrive. Quite to the contrary. Recognizing who you are can lead you to open up to a whole new awareness and understanding of yourself—one in which you thrive, not simply live!

Parent Coaching is a Lifesaver When You Feel Out of Your Depth

Everyone thinks they’re an expert on parenting until they become a parent. Maybe you once believed that parenting would be a breeze. But now that you have a child or children of your own, you feel confused and overwhelmed. You may even find yourself wishing that kids came with an instruction manual.

While no such manual exists, there is something else that can help you become the best parent you can be: parent coaching.

What is parent coaching?

The goal of parent coaching is to identify opportunities for improvement in your childrearing methods, to improve your relationship with your child, and to put things back into perspective when your parental responsibilities become overwhelming.

Typically, a parent coach will meet with the parent or parents for a one-on-one consultation. During this session, you can share your general concerns with the counselor. Be sure to let the coach know whether the issues in your parent-child connection started at a specific time.

Most likely, most of your sessions will involve both parents, or you and the child’s stepparent. Together, you will learn how to best communicate with your child, help your child learn to communicate well with you, and how to communicate your feelings to each other . The important thing is to learn to work together as a team and find productive solutions to your family problems.

When to seek help

If you and your family are dealing with any of the following situations, parent coaching can help.


When children’s parents split up, many issues can come to the surface. Your children may feel forced to choose a favorite parent. Some children feel obligated to be the parent. The stress and confusion of your divorce can negatively impact them in ways you may not be able to see. With the help of a parent coach, you can learn to meet your child’s needs while also taking care of your own.

A sudden change in your child’s attitude

Does your child seem quieter and more reserved than usual? Did their grades in school take a nose dive? Do you find yourselves fighting often over small things? Did your positive relationship suddenly, and without warning, turn bitter and resentful? A parent coach can assess the situation from an objective place and help you uncover the cause of your child’s sudden attitude change.

Behavioral issues

If your child is disrespectful? Do you suspect that your child is engaging in reckless or illegal behavior, a parent coach can help you communicate your concerns, set firm boundaries, and work to correct the behavior.

Sudden life change

Are you moving to a new city? Is your child starting a new school? Did you or your child recently experience the death of a loved one? Whatever life throws at you, a parent coach can help you withstand the impact of a sudden life change – so you can continue to provide your child with the emotional support and security they need.

There’s no shame in seeking help

There’s a common myth that good parents know how to raise children instinctively – as if everything you need to know about parenting suddenly becomes clear the moment your child is born. This misconception is why many parents feel embarrassed, ashamed and reluctant to ask for help. But there’s no shame in reaching out for guidance, especially because today’s generation lives in a culture saturated with new forms of technology. The techniques we learned from observing our own parents growing up simply aren’t relevant to today’s children.

As the world changes from generation to generation, so should our parenting methods. A good parent coach remains up-to-date with the latest in child psychology, research on family dynamics, and the impact of cultural trends on families.

So, if anything on the list above resonates with you or if you just want to be a better parent for your child, reach out to a parent coach. You’ll be glad you did.

Putting Your Partner First: 5 Ways it Helps Foster a Happier Family

“The greatest gift you can give your child is a strong relationship between the two of you.”

This quote from Dr. John Gottman highlights the pivotal part a happy family is built on – a strong marriage. Interestingly, it goes contrary to the mistaken efforts of so many who put their children before everything else.

But isn’t your first priority supposed to be your children? Would it not be selfish to put your partner first?

Sadly, couples who put their own marriage before their children are often criticized. Yet, research has shown that the children from families where spouses put their relationship with each other first most often do better in life than children whose parents put them above all.

Consider, for a moment, how putting your partner first can benefit the whole family.

How the Entire Family Benefits from a Healthy Marriage

Putting your partner first fosters a strong relationship bond and creates a happy and healthy marriage – the foundation of a family. Every member of the family, including the children, benefit from the stability of this foundation. How?

1. It allows children to become independent, responsible, and emotionally balanced adults

When you starve your relationship with each other, it can become weak and unhappy. With a weak foundation, your children lose out on the support they need for developing into independent and responsible adults. In contrast, a strong marriage, where you show interest in each other, display respect and affection for one another, and work as a team makes your children feel safe and loved.

2. It promotes less anxious and exhausted parents and less demanding and entitled children

The more attention you shower your children with, the more exhausted and anxious you usually become. Not only that, but making your children the center of everything often makes them more dissatisfied and can easily turn them into adults who think everything has to revolve around them.

3. It makes it easier to set, respect, and enforce boundaries

When you drift apart and don’t act like a team, one of you may draw closer to your children. But that makes it much harder to see clearly what boundaries your child needs to develop their personality well. Plus, you may also put more pressure on your child to fulfill your emotional need for success. Both are unhealthy patterns. Conversely, if you’re not over-involved nor use your children as an extension of your own success, you’re much less likely to cripple your children’s development.

4. It helps children grow up with good guidance and the example of a loving marriage

By putting your partner first, you children often do better in school and social situations because you taught them, by example, how to treat others with respect and handle conflict. Your example also shows them what a healthy and happy marriage should look like. This makes it more likely that your children will learn how to create such a relationship themselves and marry someone who will put them first.

5. It helps parents to maintain a solid marriage beyond the child-rearing years

Your relationship existed since before your children were born and you certainly want it to remain long after they leave home. Putting your partner first throughout the child-rearing years will contribute to continually having a close bond once your nest is empty and it’s just the two of you again.

Certainly, prioritizing your marriage while raising children isn’t easy, but it’s worth it, as it benefits the entire family. So, don’t take your relationship for granted. Carve out the time, put each other first, and fight for staying close and connected. Your family’s happiness depends on it.

Baby Temperament: Carved in Stone or Flexible?

Generally, there are three categories for baby temperament: difficult/active, easy, and slow-to-warm. Each includes very different natural inclinations and personality traits.

What are these traits and how do they manifest themselves in a child’s personality or behavior?

Difficult/Active Child: Intense and Passionate

Children with this type of personality have a lot of energy and need a lot of space. They are intense, determined, and can be very vocal when interrupted in whatever they’re doing.

Busy environments and new things stimulate their passion and mood – in positive and negative ways. External sensory stimuli, like smells, sounds, or bright lights, can bother and distract them. For that reason, they can have difficulty adapting to changes and new situations.

Often, their attention span seems short. But, when they find an activity they like, they can get so absorbed that they engage in it for hours. You may find it difficult to get their attention or have them transition to another activity.

Easy Child: Happy and Responsive

Children with this type of personality have a moderate activity level and easily adapt to routines. They usually go with the flow and transition to new situations quickly, even when it’s at odds with what they need.

Sensory issues don’t bother or distract them very much. They will stay on task, able to play alone for a long time. Should a problem come up, they normally react mildly and with tempered emotions.

Slow-to-Warm Child: Careful and Passive

Children with this type of personality are often inactive, quiet, and shy, but they may get fidgety now and then. They are cautious and concerned about new situations, even frightened at times. Though, their expression of fear is normally mild. Instead of reacting aggressively, they often simply withdraw.

Their mood depends on their comfort level, and external sensory stimuli may play into that mood. If they perceive a situation as dangerous, they usually don’t engage in it. They need a lot of time to adjust to new situations and often stay to the side, watching.

Once they do warm up, they typically engage at a slow pace, needing time to feel secure enough to try out an activity. They like routines and predictability and tend to get easily distracted by new things.

Is Baby Temperament Carved in Stone or Flexible?

Scientific research into our genetic makeup has expanded a lot. Behavioral molecular genetics are even examining how our genes connect to our individual traits and personalities. It’s certain that we inherit different temperaments and aptitudes from our parents, but these inborn tendencies are not carved in stone. Our experiences, training, and personal efforts add to what we start with at birth.

As any caring and sensible parent, you surely want to give your baby the best in life. While you probably don’t want to arbitrarily put your child into a “baby temperament box,” it is good to know what their natural inclinations are. But don’t imagine your child can’t grow beyond that. As a matter of fact, you can be one of the biggest influences in their lives.

To begin with, you can make sure your baby’s environment is in harmony with their temperament to maximize psychological growth and healthy development. Knowing their personality will also help you teach and encourage your child in a way that will work best with their temperament.

So, instead of labeling them or pressing them into a fixed mold, help them to learn, expand, and adapt their personality. However, be ever cautious how your own temperament may affect how you view your child. Guide them to become the best version of themselves, not just a better version of you.

Regulate Emotions and Control Impulses: Activities to Help Your Child

Emotional self-control is an essential skill for daily living and interaction with others.

Children with poor emotional-regulating skills are more likely to have problems with aggressive behavior, anxiety, and even depression. As a matter of fact, research has found that how much self-control a person has as a preschooler can predict how well they will regulate emotions later in life.

Clearly, learning self-control must begin in early childhood.

For your child to be able to regulate emotions, you must teach them how to control impulses. How can you accomplish that? What activities can help your child to regulate their emotions?

Daily Activities That Require Your Child to Regulate Emotions

These are activities that you and your child probably do on a daily, or almost daily, basis. There’s no need to go out of your way. But if you realize you’re not doing them very often, make a consistent effort to consciously include them in your daily routine.

Consistent repetition is important for your child to truly learn. Every time they control impulses successfully, they’re learning strategies to regulate their emotions in other situations as well.

Children learn to regulate emotions and control impulses when:

  • waiting – in a line at the store or food place, for meals while sitting at a table, for food to cool down before eating it, or for a person’s attention or assistance
  • playing – side-by-side with others without touching or interfering with their project, cooperating with a playmate, play independently for a limited time while a parent attends something or someone else, or waiting for their turn
  • doing one thing before doing another thing – put away toys before taking out new ones, or wash their hands before eating
  • practicing doing only one of something – take only one cookie out of the jar, push the elevator button or the doorbell only one time
  • reading together – wait to turn the page, sit calm, or pay attention
  • having a specific place for something – a chair for reading and coloring, a spot by the door when ready to leave, or walk on the sidewalk for safety reasons
  • cooking, baking, or gardening – wait for the results, like a cake or meal be finished, or the plant to grow and bloom

Games That Help Teach Your Child to Control Impulses

Any time you ask your child to play by rules, you’re encouraging them to learn self-control and emotional regulation. Focus specifically on games that teach careful listening, paying attention, following directions, waiting, and taking turns.

Consider playing such games as Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, Musical Chairs, Hide and Seek, or Freeze Tag. Many of these games are old-time favorites and you may remember playing them as a child. For the most part, they’re better played in groups, but you can adapt some of them for when it’s just you and your child.

There are also a lot of games that require moving to music at a certain pace – fast or slow – or games that incorporate doing something to a specific count – like hopping or clapping hands. Plus, for older children, games such as Charades, Slap Jack, Pictionary, and other board games present impulse control challenges. Consider your child’s age when selecting what to play.

To make it even more challenging, mix it up by putting a twist on a game. For example, when playing Red Light/Green Light you can change up what the commands mean. “Red light!” becomes go and “Green light!” becomes stop. It will encourage your child to go against habit and to inhibit their impulses. Similar things can be done with other games.

Every time you make a change, your child has to regulate their response anew – helping them to work out their brain muscle. So, practice, practice, practice! And have a ton of fun!

Take These Steps To Bring Your Family Closer Together

Is your family as close and as bonded as you would like it to be?

Many parents are working long hours and often lack the time and energy it takes to be truly present to their partners, their children, and their extended family.              

Common strains, such as financial and emotional demands can create tension within virtually every family. Add to that our human limitations, like being stressed, anxious, and exhausted, and you can see why the family members may feel distant from one another.

Is there a way to bring your family closer together, despite the challenges?

Steps for Bringing Your Family Together

  • Lead by Example. The most basic fact you, the parent, must understand is that you are the leader of your family – regardless of whether you’re single or married. What that means is that you must have a vision for what you want your family to be like. You must be committed to acting to get there, and you must do it in such a manner that you inspire others to imitate you.

For that to happen, the first step you must take is a good, long look at yourself and how you’re leading. The second is to prioritize what’s important and meaningful to you. Live in such a way that others can see what has value to you. When you lead this way, you can help create a good spirit in your home – a spirit of love, respect, and togetherness.

  • Communicate. To know each other well, you must share information with one another. Make it a goal to engage in conversations with your children. Discuss various subjects they’re interested in. Ask about their music, friends, activities, dreams, or goals. It goes both ways, too. Tell your children about your own life. Share stories about growing up, challenges you faced, and the rewards you received.

Say and show that you like each other, writing notes, or doing other things that affirm your mutual affection. And remember, the most important part of communication is listening. True listening does not mean “fixing” or giving advice - it means you listen and validate the other person's thoughts and feelings. Listening fuels caring, sharing, and giving.

  • Make Time. Spending time together creates a true bond. Make sure, though, that it’s fun for everyone. Try eating at least one meal together as a family. Does that seem old-fashioned? It may be, but research indicates that dining together each day helps your child live a more balanced, connected, healthy life.

As the parent, you need to learn to control your own schedule and plan to create routines to strengthen your family. Plan weekly family activities and outings, play games or support a family member for a special event. There are many opportunities to have a fun time together if you keep your eyes open.

  • Work Together. Teamwork fosters closeness, caring, and respect for each other. Do tasks or chores together – like cooking or baking, working in the garden, and household tasks and chores. Make sure you choose activities that accommodate different ages and skill levels so that everybody can participate. Show appreciation for your children’s efforts, giving them loving and genuine praise and encouragement.

Creating a close family takes effort and commitment, particularly on the part of parents. Commitment must be willing and the effort needs to be consistent on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Don’t give up against the tide of problems you might be facing.

Take one step at a time and keep building your family bond and closeness. It will certainly be worth it – now, and into the future!

New Parents: Coping with Sleepless Nights and Fatigue

Newborns like to sleep. Newborns need sleep. New parents might be surprised how much their baby sleeps.

If babies sleep so much in the early weeks, why do new parents feel so sleep-deprived and exhausted after bringing their baby home?

Newborns typically sleep between 16-18 hours a day. That’s a lot of sleep! Babies, however, have different sleep patterns from their parents. A newborn baby sleeps for two to four hours at a time, and then wants to be fed, changed, and comforted. That’s quite a change in an adult’s sleep cycle of a consecutive six to eight hours of sleep each night. No wonder new parents are so tired!

New parents of babies also need sleep to be able to function throughout the day and to care for their little one.

Sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue are tough, and can even be dangerous to your health. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include headaches, hot flashes (caused by stress, emotions, and anxiety), cognitive impairment, irritability, and in extreme cases, even hallucinations. Sleep deprivation slows down your metabolism, can make you feel depressed, and make you feel like you’re on the verge of getting sick, like you’re coming down with a cold or flu.

So what can you do to cope with the sleepless nights and extreme fatigue during the early weeks of being new parents? Here are some tips:

Understand that sleep deprivation is normal for new parents 

Sleep deprivation is to be expected. You are not doing anything wrong. Your baby is not doing anything wrong. Needless worrying leads to even more sleep deprivation. Try to relax and be kind to yourself as much as you can.

Focus on teamwork as new parents

Now is the time for you and your partner to shine as a parenting team.

Discuss your teamwork strategies BEFORE the birth – ask more experienced friends and relatives for advice if this is your first child. Find a class or workshop for new parents, such as the Bringing Baby Home Workshop, to help prepare you and your relationship for welcoming your baby to your family.

Partners can help in many ways:

  • Create a comfortable and relaxing environment for mother and baby
  • Look after the mother’s physical and emotional needs
  • Take turn feeding your baby, when you can. Even when mom is breast feeding, breast milk can be expressed and your partner can feed baby from a bottle when needed.
  • Bond with your baby by ‘wearing’ the newborn in a close body sling
  • Take care of the baby’s non-feeding activities, such as diapering, changing clothes, bath time, and play time.
  • Be supportive and have a positive attitude!

Be compassionate toward each other when either of you get irritated or upset. If you are sleep-deprived, you will lose some of your ability to self-regulate emotions.

You are both only human – and so is your baby. A sense of humor always helps. You will make it through this sleep-deprived phase of parenting your newborn.


Yes, that’s right. Although it may be the last thing you feel like doing, exercise (with your doctor’s approval) can boost your metabolism and circulation, speed up digestion and elimination of toxins in the body, counteract depression, and make your sleep more efficient, once you get the time.

Remember, you don’t have to go to the gym to get exercise. Even a short walk in your neighborhood, with your baby in a stroller or carried close to you in a baby sling, will help. If you can’t get out of the house, do some gentle stretching or yoga on a matt in your living room.  

Sleep when the baby sleeps

There is so much to do when you have a newborn. When you bring your baby home you might feel that you need to accomplish household tasks while your baby sleeps during the day.

Take care of yourself while your baby sleeps. Use the time to catch up on your sleep. It’s not selfish. It’s self-care. Your baby needs you to be as rested as possible when he or she is awake.

Try to avoid the mindset that you need to keep the house clean, cook wonderful meals, and be “super mom.” Parenting a newborn is hard work and it’s exhausting. Take the time to sleep when your baby sleeps. It’s important for you and your family.


One of the problems with getting enough sleep while caring for a newborn is that adults don’t slip in and out of sleep as easily and quickly as babies do. Studies have shown that rest is the next best thing to sleep – so, just lie down when you get the chance, close your eyes, elevate your feet slightly, and let your mind rest as well as your body.

Drink enough water

If you don’t get enough sleep, it is even more important to stay hydrated. Some of the symptoms of dehydration overlap with those of exhaustion. Avoid excessive caffeine consumption and sugar-laden drinks.

Don’t skip meals

Keep your metabolism going, and don’t let hunger make you even more irritable. Good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep healthy, quick meal options on hand. Keep healthy snacks on hand, as well, for the times you need a little something more between regular meals. Meal planning before your baby arrives can help you maintain a healthy diet in the early weeks of being new parents.

Stay connected with your network of support

You may think you don’t have the time, but visits, phone calls, and video calls with supportive friends and family can refresh your spirit. You may have gotten to know other new parents in preparation for your baby’s arrival. Reach out to them and support each other on your parenting journey. A whole new world of connections opens up to you once you have children. Embrace it!

It’s only temporary

You will not be sleep-deprived forever.

Babies vary enormously in their sleep patterns during the first few months of their lives. They do become toddlers eventually, and then school children, and then teenagers. (Then you will be struggling to wake them up in the morning!)

Having a baby and creating your family is one of the most exciting and joyous adventures you will have in your life. Enjoy every moment you can!

Baby Emotions: What Is Your Newborn Telling You?

Babies are born with the full range of human feelings. Baby emotions range from joy to fear to anger to sadness, and babies express these emotions through body language, a seemingly universal language of short and clearly distinguished sounds, various forms of crying, and attempts to make eye and body contact.

Yes, your newborn is telling you precisely how she feels and what he wants. All you need to do is learn how to understand.

Body language

Newborns kick and wave their arms and legs, turn their heads, start to look around, and make a whole range of facial expressions.

Babies who are only a few hours old already prefer adults who make eye contact and they recognize voices familiar from before birth. Watch their movements and identify what interests them, what they like and what they don’t like. Your baby is at the beginning of a lifelong learning journey and all he wants is to get through to you.

Don’t be afraid of trial and error–your baby will let you know if your response meets his needs.

Baby sounds

Every sound a baby makes, gurgling, whimpering, cooing, crying, and smaller, more specific sounds, expresses emotions and conveys needs. Nothing is random.

The “Dunstan Baby Language,” a concept created by Australian mother Priscilla Dunstan, is an innovative attempt to categorize certain sounds that newborns and babies up to three months make when they try to communicate specific needs.

Recent research has suggested that these seemingly universal sounds are probably more like stand-alone signals of baby emotions than a complex, combinable language, but listening closely to the sounds your baby makes and noticing her attempts to tell you what concerns her is the best way to establish communication.

Try to respond to the needs your baby expresses as soon as you can, so that the need doesn’t grow into distress. If you respond–and respond correctly–your baby will trust you and feel less need to cry.


Crying is one of the main ways to communicate baby emotions. Crying is a stronger, more intense language and evokes an emotional response from you. Experts have distinguished different kinds of crying for different needs. “I am hungry,” “I am tired,” and “I am in pain” all have their own specific cries, intended to elicit a specific reaction from you. Again, close observation and immediate, positive response will both help you to understand your baby’s language and bond with him. Babies cry because they need you to respond, not because they want to annoy you!

Body contact and eye contact

Hugging and cuddling your baby is another way to communicate directly through the sense of touch. Your newborn has spent the previous nine months in a world of constant skin contact. Touch is also a very sensitive way of picking up emotions and connecting in non-visual ways. Your baby absorbs whatever you feel. She can feel your heartbeat and will tune in to your breathing patterns which have a profound effect on her baby emotions.

Eye contact is important to babies even while their eye sight is still developing, but after a few weeks babies also feel a need to break eye contact and turn their heads away when the connection becomes too intense for them. This is the beginning of the complex dance of closeness and privacy boundaries in human relationships.

Babies Can Be Overstimulated, Too

Your baby may get overstimulated sometimes and need a little break from all the interaction. Dr. John Gottman offers the following tips for recognizing an overstimulated baby in his book And Baby Makes Three: Is your baby looking away? Shielding her face? Pushing away? Wrinkling his brow? Arching his back? Fussing? Crying? If so, your baby may be overstimulated, rather than asking to have a need met. In this situation, your baby may be trying to self-soothe by looking away. Well-meaning parents may make efforts to play more and engage in eye contact with their baby in an effort to make him "happy," further stimulating the baby and increasing the fussiness and crying.

Notice if your baby gets fussier, not calmer or quieter, when you do any of the following: move your face in front of his face, move your baby's body to keep her looking at you, increase the pace of play when she is upset, switch back and forth between activities in an effort to keep your baby happy, repeatedly pat his back or leg or repeatedly wipe her face or move her hair out of her eyes, compete with your partner for your baby's attention.

Just like mom and dad, baby sometimes needs a very short break from all the activity, too. Your attunement to baby emotions will help you to determine if your baby needs you to do something for him, or if he just needs a little rest from play, sights, and sounds.


Whatever your baby is trying to tell you via body language, touch, and sounds, he needs your response to it. Communication is a two-way street, right from the start. Quick and flexible response makes this communication effective and your baby will be less distressed. But sometimes babies are sad and angry for their own personal reasons, just like adults. Try to find out what is going on.

Your baby also starts to mimic tones of voice, hand movements, and moods right from birth. Even newborns start to cry when they hear other babies crying. Studies have found evidence for babies’ basic empathy with the feelings of others.

Baby emotions and baby bonding

Bonding between parents and baby is the foundation of a good relationship that facilitates child development and will last a lifetime.

Classes and workshops for expectant and new parents, like the Gottman Bringing Baby Home Program, can make the whole process of transitioning into parenthood more enjoyable and effective for parents. In addition to keeping your marital and parent-child relationships strong,  you might even bond with other parents and care-givers while you are learning how to communicate with your baby.

Every minute you spend trying to understand and respond to baby emotions will deepen your bond and create a rich and fulfilling family life.


Janie McMahan is a therapist in Austin, Texas. She works with expectant and new parents as they transition into their new roles as mom and dad. She is a Gottman Bringing Baby Home Educator and offers BBH workshops, small groups, and individual sessions for couples. For more information and scheduling, call Janie at 512-739-2494.

New Baby? Don't Sit on the Sidelines, Dad. Baby Needs You, Too!

Who else comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘new baby’?

Obviously, the mother of that new baby.

Traditionally, and for a long time, fathers didn’t really enter the picture, and when they did they were peripheral figures sitting on the sidelines. Babies were firmly inside the world of women–and really, what could a man do besides providing external security and financial resources?

Your grandfather was probably such a man. Even your father might have been.

But times have changed, and so have dads: fathers, your new baby needs you, too.

Your baby needs an intrepid adventurer.

“But I don’t know anything about babies!”

True. Maybe your wife doesn't either.

You can learn, starting with attending prenatal and parenting classes together, and supporting your wife through labor and childbirth.

And then you can go on learning it together. Together, as a couple and together, with the baby. Your baby will probably make its needs known in the ways babies do. The fun is in figuring out what your baby is trying to tell you.

Yes, fun. Your baby is not a burden. Parenting is a completely new adventure for you and your partner to explore. As with any journey of discovery, your life will be transformed.

Access resources and information–your new baby needs a geek!

There will be plenty of people who have experience with new babies and can guide you. Don’t forget to ask other men what it was like for them. If you have a good relationship with your own father, it’s a great opportunity for another bond.

And there are also many sources of information (offline and online) where you can do your geeky best. Don’t forget to share it all with your partner and ask her opinion. This is team work and your baby needs both of you working together.

Bonding with your baby–your baby needs you close.

Holding your baby is not just a practical way to get her to places. (Since she can’t walk yet!) Physical contact, close embraces, and contact skin-to-skin are essential to the mental and physical health of newborns. Just imagine you grew for nine months inside another human body where you could hear your mother’s heartbeat. And now you’ve lost your womb! Close holding reassures your new baby, and skin contact conveys a lot of information that the baby’s new brain can process.

Caregiving–your baby needs a strong, soft man.

There is nothing to prevent a man from being a good caregiver. Your natural abilities weren’t eliminated by the Y chromosome.

Basic caregiving duties like changing diapers, cleaning, bathing and dressing the baby, and creating a calming atmosphere can be performed by most adults adequately, even if some people are a little squeamish at first. And providing emotional support–well, by this stage you’re probably an expert!

“But I can’t breastfeed…”

No, you can’t. You can’t do everything. But you can do everything else.

24/7 management–your new baby needs you on the night shift.

New babies have no idea how we like to structure our day. They follow their own rhythm and even that changes all the time as they develop.

Think of the night shift as a test of your strength. For a long time, industrial night shift work was reserved for men since women’s constitutions were thought to be too delicate for it. Your baby will reward you by trusting dad when the darkness falls, and falling asleep on your chest when you are both calm. (And think about the many many episodes of your favorite TV series you can catch up on while there is nobody there to criticize your taste…)

Traditional roles still matter–your baby needs a protector.

New babies can’t do anything for themselves.

They need a house, food, warmth, clothing, and 24/7 care.

All that costs money and maybe the mother of your baby is taking a little time out from work. So, yes, it may well be up to you to provide the foundations of your lives, at least for a while.

Support your wife–your baby needs a happy mother.

Help your partner without being asked to (failure to do so is the main complaint from new mothers), support her emotionally and show your own emotions, and don’t stop talking to her as an adult.

From couple to family–your baby needs a dad who can grow.

Take an active and positive part in reshaping the dynamics at home.

After your baby is born, your relationship will never be the same.

That’s very true.

It will grow in size and in love, if you let it.

You and your partner now have a common project of the most urgent and most fulfilling kind. A helpless small human who depends on both of you for his or her survival, development, and shaping himself or herself into a full person.

Don’t experience your own life and family from the sidelines. Go right in there and embrace the love.

Playground Bullying: 5 Ways to Protect Your Child

Every child should be entitled to fun and laughter on the playground. Recess is an exciting moment of fresh air and freedom, where children can play, run, talk with their friends, and release the many stresses of the school day. Unfortunately for some children, recess can be a nightmare that turns into a source of distress instead.

As loving parents, we want the best for our children; we love them, protect them, and do everything we can to keep them happy. But what about school, when we are not around to make sure all is well? School is the place where children learn about boundaries, how to behave in social settings, and how to be self-reliant. Those are very important teachings in your child’s life; however, when your child becomes a victim of bullying, it can destroy your child’s self-confidence and even result in lifelong repercussions.

Bullying can happen in many different ways: physical, emotional/psychological, verbal, and even over the internet. Here are five ways you can help your child stay clear of bullying situations, or deal with them if they arise.

1. Communicate

Asking your child, “How was your day?” is probably going to yield the same answer every time: “Good.” Children don’t always know what to say, even if there is something wrong at school.

Using open-ended questions will engage your child and help him to speak more about his emotions and how he felt during the day. Try questions like these:

  • Tell me something that made you laugh today
  • Tell me something you saw today that you didn’t like
  • Which friend did you have the most fun with at recess?

2. Warning signs

Always remain vigilant about common warning signs of bullying, such as:

  • Unexplained bruising and injuries
  • Frequent stomachaches, headaches, and pretend-illnesses to stay home
  • Missing or damaged personal belongings
  • Your child comes home very hungry every day, as if she did not eat lunch
  • Gets angry or defensive when questioned about school/mood swings
  • Sudden drop in academic performance

3. Volunteer

Find some time to volunteer at school, either during lunch, recess, or even during class. Having a parent present can reassure your child and make it easier for you to observe behavior patterns around other classmates, and what goes on during recess.

4. Inform the school

If you know or suspect your child is being victimized at school, talk to his teacher(s) as soon as possible. Also talk to the school counselor and principal. The more ‘ears and eyes’ you have at school protecting your child, the safer it will be for all involved. Identifying the child or children responsible for bullying is also critical.

5. Educate your child

Your child needs to learn the proper and safest ways to respond to bullying. Make sure you educate your child about how he or she can handle situations at school:

  • Ask the person to stop and then walk away. If that fails, advise your child to promptly report the incident to a teacher or responsible adult.
  • Make sure your child knows not to retaliate, or do the same to other children. The problem needs to stop, not aggravate.

We can’t always be there to protect our children. Some childhood difficulties are good for character building and self-confidence. Bullying, on the other hand, is very damaging and needs to be stopped. Even adults face bullying situations at times, so the sooner we educate our children about how to handle and solve bullying issues, the sooner we will grab bullying by the horns and do good for society at large.

Cyber Bullying: Know the Facts - Protect Your Teen

Bullying is a serious problem for many teenagers, and now cyber bullying provides a way for bullying to infiltrate your teen’s life everywhere he or she goes–not only at school, but also at home, at the movies, on weekends, at night, during summer break, anywhere and anytime.

Almost half of all students will be victims of cyber bullying at one point or another. The devastating impact of cyber bullying can cause many ailments in your child, from social withdrawal, poor self-esteem, eating disorders, low grades, substance abuse, delinquency to suicidal thoughts.

As a parent, there are a few things you can do to help protect your teen against cyber bullying and prevent him or her from bullying others:


Schools do a great job of educating teenagers about anti-bullying practices and safety, but, because cyber bullying is also inside your home, it is your responsibility as a family to discuss ways to prevent bullying, raise awareness about what is considered bullying, and be clear about what your teenager should do if he or she is being bullied.


Encourage your teen to visit anti-bullying sites and read some of the stories and anti-bullying efforts.

Watch movies that raise awareness about cyber bullying and its negative impacts. This will not only raise his sensitivity about the subject, it will encourage your teenager to stand against bullying, and give him the courage to speak up if he witnesses or experiences it.

Monitor usage

You can install monitoring software on your teen’s devices that allow you to restrict adult content and apps and provide monitoring of online activities. It is important to establish trust, as monitoring can be seen as very invasive for a teenager. Explain clearly why monitoring is needed.

Never respond

Tell your teen to never respond to bullying messages; giving a reaction will only feed the bullying cycle and give the bully exactly what he or she is hoping for.

Keep the evidence

Cyber bullying leaves a trace. Make sure your teenager knows how important it is to keep all evidence of bullying such as text messages, chats, or emails.

Block them

If your teen is the victim of cyber bullying, make sure to block the sender’s email, phone number, or profile from her devices and social media sites.

Report all bullying

Have your child show you all of the messages he received. Report the incident to the appropriate authorities, such as teachers or school counselors. If the messages contain threats, violence, or nudity, this should also be reported to the police.

Be a ‘follower’

If you allow your teen to be on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, inform her that you will be adding yourself as a ‘friend’ or a ‘follower’ on every site. While you want to respect your adolescent’s privacy, make sure she understands that this is a condition for her using social media sites and that you will monitor only for safety purposes.

Teach caution

Sharing pictures and videos with friends can be fun. However, it’s important to teach your teenager to never share anything, in words or media files, that he would not want the world to see. If the information could cause harm or humiliation to your teenager or someone else, it should not be shared.

Open communication

Have frequent talks about cyber bullying and keep an eye on any behavioral changes in your adolescent that could be the result of bullying.

Limit electronics at home

Make sure your teen gets plenty of non-screen time at home. If your child is the victim of cyber bullying, turning off the devices will provide space for activities and positive distraction.

Be a role model

Make sure to watch your own comments and behavior when you are not fond of someone or if someone angers you. Be a good role model. Don’t bully.

How To Help Your Children Cope With Their First Loss

The first loss of a family member, friend, or family pet can be difficult, scary, and confusing for your children. Your children will not only need help and support with the grieving process, they will also need help understanding topics such as what happens after someone passes, why is life taken away, what happens to the body, who decides who lives and who dies, etc. These are all challenging subjects, even for adults.

Aside from loving them dearly, here are some ways you can help your children cope with a first loss:

Room for emotions

At times of grief, everyone reacts differently. During a first loss, a lot more is happening to your children aside from the sadness of losing a loved one; your children don’t have a frame of reference for how to handle the shock, the confusion, the pain, the anger, and all the other types of emotions related to the situation. Younger children might also not understand that this departure is permanent.

Your children will need time to grieve in their own ways, and no one can predict how that will go, or how long it will take. Be a great listener and allow plenty of room for your children to express all of their emotions, fears, and concerns in a supportive and loving environment.

Be Honest

While some details may not be age-appropriate for your children to hear, do your best to tell the unbiased truth about the circumstances of death. Kids are more perceptive than we think, if you sugar-coat the event, trying to minimize the pain, your children may know you are hiding information and think you don’t trust them to deal with it.

Not Their Fault

Children have a tendency to blame themselves for events occurring in the family. When someone, or a family pet, dies, some children may fabricate stories to blame the event on themselves, especially if the death occurred when they were away, on the way to school, or after a disagreement, etc. Make sure your children know it is not their fault.

Room for personal beliefs

Children are great at questioning everything they are told. Be ready to explain some of your beliefs about death; they may make great sense to you, but they may not to your children. For example, you may tell your children that “Grandma is now in a better place and is no longer suffering,” and in the midst of strong emotions and sorrow, how your children respond may surprise you, such as: “How do you know that? What if she is still suffering, and we can’t help her anymore?” “When is she coming back?” or, “She is stuck in a coffin six feet underground, how is that a better place?”

You may be surprised at how they see and understand death, it may even shock you or counter your own religion or beliefs, but it is important in this phase of grieving to not take your children’s comments or reactions personally.

Everyone grieves differently. Let your children express emotions and thoughts freely without correcting or judging, and let them decide what they need to believe in. As needed, once the initial mourning phase has passed, you can choose to re-address these concerns with your children.

Be a Role Model

While you may instinctively want to focus all of your energy on helping your children get through this difficult time, you should not hide your own grieving, but allow yourself to mourn as well.

The way you handle your pain and sorrow will teach more than words ever will. Make sure to process your own grieving and allow yourself time and space to heal. Your children will learn how to cope by watching you handle your grief.

If you are concerned about your children’s level of grief, methods of grieving, or if the loss is impacting you so deeply that you struggle to handle your normal family activities, consider grief counseling for you and for your children.