Your child is crying…again. This time, over something that seems trivial to you. You may think your child overreacts to everything. But, it could be something different.
It could be that your child is highly sensitive. There is a lot of discussion about how to help sensitive children, as well as how to parent them effectively.
Of course, most kids have “big emotions” because of their brain development, and emotional immaturity, but having high sensitivity is actually a little different.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that raising a sensitive child comes with its own set of challenges.
To honor your child and your parent-child relationship, it’s best to arm yourself with as many “highly sensitive child parenting strategies” as possible.
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WHAT IS A HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD?
Do you know what a highly sensitive child is?
If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Many people are unfamiliar with this term, but it’s something that more and more parents are beginning to learn about.
A highly sensitive child is one who experiences the world in a different way than most people.
Sensitive kids feel things very deeply and can be easily overwhelmed by sensory input.
Highly sensitive people actually come by their sensitivity naturally, as its a personality trait that they are born with. If you think your child may be highly sensitive, there are some signs you can look for.
There is nothing wrong with being highly sensitive – in fact, many people see it as a gift! – but it’s important to understand how to best support your child if they are highly sensitive.
If you think your child may be highly sensitive, the best thing you can do is learn more about it.
The checklist below is a good start to figuring out whether or not your child is highly sensitive.
HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD CHECKLIST:
☐ My child is very intuitive and can pick up on the emotions of others easily.
☐ My child has a deep connection to nature and animals.
☐ My child is extremely compassionate and empathetic.
☐ My child is highly creative and imaginative.
☐ My child is very sensitive to the energy around them.
☐ My child is highly intuitive and can pick up on the thoughts of others easily.
☐ My child has a strong sense of justice and fairness.
☐ My child is very introspective and self-aware.
☐ My child is highly sensitive to the environment around him, including sounds, smells, and textures.
☐ My child tends to be highly sensitive to caffeine, sugar, and artificial additives.
If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s a good idea to learn more about what it means to be a highly sensitive person.
THE BEST BOOKS ON HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILDREN
Learning more about high sensitivity will give you a glimpse inside your child’s world and help you to better understand what they are facing on a daily basis.
It’s hard for people who aren’t highly sensitive, to understand someone who is.
I grew up as a highly sensitive child and I am now a highly sensitive adult. I wish more people had the insight that the following books provide.
1. The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron
Dr. Elaine Aron is a clinical psychologist who has studied highly sensitive people for over 30 years. She has written several award-winning books about sensitive people. In her books, she describes being highly sensitive as a misunderstood personality trait.
I love, love her book on highly sensitive children. Reading this when my highly sensitive daughter was a toddler, was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made.
Once you understand more about what it means to be a highly sensitive person, you’ll be better equipped to support your child in the best way possible.
2. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron
This is another excellent book by Dr. Elain Aron. Again, she describes what it means to be a highly sensitive person.
If you suspect you are a highly sensitive person (verypossible that if your child is, you could be as well), this book would be good to get a better understanding of your sensitivity and how to cope with it.
As a highly sensitive person myself, it helps tremendously to know what to do for myself, so I can then be a better parent.
3. Understanding the Highly Sensitive Child: Seeing an Overwhelming World through Their Eyes by James Williams
This is an excellent and simple book on highly sensitive children.
I love that this book gets straight to the point and doesn’t mince words about raising kiddos who are highly sensitive.
If you’re looking for a short read and examples of what a highly sensitive child looks like, plus how to help them, this is a must-purchase.
5 BENEFITS OF RAISING A HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD
The good thing about raising a highly sensitive child is that there are a lot of benefits.
Don’t get caught up in the idea that being highly sensitive is a bad thing. It’s absolutely not.
Parents of sensitive children are often overwhelmed by their child’s intense emotions, but it’s important to look at the positives.
1. Highly sensitive children are often very creative and expressive.
2. They often have a strong sense of intuition and are very intuitive.
3. They are often great listeners and make good friends.
4. They are often very compassionate and caring individuals.
5. They often have a high level of awareness and are more sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
If you’re a parent of a highly sensitive child, it’s important to remember the many benefits of raising a sensitive child.
With the proper support and understanding, your child can thrive despite their sensitivities.
8 HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD PARENTING STRATEGIES
1. Create a safe and supportive environment for your child.
Creating a safe and supportive environment means establishing rules and limits, but also being available for your child when they need you.
Can your child come to you with their feelings? Or do you brush them off?
Can your child express their anxiety over certain situations? Or do you simply tell them to quit worrying?
Sensitive children often feel overwhelmed by the world around them, so it’s important to make them feel safe and loved, without making them feel ashamed of their sensitivities.
2. Reduce overwhelming stimuli.
If you have a highly sensitive child, you know that they can be easily overwhelmed by stimuli.
They might startle easily, or get upset when there is too much noise or commotion.
As a highly sensitive person myself, my sensitive nervous system doesn’t tolerate noises well.
Even a loud noise that doesn’t faze another person will cause my body to tense up.
The same goes for highly sensitive kids.
If your child is easily overwhelmed by stimuli, try to create a calm environment at home. This might mean turning off the television and keeping noise to a minimum.
You can also try to schedule breaks during the day so that your child can have some time to decompress.
3. Help your child understand their sensitivities.
Highly sensitive kiddos often feel like their sensitivity is a curse and not a blessing.
It is essential that they know that there is nothing wrong with them and that their sensitivities are actually a strength.
Helping your child to understand this will allow them to embrace their sensitivities and use them to their advantage.
Depending on your child’s age, it may be appropriate to explain to them what being highly sensitive means and help them learn how to cope with their sensitivities.
Giving them the tools and knowledge they need will help them thrive as a highly sensitive person.
The good news is that as your child grows up, he or she will realize that being highly sensitive is a gift, not a curse.
4. Give your child space and encouragement to process their feelings.
Sensitive children feel everything very deeply, so it’s important to give them time, space and encouragement to process their feelings.
This might mean letting them cry or express themselves in other ways.
In general, parents shouldn’t shame their children for crying or expressing feelings, and for highly sensitive children this is especially important.
Highly sensitive children feel their emotions so deeply, that if they have to subdue their feelings to keep their parents happy, it can turn into mental health issues in the future.
It’s important to show acceptance of their feelings, both positive and negative. This will help them to feel more in control of their emotions and less overwhelmed by them.
Highly sensitive children need extra care and understanding. They may not always understand why they respond to certain situations, and they can get overwhelmed easily.
It is important to be patient with them and help them through these tough times.
5. Help your child find different ways to cope with their sensitivities.
The biggest gift you can give to your child is helping them cope with their sensitivities. As a highly sensitive person myself, I can say that finding ways to cope can be trying, but worth it to alleviate some of the stress of being highly sensitive.
There are many ways to help sensitive children cope with their sensitivities.
Some simple strategies include:
✔ Encourage your child to express their feelings through art, writing, or music.
✔ Help your child find a quiet place to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed. This is especially helpful in social situations that may feel extra stressful for your child.
✔ Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
✔ Encourage your child to exercise or participate in other physical activities that keep the body and brain healthy.
6. Avoid abrupt changes.
Change in life is inevitable, but when big changes are about to take place, make sure you have a conversation with your child about the new situations at hand.
Having a consistent routine will help your child feel secure. But when your life changes in a big way, a heads up to your kiddo will make a huge difference in how he or she handles the new situation.
Some highly sensitive kids will feel stressed with even the slightest changes, so it’s always good to let your child know if something will be changing in their life.
It might be as small as having to leave the house earlier to get work. It may not seem like a big change to you, but your child may feel differently.
7. Use a gentle parenting approach.
I’m a proponent of gentle parenting for all kids, especially highly sensitive children.
Gentle discipline is extremely important for sensitive children.
When your child is having a hard time, many of us default to the way we were raised– “suck it up and move on”, or “don’t cry, you’re fine.”
However, this is an unhealthy approach and if you have a highly sensitive kiddo, you need to be especially aware of your parenting style.
It’s important to not be triggered by your child’s emotions, but rather maintain a calm and empathetic approach. Injecting your own feelings into your child’s meltdown will only make things worse.
When you can stay calm and give your child emotional support, even during times when they’ve made mistakes and need guidance, you will be amazed at how it impacts your child’s self-esteem and emotional intelligence.
Yelling, physical punishment and other forms of strict discipline can cause severe mental health issues in high sensitive children.
The emotional needs of a highly sensitive kiddo are different than other children.
Keep in mind that highly sensitive people (including children) are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety in childhood and adulthood.
All children benefit from gentle discipline. If you lean toward using harsh discipline, you may benefit from recognizing your own triggers so you can work on them. It will benefit both you and your child.
8. Seek professional help if needed.
If you’re concerned about your child’s sensitivity, it’s important to seek professional help.
A therapist or counselor can help your child learn how to cope with their sensitivities in a healthy way.
Sometimes high sensitivity can indicate sensory processing disorder.
If that is the case, there are therapies and extra steps you can take to help your child thrive.
You can get a clinical diagnosis from an occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD PARENTING STRATEGIES
There are millions and millions of sensitive people in the world– kids and adults alike. While raising a sensitive child has its unique challenges, it also comes with very rewarding moments.
If you have a highly sensitive child, remember that you are not alone. There are many other parents out there who are raising highly sensitive children.
You can connect with them for support and advice.
Additionally, there are many resources available to help you parent your highly sensitive child.
With the right knowledge and support, you can successfully parent your highly sensitive child.
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Coping Skills for Kids: Simple Ways to Help Kids Manage Emotions