Does your child prefer quiet time than play outside with other kids? Does she seem set in her ways? Does it seem like she is highly aware of the overall mood of a situation and quick to react to it? Asks a lot of questions? Notices everything even the most minor details like the tags in her shirts (and wants all of it removed?) You could be raising a highly sensitive child.
In a web interview posted on her website dedicated to highly sensitive kids, child psychologist and award-winning book author Maureen Healy describes highly sensitive children as gifted, creative, fierce, intuitive, and compassionate. "Such children are incredibly responsive to their environments whether it is the lighting, sounds, smells or overall mood of the people in their situations -- these kids pick it up."
But, because they have a sharpened sense of awareness, highly sensitive kids can be easily overwhelmed by crowds, noises, sudden changes, and even the distress of others.
"For example, your son comes home from school with a scraped knee because he fell off the swings -- the good news is he doesn't think much of it. But perhaps your other son, a highly sensitive child, fell off the swings and noticed someone laughed at him -- now he won't stop crying because of it," Healy writes on Psychology Today.
What's important in raising highly sensitive children is to teach them how to get hold of their emotions. Healy, whose books include Highly Sensitive Kids: Unlocking Their Secrets to Success, Growing Happy Kids and The Energetic Keys to Indigo Kids, says raising a highly sensitive child can be exhausting for parents, but it could be equally rewarding. Here are some guidelines to help you.
1. Look at sensitivity as a positive trait. Parents sometimes dismiss or get angry at the reasons why their children cry over little things or refuse to talk to people even kids their own age especially. It can be frustrating, both for the parent and the child. Be patient. Accept and embrace it fully. "Training yourself to see your child's strengths first like their incredible creativity, perceptiveness, and keen intellect is important because it helps you accept their challenges," Healy says.
2. Tap on to your own sensitive side, too. "Sensitive children respond far better to being requested to do something, and partnering with the adults in their life versus harsh discipline," Healy says. Hard discipline will only get you the waterworks and emotional meltdowns. However, it doesn't mean that you can skip disciplining your child. He or she still needs structure and limits.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Gentle discipline might entail a bit of time to get used to. Instead of yelling or spanking, Healy suggests talking to your child in a calm but firm way. "For example, if it's Jenna's bedtime and she is resisting -- you might say, 'Sweetheart, I realize you want to play all night, but it's time for bed. You need your rest, and we have agreed to the 8 p.m. bedtime - please start getting ready for bed,'" she says.
3. Create a safe space for your child. According to Healy, sensitive children are easily affected by their home and school environments so it is worth investing in creating spaces that match their personality. Furnish it with the right lights and colors your child loves, your child's comfy chair, favorite plushies, and maybe earphones with a playlist of his or her favorite tunes.
Know your child well and learn what triggers his or her sensitive reactions. This will help you avoid the triggers, and save yourself and your child from unnecessary meltdowns. If a situation is inevitable, the best you can do is to prep your child beforehand. You can also teach them calming techniques like breathing exercises.
4. Encourage your child to connect. Granted, your child sometimes shy away from social situations, but encouraging them to form relationships with other people is a must. Friendships are vital to highly sensitive kids. However, Healy writes, "highly sensitive children are drawn to other 'birds of a feather' and getting these kids together to nurture each other's strengths is a good thing."
You may need to exert extra effort to set up and schedule playdates and it could take a while before your child finds friends who's a perfect fit. So don't force it. Your child's handle on his emotions is also crucial for forming relationships so make sure you teach them early and be a role model for them.
Healy reminds parents that being highly sensitive is not something you need to fix. See it as a gift that relies on us for nurturing.