“Don’t take everything so seriously!”
“You are so sensitive!”
These are phrases that sensitive souls hear on a daily basis from peers, loved ones, and eventually, even themselves. There is compelling research now stating that 20% of the population is Highly Sensitive. Read on to learn more about what it means to be Highly Sensitive and how you can best support your sensitive child.
In my work with children over the past 12 years as a therapist, teacher, care coordinator, and many other roles in between, I can wholeheartedly say that some children are simply more sensitive than others. Just as every child is unique so are sensitive children, so not every label will fit for each child.
Here are a few possible traits that overlap with being sensitive:
- presenting quiet in a group
- experiencing emotions strongly
- having a few close friends
- appearing nervous or shy
- enjoying time by themselves
- and/or having vivid creativity
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh my goodness, yes! This is my kid,” I’m here to tell you there is nothing wrong with your child and actually they possess many strengths along with their sensitivities.
Here are 4 ways you can better support your sensitive child today:
To validate your child’s experience or emotions you have many options, the most important part is that you are reflecting back what you are seeing and conveying that your child’s experience makes sense. Many parents get stuck thinking that to validate means to agree, that is not it. You can validate without agreeing. When you validate you are simply helping your child see that you understand their perspective, that you acknowledge their emotions. Say your child is upset about the first day of school and tearful while sharing that one friend isn’t in their class this year. Instead of saying, “but you have so many other friends in your class,” try this first, “I see you are sad that you won’t have as much time with your friend at school this year.” You may feel you aren’t solving the problem but most of the time sensitive kids want to be heard before trying to fix things. After you allow them some time and space to express themselves you can move into problem solving mode by offering for play dates outside of school or possibly joining the same after school activity.
Sensitive kids can get overwhelmed easily and these days kids have so many expectations it may just be a matter of time before your child becomes too stimulated to do their best. One way to combat this over-stimulation is to provide frequent downtime where your child can decompress with limited stimulation. The key here is to allow for your child to process their experiences in a way that is calming and soothing for them, think coloring, drawing, going for walk on a nature trail rather than playing a video game or watching a TV show. Screens provide more stimulation that will eventually contribute to the overwhelm. Downtime doesn’t have to take up hours of each day, it can depend on your schedule, but making sure your young one has at least a few minutes each day to chill out can save both of you from some intense emotional overload later.
Give Options But Not Too Many
It’s important for all children to be given the chance to practice their autonomy by making some decisions for themselves. However, any child can feel unsure when given too many options, especially the sensitive ones. If you notice that when you give wide open options your young one can’t seem to make a decision you may need to give some parameters. Sensitive people can become overloaded with information and too many options, sometimes including fear of picking the wrong one. So if “what do you want to do this weekend” is too broad for them you can try out “would you like to spend time with friends, go hiking, or have a pajama day” and extra points if you include downtime and validation into your option giving!
Allow For Them To Learn New Ways To Express Themselves
Self-expression is so crucial to mental well-being and even more so for the sensitive souls. Sensitive young ones need to be given opportunities to learn how to process all of their experiences, emotions, and their internal world. You can encourage your child to learn new outlets through suggestion, trying some together, signing up for a class, learning from others or learning through tutorials online. Some suggestions for self-expression include:
- song writing
- playing an instrument
- art projects with a variety of materials
- sculpting with clay
- writing stories or poems
- building fairy houses
Let your child explore and grow all the ways they can express themselves and they will discover so many things about themselves while building confidence and self-esteem.
If you’ve made to the end of this blog post and are still looking for more ways to support your sensitive child, check out our website and facebook group to learn about a group offering this Fall 2018 for kids ages 8-11 to learn about increasing positive emotions, channeling calm feelings, and dealing with bullying. https://www.kindnesscornerfarm.com/groups/ www.facebook.com/kindnesscornerfarm/
Resources for information listed in this blog post and to learn more: