Highly sensitive children feel things more deeply than other children do, and oftentimes respond more quickly. Their heightened perception includes being sensitive to sensory input such as loud noises, harsh images, strong smells or scratchy tags on clothing. Coupled with their incredible sensitivity is an intensity that can go quickly in the “right direction” as they immerse themselves in a creative project, or in the “wrong direction” as they cry uncontrollably at the slightest provocation.
Our highly sensitive and aware children need us to help them understand their energy, how to channel it and ultimately how to use their sensitivity as a strength instead of being hampered by it as a weakness.
So what do we do? Here are three tips for seeing more success meeting the special needs of our sensitive and strong-willed children:
Partnership – Becoming a child’s partner comes naturally to some parents, while others struggle with being anything besides their kids’ authority figure. I realize it’s a slippery slope for some adults, too. Where do you draw the line? But the truth of the matter is that sensitive children need adults to partner with them, ask them what their opinions are and craft solutions together. When adults just tell them, “Because I said so,” in response to a question, they’ve lost a perfectly good opportunity to create a positive and authentic relationship that honors both parent and child.
Highly sensitive children’s emotions are triggered by authoritarian parenting or teaching where children are told what to do without any consideration for their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Sensitive kids cannot stand this style, and often rebel at this approach, whereas partnering with them would produce far better, happier and overall healthier results.
Outlets – Sensitive kids have an intensity to them that needs to be channeled in the right direction. Otherwise that energy will come out “wrong” with such things like sassing parents or fighting with siblings. These boys and girls need something creative to immerse their energies into, whether it is reading Percy Jackson, playing a video game such as Minecraft or developing a skill like playing the piano. This is a necessity for their physical, emotional and mental health.
Young sensitive children who don’t have daily outlets for their intensity either act out or internalize their energy and become down-in-the-dumps. Connect your kids with projects, sports or things they love as a means to release pent-up energy and build their confidence in themselves.
Mentors – Sensitive children are often perceptive, “wise beyond their years,” strong-willed and gifted in one particular area. They are not always good, however, at balancing their intuition with reason or life skills, so they benefit greatly from having a mentor, a person with the same sensitivities who has learned how to be themselves, share their unique gifts and thrive in today’s world.
Your child’s mentor could be any teacher, coach, therapist or friend who has learned to manage their sensitivities and is willing to teach your kids how to do the same.
With guidance from older adults with similar sensitivities, daily outlets for their creativity and like-minded friends and people around who see their sensitivity as an asset versus liability, highly sensitive kids have a solid start in the direction of more harmony and ease.
Maureen Healy is an award-winning author, speaker and healer working with parents and their sensitive children. Her latest book is “The Energetic Keys to Indigo Kids.” Her work regularly appears in Psychology Today and on PBS. Learn more at www.highlysensitivekids.com or www.twitter.com/mdhealy.