It isn’t news that children go through changes now and then as they grow up, but for some children, this change might be noticeable from a mile away. Your energetic, witty, and intuitive baby might suddenly become more irritable and emotional, leaving you dumbfounded!
Do you feel that you’re little one has grown to become a sensitive child? You might notice that peer and sibling interactions become a nightmare! If emotional extremes are the norm for your wee one, you might be concerned about what’s going on! Well, to put things in perspective, you might be dealing with a highly sensitive child.
You probably know it well by now, but highly sensitive children are different in the way their brain works. Wired to process things acutely, such little children are very sensitive to environmental stimuli. They feel things at a deeper level than most children. A sensitive child might pause before taking action.
With all of that out of the way, now let’s get into the real deal, how to raise a highly sensitive child? How can you be sure that you’re doing the right thing? What are the coping mechanisms HS children tend to use?
Well, we’ve got you covered! Here is all that you need to know regarding how to parent highly sensitive children. Well before getting into that, let’s understand what a highly sensitive child looks like.
How Do I Know If I Am Raising a Highly Sensitive Child or ADHD?
To parent a highly sensitive child you need to understand what an emotional child goes through. The core to dealing with a sensitive child lies in the recognition of if your baby is a highly sensitive child or has ADHD, which would help you manage effectively.
10 Traits of a Highly Sensitive Child
Sensitive children might even face other mental health challenges, and all of this might leave you wondering that is your child highly sensitive. Here are some traits to look out for:
- Emotional Extremes
Rage is the norm for such children, as they tend to experience emotions on a deeper level. Rapturous one instance and infuriating the other, your child might go through emotional extremes in no time. With irrational demands far from reality, these children are highly sensitive to change and might express emotions intensely, with no middle register.
They are neurotic, which means they are extremely moody and anxious. Reactive to minor changes, HS kids are referred to as Orchids, a term coined by Thomas Boyce.
- Reactive To Sensory Stimuli
You might find your child overwhelmed by loud noises or startled by just a touch. Not only this, bright lights or smells might even trigger more. A surprise birthday party might make your baby overreact, and they might even throw a huge tantrum if you end up changing their favorite bedsheet.
These children are highly sensitive to sensory input and might feel overwhelmed whenever things change, be it their favorite PJs or cartoon channel, which makes it difficult for them to function effectively.
- Prone To Emotional Distress
Being overwhelmed most of the time, these children are quick to meltdown in case of a minor inconvenience. Due to their sensitive nervous systems, they experience stress at a deeper level and are likely to start stressing over trivial matters way more quickly than other children.
Emotionally intense children tend to give outsized reactions to underwhelming situations due to their underlying state of mind. Inundated by the changing surroundings (that might give us nothing more than some natural discomfort), these children are always on the brink of losing their cool and are prone to anxiety.
- Keen Processor- Extremely insightful
Keen processors as we like to call them, these children are always analyzing things around them, be it the people, environment, or even conditions. These children are empathetic and tuned in with the feelings others feel. They are insightful and know exactly what you’re feeling before you even know it.
They are wise enough to under facial expressions and try to be empathetic toward the people around them. As sweet as it sounds, your exceptional child might be able to help you recognize your feelings when you are overwhelmed.
- Sense Of Control
For such children, the more out of control kids feel, the more dominant they seem, asking their seemingly irrational demands to be fulfilled the way they want. They have trouble adapting to life’s expectations and ways want to get things done their way. These children want to gain control over all the things around them to feel at ease.
They are always on high alert making sure they have full control of all that goes around or happens next to avoid getting overwhelmed. Having fixed ideas is their way of avoiding such situations and helps them manage their activities more effectively. They are inflexible and have a hard time accepting alternate ways of doing things.
- Hypervigilant/Cautious In New Situations
These amazing children have a good eye and tend to notice even a trivial change in the environment, be it the temperature or smell. Being deeply passionate and perceptive, these children are hyperaware and cautious in new environments.
Whether in a new classroom or a fun-packed surprise birthday party, they’re always looking out to see what’s going on. Be it the people’s perception of them or their safety that bothers them, HS children are always on the edge, anxious about the future.
To fight this, these highly sensitive children tend to stick to their old-school methods, something they are comfortable with and never step out of their comfort zone. This might seem more apparent when they change schools or shift to high school.
- Lower Tolerance
Feeling intense emotions on a deeper level all the time is exhausting, leaving them irritable and hyper. Failure is never an option, so whenever they face a difficult task, they tend to give up quickly. Such highly sensitive children have a lower tolerance level which might make sibling interactions challenging.
- Perfectionist And Triggered By Failure
Whenever HS children enter a challenging task, there’s no room for failure. Due to their high sensitivity, these children have difficulty failing or losing. You might notice a big shift in your child’s behavior as soon as they lose a match or argument.
These children always want to be perfect in everyday challenges. This not just includes themselves, but others as well. Be it a team play or project, they’ll always want things to be perfect, which makes them overly critical of themselves as well as the people around them.
- Hard Time Facing Criticism
This might seem a common theme for your child to get ramped up whenever you or someone else corrects them. Even seemingly benign directions might trigger them and make them feel targeted. Victim mindset plays a huge role in this, and even helpful guidance might overwhelm them.
Occupied by the thoughts of how others perceive them, these HS kids are not comfortable with attention and are sensitive to any comment, even if it is positive! A compliment might make them feel like they are being watched and scrutinized which triggers their anxiety.
Keep in mind that these traits are not set in stone! Not all HS children face such traits and mental health challenges. Parents tend to confuse such HS kids with ADHD children, who, though similar, aren’t the same.
How Can I Raise My Child Without Overwhelming Him
With all of that in your mind, you might be wondering, what’s the best way to raise a highly sensitive child? To help discipline your little angel, we’ve gathered different tips that would make this journey a tad bit easier for you!
Be Calm- Accept And Acknowledge Them
Self-awareness is an important skill that these children need to learn, so help them recognize their needs by acknowledging their feelings. Let them know that you understand that they are upset and hurt.
Parents need to accept their children for who they are and not what they want them to be. Be it overly empathetic or highly sensitive, as a parent you should support your child to let them know you’re there for them.
The attitude and tantrums might leave you exhausted, and it isn’t easy to keep your calm when things go south. This might result in harsh discipline strategies which could be a problem with a highly sensitive child.
As pleasing as it sounds, tough love wouldn’t get you anywhere if you have a highly sensitive child at hand. On the other hand, it might end up making your child feel misunderstood, damaging their sense of self-worth.
Do Not Get Over-reactive Yourself
Exhaustion might get you into a heated argument, but it is important to understand that these kids are just overwhelmed and tired. The comments they pass during these “fights” might be hurtful, but it is essential to remind yourself that it is their anxiety speaking and that they are just scared.
This also means staying aware of the way you behave whenever they throw a fit. Your stern voice or angry attitude might trigger them even more. Loud noises and criticism during such an episode are a recipe for disaster, so make sure you are gentle and assertive with your comments.
Do not Minimize Their Emotions
While your first instinct might be to hush them and tell them it’s nothing, try to let your little one express their emotions without embarrassment. Help them acknowledge and share their feelings with you, be it resentment or fear. Let them know you are here to listen to them and understand what they feel.
Give Space And Stay Present
While doing both at the same time might seem impossible, it is possible if you manage to communicate your presence effectively. Give them the time they need to calm down, all while being their emotional support throughout.
Avoid Problem-Solving During An Episode
Failure might lead to a big tantrum so make sure you wait for them to calm down before you solve the problem for them. A highly sensitive child during an episode might be flooded with ideas leaving no room for processing information. Though essential, problem-solving requires a clear mind so teach them once they are done giving you a hard time.
Avoid Forcing Them To Start New Things
Being scared of new situations, these highly sensitive children have a hard time starting new things, and many kids avoid stepping out of their comfort zone. Leaving them in their comfort zone might seem like an easier option, but try to encourage them to start new things. Do not be forceful and try to be playful, gentle, and consistent. You never know they might end up starting these new things thanks to your encouragement.
Set Limits- Do not Bend The Rules
Tempting as it may sound, you might want to avoid bending whenever they throw a tantrum. This helps set limits and lets them get the hang of the real world, where you don’t always get what you want. Flexibility is an essential personality trait that your child needs to learn to adapt to the real world.
Set Plenty Of Downtime
Having a jam-packed schedule up ahead might overwork your little one, triggering them. Constant interactions lead to the constant analysis of every situation that occurs or might occur, so make sure you give them the peacetime they need to relax during those key daily life activities.
Is Highly Sensitive Bad?
Simply put, having a highly sensitive child in your life is not a bad thing. On the contrary, having an amazing little empath around makes you learn a thing or two about yourself. It’s a difficult journey to navigate through but it’s worth it. These children grow to become highly empathetic and loving people, that make sure the people around them are loved and cared for.
Though neurotic, these children are highly intuitive and good analysts. They learn new skills and are extremely joyful if you play along with them. But hey, do not confuse neuroticism with neurosis. Neurosis is a mental illness that revolves around obsessive behavior and depression, while neuroticism is a personality trait. While both of them might make a person anxious, High sensitivity is not a dysfunction like the former. You might link neurotic behavior to sensory processing sensitivity, which is different from sensory processing disorder, a neurological condition, referring to over or underreaction to sensory stimuli.
Why Are Some Kids Highly Sensitive?
Every kid is built differently, so no two children have the same emotional reaction to a stimulus. Some children are extremely sensitive to change, making them moodier. Most highly sensitive children are born with the inheritable trait of sensory processing sensitivity which is linked to their nervous system. These differences stem from normal development patterns that differ in each child.
Highly sensitive child (HS) is a term that generally refers to children that are excessively sensitive to stimuli, be they mental or physical. Overwhelmed by slight changes, these children tend to have many episodes of irrational demands and tantrums that might not be that easy to manage. These children are self-conscious, perfectionists, have a hard time losing, and are very insightful.
On one hand, it can be challenging to handle such amazing kids with their emotional reactions now and then, but on the other, having such a sweet little empath makes it worth all the work. As these compassionate kids grow, they become kind and loving adults that know how to handle and understand the emotional needs of others.