Maybe you have a strong hunch like I do that you are raising a highly sensitive child.
If children were cute little packages that we order and have delivered at our doorsteps, yours would be handed down flashing the warning ‘Fragile; Handle with care’.
Maybe your heart breaks like mine because you have missed that care label for a good number of years.
Thankfully, time has shattered the scales off your eyes and you now see the tender heart snuggled inside your tot.
If that’s you, I get you.
15-20% of children across the globe are highly sensitive. These kids have a highly perceptive nervous system, as sharp as a glistening razor.
This gives them an amplified awareness of their environment to which they respond with equal vigor.
They basically wear their hearts on their sleeves round the clock.
But first things first, how do you tell if yours is a highly sensitive child (HSC)? Here are some traits that set these kids apart from their peers:
a) They are highly responsive to physical triggers like smells, lighting, and loud noises.
b) They swim in a rollercoaster of emotions; they cry often, worry too much, get too ecstatic, get too scared, etc.
c)They are exceptionally empathetic and loving
d)They are intuitive
e) They react sharply to physical pain
f) They don’t fancy change
g) They thrive on schedules, order, and predictability
h) They can be perfectionists
i) They may prefer quiet play over group activities with their peers.
j) They reflect deeply and will knock your socks off with conversations well above their age.
k) They will do anything to steer out of trouble. Lying is one of their favorite routes of escape.
For in-depth scrutiny into whether your child is HS or not, take a peek at this quiz drafted by Elaine Aron, author of The Highly sensitive Child.
In essence, HSC emotions are as fragile as butterfly wings. They are often sulking and bawling at stuff that would barely make other kids flinch.
It can be awfully hard for these kids to chin-up because we all know that life has its fair share of bumps.
Now we even have a global pandemic thrown into the mix!
Parents/guardians need to tweak their parenting strategies to help these kids cope. Here are 7 practical tips on handling HSC:
1. ACCEPT THEM AS THEY ARE
I have squandered a great chunk of time trying to change my daughter.
Trying to persuade her to ‘toughen up’ and take things in her stride like other children.
I can confirm that it has been a total waste of time (do not try this strategy at home).
She is wired that way and her creator must have deemed her perfect before dispatching her into my hands.
The first and foundational step in handling HSC is to make peace with their sensitivity.
After all, being highly sensitive is merely a temperament.
It is not a flaw, a syndrome, or an illness, and even if it were, every child should be embraced as they are.
2. TAP INTO THE GIFTS THEY BEAR
Imagine receiving a set of luxurious dinnerware made of bone china as a birthday gift. Very glossy, stellar quality, intricately ornate, and quite pricy.
You would be ecstatic, wouldn’t you? Would you sulk at its fragility? Would you be disappointed that you can’t toss the plates around without care?
I bet you wouldn’t.
You would revel in its beauty and class. You would keep an eye on your dinner set like you would an infant.
Being fragile would be a minor detail you can live with.
That’s how sensitive kids are. Snuggled beneath their tender hearts are mind-blowing abilities.
Due to their heightened sense of perception, they tend to be gifted both intellectually and creatively.
They are also experts in picking the mood of those around them with magical precision.
They lavish hugs, cuddles, and comforting words when they sense a loved one is downcast.
That truly is the frosting on the cake.
3. EXPLORE GENTLE WAYS OF DISCIPLINE
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that these kids should get away with mischief. Far from it!
Parents should however ease their feet off the harsh discipline pedal and explore Gentle methods of discipline.
Aggressive discipline breaks these kids apart. That’s because they perceive everything so intensely.
Its been proven that harsh discipline may trigger in them unsavory far-reaching effects like low self-esteem, anger, and depression.
One way of doing it is explaining to them the rules on one hand and the consequences of non-compliance on the other.
HSC reflect deeply and love keeping off trouble. Just mulling on the consequences often yanks them towards the right choices like a magnet.
4. TEACH THEM TO VOICE THEIR FEELINGS
HSC are very emotional. It can be downright exhausting if your child is constantly sulking, whining, demanding, and crying.
Encourage your child to identify their feelings/emotions and communicate them to you.
Constant practice on this may eventually pull the plug on the number of hissy fits your child engages in.
As they master this practice, applaud them and occasionally reward them for getting a grip on their emotions.
5. CREATE A PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT FOR THEM TO THRIVE
Most HSC are thrown off balance by a fast-paced chaotic environment. As much as possible, shield them from situations that they deem upsetting.
Their siblings may be okay watching aggressive shows on TV but the same may throw them for a loop.
They may also require some downtime each day where they retreat and engage in a favorite activity in solitude.
This helps them wind down their day calmly.
Such calming activities may include reading a book, listening to music, painting, coloring, blowing bubbles among others.
6. SENSITIZE THEIR CAREGIVERS AND TEACHERS
You may do all your due diligence and provide a blooming environment for your sensitive child but what about the people who hold the fort for you?
Ensure everyone handling your child is aware of their temperament.
It is also worth mentioning to their teachers, just to snuff out any unpleasant surprises.
And while you are at it, remember not to paint your child in a negative light.
As aforementioned, being highly sensitive is just one of the many temperaments and not a flaw.
7. PRAISE AND AFFIRM THEM
Like a budding flower follows the light, highly sensitive kids are suckers for affirmation.
Lavish it on them when you spot their progress. Applaud them when they remain calm and resolve conflict amicably.
They will soak it up like a sponge. Just make sure the praise is well deserved.
Studies indicate that our childhood experiences are the canvas upon which the art of life is cast.
Our worldview is intricately woven in our childhood.
As adults, we wind up either feeling valued or dejected, intelligent or daft, capable or lousy, beautiful or plain, confident or timid.
If Highly sensitive children are not handled well, their self-worth, confidence, creativity, and intelligence may be snuffed out like a wick.
We hope that the tips we have shared will help you cushion them against such a tragedy.