Our six-year old showed signs of being highly sensitive from the day she was born. I really mean that. In the hospital, this tiny newborn made it impossible, even for the nurse, to put a hat on her head. All through her first year of life, we had to constantly change her diapers, even if they were barely wet. A tiny drop of moisture led to excruciating cries, and don’t even get me started on bath time. Tags on clothes, seams on socks, loud noises (familiar or not), different scents (good or bad), led to a reaction. She feels emotions deeply, and, because she is “just so happy,” she is often brought to tears while just listening to music or watching a movie. She is very intelligent, and questions injustices constantly, which leads to even more intense emotions. She is also really sweet, loving, and an overall really good kid. She is also not alone.
Sensitivity Is Not Uncommon
High Sensitivity is common in about 15-20% of the population. A person with high sensitivity has an intense reaction to external stimuli. This can include anything from the environment, including what a person sees, hears, smells, or feels (like clothing).
Being a highly sensitive person myself, I know how hard it is to find your place while dealing with all of these external stimuli. It’s easy to be tempted to retreat instead of dealing with these emotions head on. It took me years to find a good balance for myself, and I still get it wrong from time to time. I have learned some strategies, through my own experiences, that have worked for me, and that are now working for our young, highly sensitive daughter.
8 Tips For Highly Sensitive Kids
These are our favorite tips for highly sensitive kids (they work for adults, too):
1. We talk about it.
This is not a secret in our family. Our daughter knows that she struggles with her sensitivities from time to time, but she also knows that there are good and bad ways to cope with them. We also make sure to emphasize that these feelings are not bad, and that there are healthy ways to deal with them.
She plays an instrument. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Playing music is like magic. It helps you process your feelings, and helps you to calm down, all at the same time. It works well, and works every single time.
3. Screen Entertainment
We don’t watch any kind of violent movies or shows. We don’t need extra tears or nightmares in this house.
4. Calm Activities
We insist on quiet times, especially reading and writing times. This is particularly easy to do with our daughter, because she loves to read. We make sure to have a mountain of books available at all times.
5. Unstructured Time
We make sure to always leave plenty of unstructured playtime in our schedule. We have a busy schedule. The kids have classes. We have events and work, but we always make sure to include playtime in our day.
6. Stick To A Schedule
Speaking of schedules, we stick to a schedule. A hungry or tired kid (or parent) is an unhappy kid (or parent).
7. Be Social
We make an effort to be social. I am very much of an introvert, but my daughter is not. She needs her social time, so we make sure that it’s part of our weekly schedule. This time also helps her practice her own coping methods if something comes up.
8. Be Understanding
We don’t tell her to toughen up. We also don’t tell her that she is too sensitive, or any of that other nonsense.
Side note: Don’t say these things to sensitive kids. It’s not nice! There is nothing wrong with these feelings, and she is aware of that.
Being Highly Sensitive Is A Gift
Highly sensitive people have high emotional intelligence. They pick up on other people’s emotions and subtle behaviors quite easily, and often unintentionally. It is quite a valuable asset for a counselor!
Of course, we are still learning, but for now, these steps have made a huge difference in our lives. If you are curious about high sensitivity, check out Dr. Elaine Aron’s site, along with her quiz to determine if you or your child are highly sensitive.