Sensitivity is often described as the amount of emotional reaction one has to different situations. Some people have an easy time brushing off intense situations and moving on with life, while others continue to dwell on the event long after it happened. Highly sensitive individuals often cry easily and become overwhelmed by chaotic situations. Many also report that they feel as though they can soak up emotions from others in the same room; you might be able to sense a friend’s sadness or excitement before others who are not as sensitive.
While these traits may be seen by some as a blessing and others as a curse, rest assured that these emotions are totally normal, just more intense for those who are sensitive. In fact, sensitivity is actually a survival strategy because it helps us observe a situation before acting. It also allows us to interact positively with others and show comfort and compassion.
While sensitivity is definitely a helpful emotion, it can become overwhelming for those who are highly sensitive, especially for children. For example, a child who falls on the playground might not think much of it, but a highly sensitive child might have also noticed his peers laughing at him and dwell on that for days.
It’s important to nurture your child’s sensitivity, while also working with him to find ways to cope so that he doesn’t replay intense or negative situations over and over, causing unnecessary worry.
Ideas for striking an emotional balance for your sensitive child include:
• Helping your child channel his sensitivity into creative projects. Highly sensitive individuals often benefit from a hands-on outlet for built up emotions. Carve out a “creative hour” each day for you and your child to paint, draw and/or write down his emotions. For instance, making a creative journal with your child is often a fun way to talk about life events in a relaxed way and dig into emotions and situations that might not be as comfortable to talk about.
• Telling your child that he is not alone. While sad or overwhelming situations are part of life, he can always come to you for a helping hand or to talk the situation out. Try not to discipline your child for crying about an emotional situation. Instead, comfort him and come up with ideas together about how to get through the tough time.
• Working on identifying calming techniques that your child can use when he feels overwhelmed. While you might be able to offer up a hug and kind words if something happens when you are with him, this won’t always be the case. Oftentimes, children are triggered by something that happens at school or at a friend’s house. Come up with ways to relax and rejuvenate, such as finding a calm corner to take some deep breaths or bringing a comfort item with him to hold when he feels upset.
• Connect your child with friends who nurture his strengths. While the high-energy play date is a great way to beat cabin fever and get the wiggles out, making time with other children who connect well with your sensitive child is important. Organize a craft day for your child and the less rambunctious playmate or plan a hike for the twosome to wind down after a long week. Nature in itself is very calming and fosters peace and balance in even the littlest adventurers.
With a little extra compassion and a bit of guidance, your sensitive child can learn to gain control of his intense emotions and view his high sensitivity as a gift.
What have you done to help your highly sensitive child?