How To Raise a Sensitive Child
Raising a highly sensitive child presents parents with a unique set of challenges. Sensitive children require some extra understanding and patience, and what works for other children may not work for them. As a result, parents often find themselves bending the rules, becoming frustrated, or feeling regretful because of unpleasant exchanges with their sensitive children.
While it’s true that a child with a highly sensitive personality may need some individualized attention and parenting, it doesn’t have to be difficult or end in tears. When it comes to raising a sensitive child, there are five key pieces of advice we can offer.
Know Your Child
You’ve already determined that your child is sensitive. However, all children are different. Certain tenderness and soft spots set your child apart from others.
There are many different highly sensitive personality traits, so before you can determine a plan of action for your child, you’ll want to determine which ones your child possesses.
Highly sensitive children are often very bright and creative, self-conscious, empathetic, shy but outgoing with a close group of friends, anxious, easily frightened, and significantly affected and overwhelmed by sensory information.
Knowing your child’s particular sensitivities will allow you to be more understanding, responsive, and supportive of them and their needs.
Allow for Downtime and Sensory Breaks
As we mentioned, many sensitive children become overwhelmed by sensory information. For example, lights, sounds, and textures may be upsetting to children with highly sensitive personalities. In addition to this type of sensory information, children who struggle with sensitivities may also become mentally and physically exhausted after social situations.
Certain situations or locations can exacerbate these sensitivities in children. If your sweet kiddo seems to be having a rough time during or after an event, or even just a regular day, allow them some downtime. They may want to spend some time alone or in a dark, quiet room. Encourage them to take these breaks as they need to.
Set Limits, Boundaries, and Consequences
When you’re raising a highly sensitive child, it may be tempting to let poor behavior slide. You hate seeing them upset, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings. What parent does? However, you also don’t want to teach them that actions don’t have consequences.
Just because your child is sensitive doesn’t mean they won’t misbehave or break the rules from time-to-time. After all, they’re still kids who are growing and learning. That’s why it’s important that you uphold limits and boundaries and that your enforce consequences when those lines are crossed.
Of course, you’ll want to modify those consequences to accommodate your child’s unique personality. The most important part of setting consequences is making sure they’re proportionate to the action and also that your child will respond to them. This is why it’s so important to know your child and what they need.
Praise and Reward
Similarly, highly sensitive children also need to know when they have done something spectacular. In fact, many highly sensitive personalities thrive on praise and seek it out as people-pleasers.
If your child doesn’t feel seen and validated for their strengths and achievements, they may try to attract attention in other ways. Find opportunities to tell them you’re proud of them. Tell them what they’re good at, when they’ve done something well, and why you’re their biggest fan.
You also want to make sure you’re providing rewards for positive behaviors. Rewards are just as if not more important than consequences. Know your child’s interests and hobbies and what’s important to them so you can reward them with things and experiences that are meaningful to them.
Teach and Model Problem-Solving and Feeling Words
The final piece of advice for raising a sensitive child is providing them with the tools to self-regulate and manage their feelings.
Problem-solving skills will allow your child to handle day-to-day occurrences and possible setbacks without feeling defeated or becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. Even though things that happen may be upsetting, they will feel confident in solving whatever issues arise.
Feeling words will also equip them with the vocabulary to explain what is going on in their heads and their hearts. Sensitive children often feel emotions bigger and stronger than others, and sometimes those feelings get too big to verbalize. If your child has words for what they’re experiencing, though, it may help them to talk it through.
While teaching your child problem-solving and feeling words is important, it’s also vital that you model these behaviors as well. Your child is more likely to see value in and internalize these skills if they see you practicing them.
Raising a sensitive child comes with its challenges, but it can also be very rewarding. Knowing how to communicate with your child, accommodate their unique personality, and encourage their strengths will ensure they grow up to be happy, healthy adults.
Writer: Jordan Peden