Parenting Sensitive Kids

[Originally posted at Just the Facts, Baby]

Highly sensitive kids can be wonderful, but challenging to parent. They are emotionally delicate in many ways and as parents we worry about their ability to cope in the world with everyday struggles. Often these highly sensitive children are very intelligent and many are gifted. Chances are, you have a sensitive kid if your child:

  • tends to give up quickly and melts down when they can’t master something right away
  • is often highly anxious and struggles with peers
  • has tactile issues, such as getting very upset over the feeling of a bump in their sock or a tag in their shirt
  • has big reactions to tastes they don’t like or overreacts to voices, reporting that people are yelling at them when they are not
  • has trouble sleeping and self soothing
  • is dramatic and gets incredibly upset, and is difficult to soothe
  • tends to be worry about things before they happen

It can be incredibly frustrating to parent such a reactive child. It is very difficult to help them learn to calm themselves and organize their big feelings, but very important that they learn to master this ability and develop resilience.

The parenting bond, as much as you love them, can get frayed by this overwhelming behaviour and can cause us as parents to withdraw, become frustrated or try to constantly talk these kids out of their feelings. This then adds to their anxiety and emotional disorganization. Here are some things you can try:

1. Try really listening to your child’s feelings and try to understand her before you correct her behaviour, even if those feelings seem unreasonable to you.

2. Spending extra time cuddling and connecting with sensitive kids will help a great deal.

3. Be empathic, but neutral, when they are upset, getting mad at them will only make the situation worse.

4. Try not to do too many activities in a day. These kids tend to get overwhelmed and meltdown when they have had enough stimulation.

5. If they continue to have difficulty, talk to your paediatrician. Your child may benefit from a few sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy to help give them a sense of control over their emotions.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
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