As a baby, my daughter Chloe hated being held by people she didn’t know.
She napped well in my arms, but would scream blue murder when being put down in her cot.
When she was a toddler, she’d hide behind my legs when meeting someone new, and other mums often remarked on how shy and quiet she was.
One day at kindy, my little girl gave her favourite teddy bear to an upset child to hold during nap time. Her teacher was amazed by her empathy, and when I found out what my daughter had done, I was impressed by her kindness.
I began to wonder if she was highly sensitive, like me. A friend had recommended a book called “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Psychologist Elaine Aron, and it changed my life. I’d always felt different, but instead of seeing myself as flawed, aloof and anti-social, I began to see that I was like a rare bloom that flowered in the right environment – and so was my daughter.
5 WAYS TO HELP THE SENSITIVE CHILD
Sensitive children are easily overwhelmed by noise and chaos, but thrive in positive, stable and encouraging environments. As parents, we can help these kids by:
- Establishing predictable daily routines. Sensitive kids hate change, and routines provide the structure they desperately need. Their nervous systems tend to be on high alert, so predictability is soothing and great for their mental health.
- Being compassionate and understanding. Listen to your child, but keep any criticisms to yourself. Being a kid is tough at the best of times, let alone if you have heightened sensitivity, and kids can be really hard on themselves. They need a soft place to fall and crave your acceptance and approval.
- Giving them time and space to just ‘be’. Sensitive kids need downtime to recharge, or they can feel stressed and overstimulated.
- Pointing out their strengths, as sensitive kids tend towards perfectionism and often feel disappointed in themselves. What is your child good at? What motivates them? What gives them energy? What do they love doing? What are they interested in? Answering these questions can help you work out what their strengths are.
- Encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone. Too often, we warn our kids to ‘be careful’ when they’re playing. For a sensitive child, this is akin to clipping their wings. They already are careful – what they need is to be encouraged to try – to have a go and take small risks. Let them climb that tree, or ride that bike and use encouraging words like ‘you’ve got this’, or ‘you can do it’.
Raising a sensitive child isn’t easy but it can be incredibly rewarding. My daughter Chloe is grown now, and I couldn’t be prouder of the woman she has become.