Highly Sensitive Child - Signs, Habits & Parenting

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Is your child always on the brink of tears? Does your child suddenly go all quiet, or shy away from people and situations? Do you feel your child’s reactions are a little too emotional? If your answers are yes, then your child could be sensitive. A sensitive child needs to be dealt with delicately.

If you feel your parenting skills are resulting in extreme reactions from your child, maybe it’s time to do a reality check. Read on to know if your child is highly sensitive and what you need to do to handle him with care.

Signs Of A Highly Sensitive Child:

A highly sensitive child, as the name suggests, is more susceptible to the people and situations around him. Here are a few highly sensitive child traits you may notice in your child: [1]

[ Read: Understanding Child Psychology ]

1. Reacts Emotionally:

Your highly sensitive child will react with emotionally to almost everything. A simple visit to a pet store could leave him feeling miserable for the animals there. A stern look from you could reduce him to tears. Being highly sensitive also makes your child empathize with others. He may feel so bad about others’ problems that he wants to go out of his way to help them. He may worry too much about others and want to make things right for them.

2. Broods Over Failures:

If your child is highly sensitive, he will delve deeper into things than most other children of his age do. For your child, a simple event like failure to achieve a particular target will not be just that. He broods over the matter, thinking why he did not realize the mistake in time, and what he could have done about it. This could result in stress and anxiety.

3. Takes Things Personally:

For your child, being highly emotional means that everything that happens is personal. Your child will react to everything in a way where he feels whatever others say is applicable to him only.

4. Difficulty In Making A Choice:

A common trait among highly sensitive children is the difficulty in taking a decision. Your child will look into various details and subtleties, making it difficult for him to select. For instance, if asked to choose a flavor of ice cream, your child will take a long time to decide. In certain cases, he may find it difficult to choose, like something as simple as choosing a partner in a game.

[ Read: Tips To Deal With A Highly Emotional Child ]

5. Feels Guilty:

If your child feels that he has taken a wrong decision he will feel extremely guilty. He will ponder over too much into the reasons. No matter what you say or do, he would not come out of it for a long time.

6. Displays A Tough Exterior:

You don’t want to be on the wrong side for your sensitive kids. They may be mad at you for a month. They may be hurt by something you did or said and will simply hold on it than expressing it to you.

7. Well-mannered And Polite:

Kids who are sensitive are well behaved and also expect to be in similar surroundings.

8. They Read People Well:

Sensitive kids have a keen sense of observation and know people well. They observe character traits and gather an accurate story of who the person is.

9. They Love Animals:

Kids who are sensitive develop a special bond with animals wherein they trust them completely. It’s not just trust they are also sensitive to the needs of animals and take extra care of it.

[ Read: Personality Development Tips For Children ]

10. They Ask A Lot Of Questions:

Kids generally ask a lot of questions. At times the questions can be irritating and may be personal. But in general the questions may leave you with a sense of positive thought.

11. They Are Calculative And Take Firm Decisions:

Sensitive kids generally make decisions after putting in a lot of going through a lot of emotions. They do things for a reason and if they fail, they are often left in self-doubt. Once they have taken a decision, they usually stand by it even if they are alone and can be disheartened at times to see how insensitive others can be.

12. They Feel Accountable And Admit Their Mistakes:

Sensitive kids not only try and study their environment but also continually evaluate themselves and keep their emotions in check. If they feel they have done a mistake they don’t hesitate to admit it and they always appreciate others for small acts.

Habits Of A Highly Sensitive Child:

  • Highly sensitive kids with their heart, as they sympathize others. Logic doesn’t apply.
  • They are talkative and would like to be appreciated by their peers. But when people offer
    advice they may be easily offended.
  • These children prefer to be alone, and spend more time by themselves.
  • They work hard to ensure that they are perfect in their work.
  • They trust their instinct while taking a decision.
  • Sensitive kids have a keen sense of observation and understand people well.
  • They love animals.
  • They ask a lot of questions.
  • These kids do not like horror movies.
  • While they prefer to work alone, they can also be good team players.
  • They like to work in closed environments where they are not visible to others.

How To Help A Sensitive Child?

As you probably know already, parenting a highly sensitive child demands care and attention. Follow these tips to handle him tactfully:

1. Acknowledge His Feelings:

  • Your kid has a high range of emotions running, and you have to tune in as a parent. Understand your child’s feelings. It is one of the first steps you need to take when you want to adopt the right parenting approach toward your highly sensitive child.
  • Your child may feel emotional all the time, but remember the instances when you felt hurt and someone failed to understand that. Let your child know that you understand what he feels.

[ Read: Tips For Dealing With Moody Children ]

2. Don’t Try To Change Him:

  • For you, it may not be a great thing to be highly sensitive, but for your child, it is a way of life. As a parent, you may worry that being highly sensitive can hurt your child most of the times. It is perfectly understandable. But you also need to realize that this trait is not something your child can just delete.
  • If you try and force your child to change, it will only make him retract into his shell. He will think you disapprove his behavior, and it will make him feel more guilty and quiet.
  • Accept and love your child the way he is. Make him feel happy and proud, and not a misfit.

3. Reassure Him:

  • Tell your child that you love him no matter what. Use your words and actions to show your child that you love him just the way he is.
  • Your child may sometimes feel he is different from others, and it can be quite a dismal thought for him.

4. Encourage His Positive Traits:

  • Some children can be rude and single out your child for being highly sensitive. Help your child to overcome these issues by highlighting his virtues.
  • Show him how he can use his skills to his advantage. Tell him that being sensitive is good because he feels for others. Not everyone can do that.
  • Your child may have an amazing imagination, he may be extremely creative, can be a wonderful listener, may perceive things much better and have a host of skills that not all children have.
  • Help your child to realize these qualities and help him hone them more.

5. Guide Him Slowly:

  • Your highly sensitive child may find it very difficult to make certain choices. Your child may want to stay out of difficult or unfamiliar situations. He may not want to interact in a social gathering and be exceptionally shy. Help him face to these social situations by guiding him in interaction with others.
  • If you feel you are not able to convince him, do not punish him. Speak to him and discuss your concerns. Tell him why you feel doing things a certain way can help him. Your highly sensitive child will understand your logic much better than other children of his age. Share with him all the reasons you have for asking him to follow your advice.
  • Your child may not show any immediate improvement, but he may evolve gradually.

6. Take Baby Steps And Work As A Team:

  • Your support can help your child in a big way. Parenting the sensitive child includes a lot of support. There will be many instances where your child will highly benefit from your role as a partner than just a parent.
  • For instance, your child may find it difficult to make friends in a new school or class. Help him out by planning individual interactions. You can arrange for separate play dates at your place where your child can interact with one or few new friends. It will help him gradually break the ice and get more comfortable and confident.

[ Read: Ways To Boost Confidence In Kids ]

7. Don’t Apologize On His Behalf:

  • As a parent, you may sometimes apologize on your child’s behalf when you feel he isn’t socially comfortable. Stop apologizing on behalf of your highly sensitive child if you feel he made a social mistake. Understand that he is finding it challenging to adjust and is having a difficult time.
  • If you apologize to others for your child’s behavior, it immediately sends out a wrong message. Your child will feel that he is a cause of embarrassment for you. It will make your child an introvert, and he may feel uncomfortable discussing his feelings with you later.
  • Accept your child the way he is and support him in a crowd.

8. Plan Ahead:

  • Sudden situations can be very difficult for your highly sensitive child to handle. Parenting a sensitive child in this situation can be done the this way:
  • You already know that your child does not like big interactions and social gatherings. Hoping that maybe it will work and planning something without his knowledge may prove a disaster instead of a success.
  • It is good to first plan out things with your highly sensitive child. Sit down with him and take him through all that you are planning. Tell him why you feel he should go ahead with it even if he feels uncomfortable. Tell him about all the fun you can have together and how much he and everyone else will enjoy.
  • Tell him he can always take a break with you in the middle of the event if he does not like it. Ask your child if he would like to help you plan things. Involve him in the preparation activities to help him cope with the situation.

9. Teach Your Child How To Manage A Crisis:

  • Your highly sensitive child may often not be able to cope up with a social situation. Even though you are always by your child’s side, there may be times when he has to manage alone. It could be in school, in class or at the house of a friend or relative.
  • Teach your child ways in which he can calm down and control his anxieties. Repeating ‘it’s okay, I can handle this’ or ‘it will be over soon’ and ‘I can do it’ can help him feel better. Teach him to chant these magical words softly.
  • Also, teach your child some simple deep breathing exercises. It will help your child during sudden panic attacks or anxiety episodes, when you may not be around to help him.

10. Stay Calm:

  • It is an extremely crucial parenting mantra. It is normal that you may sometimes lose your cool as a parent, especially when all your efforts to help go waste. Understand that this is not a condition but a personality trait. You just need to learn to start looking at things from his perspective.
  • Do not feel guilty if your best strategies are not working. Stay calm and give yourself some time. Take a break and ask your partner for help, especially if you feel you may lose your temper.

11. See Sensitivity As A Gift:

  • Sometimes it is frustrating when your child is unable to handle situations or is crying a lot or avoiding social gatherings. You need to empathize their situation and identify their talents. Sensitive children are often gifted with various arts and skills; you just have to help them identify their potential and help them with it. Tell your kids about famous people who have their traits.

12. Focus On Strengths:

  • Remembering how your child is talented or how he handles situations is important. This way if you can be aware and accept their challenges, you can help them to train themselves to be more confident. Talk to your kid about the positive aspects of being sensitive.

[ Read: How To Develop Personality In Children ]

How to Prevent Your Sensitive Child from Being Bullied?

1. Develop Their Confidence:

Unconditional love and support from parents and other adults helps a child to build confidence. It gives them courage to share their fears with you. You have to teach him to stand up for himself, and at the same time protect and encourage him in every possible way.

2. Make Sure They Feel Safe:

Take a chance to discuss the various things your child faces at school. Talk to them regarding their teachers, peers and their academics. If they are being bullied, teach them how to handle the situation. It is often suggested that they go to an adult for help in such circumstances. Try not to misguide by telling him to avoid or run away from bullying.

3. Count On Friends:

Highly sensitive children find it difficult to be part of groups. Children in a group aren’t bullied as everyone is there for the other. It is important you tell the child the importance of having a friend and help them identify a good friend who will understand your child’s sensitive condition.

4. Be Physically Fit:

Children who are active in sports are physically fit and also have more confidence than the other kids. As a sensitive child may avoid team sports, it is important you train them to be fit individually. Physical exercise helps them become healthier, stronger and confident.

5. Boost His Confidence:

A weak child will always be an easy target for bullying. When peers comment on physical appearance of children, an extremely sensitive child can be easily offended and become depressed. So it is suggested that you maintain a healthy diet for them so that they are fit and confident. A highly sensitive child, who is confident, can handle his sensitiveness.

Things The Parent Of A Highly Sensitive Child Doesn’t Need to Hear:

1. “If You Want  To Sort Them, Give Them One For Good”:

The last thing the parent of a highly sensitive child would do is to punish them or try hitting them. It would trigger an adverse effect. Things like raising voice against the child will harm his tender heart immeasurably.

2. “Make Them Attend Social Events And They Will Learn”:

Busy activities can be too much to handle for highly sensitive children. It might take weeks for them to become normal after such events. Instead, when we respect their privacy, it will send them a positive message that we understand their boundaries. Such empathy will help them to become social with guidance.

3. “Leave Them By Themselves And They Will Come Around”:

The issues which are troubling an extremely sensitive child are real. Leaving them by themselves in such a situation will only worsen the situation. If a child is not able to adjust to a new dress or a new environment, the thought will constantly be on their mind until you act and help them to get over the thought.

4. “He Is Getting Too Personal”:

Highly sensitive children take things to their heart and easily get involved emotionally. It takes time to teach them not be so and things just won’t happen over a day. Discarding their feelings with conclusions is never helpful.

5. “He Needs To Be Involved In The Team”:

Highly sensitive children often find it difficult to participate in team games as they feel stressed out due to competition. At times, team games may involve elements where they can be teased, or they may not be confident. Forcing them to play such sports will only damage their self-esteem and leave a permanent mark in their lives. Sometimes team games do help them to boost their confidence. If an extremely sensitive child is not a team player, you can encourage him to participate in sports which he can play individually.

6. “It Is Just A Thing That He Is Afraid Of”:

The fear experienced by highly sensitive children is real, however petty it may seem. If they are alarmed or scared of anything, always acknowledge their fear and build confidence in them to face it. Talk to them on how they should overcome their fear.

7. “Toughen Them Up”:

A highly sensitive child struggles to cope up with the surroundings. Do not be insensitive by making attempts to toughen them up. They might feel insecure as they can’t be who they are and lose their individuality. Giving them guidance on how to handle situations and taking care of them will gradually help them cope up with them.

8. “He/ She Is A Cry Baby”:

As mentioned above, highly sensitive children take things to heart. Under uncomfortable situations, they find it too hard to hide their tears. You should empathize with them and understand their real feelings. Give them tools to cope up with situations than ridiculing them for their tears.

9. “They Have To Adjust However Distracting Environment Can Be”:

An extremely sensitive child who is trying to cope up with the environment of the school or a group will find it highly difficult. Sometimes, the teacher may simply suggest that they have to adjust like the other students. But for a highly sensitive children, the problem is real and being in a distractive environment would simply worsen their feelings.

10. “Is It Him You Are Talking About As He Is Not That Kid”:

Highly sensitive children may put up a positive behaviour at school but throw up a tantrum at home. It is because he knows that the parents would understand him and in school he has to manage by himself. Teachers may not understand that your child behaves that way at home.

If your child is highly sensitive, you are lucky to have such a caring person in your life. Not all children can think about others the way your child can. Be proud of your highly sensitive child and show him and the world that you are a lucky mommy. Team with your child and be his biggest supporter too! Hot to parent a highly sensitive child is extremely difficult.

Do you have a highly sensitive child? How did you help your child? Did you choose any special parenting techniques or did you just ignore and carry on? How did it help your highly sensitive child? Do share your views here with the other moms.

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Sadiya Qamar

Sadiya is a writer and editor with a passion for writing about parenthood and children. Her focus areas are health, wellness, and beauty. For MomJunction, she writes on kids’ health and nutrition.  Sadiya believes in doing in-depth research and providing accurate information to help parents with concerns on their children’s growth and development.