Supporting Parents of Highly Sensitive Children

One of the greatest challenges of parenting a Highly Sensitive child is to soothe our own angst and worry. A concern that is often voiced by these parents is not feeling confident in dealing with the daily challenges that confront kids who seem to feel everything in ‘overdrive.’

Supporting these families begins with a two-step approach.  The first is to help parents become more conscious of their own emotions so they can approach solutions from a place of calm and trust. An adult who is dis-regulated cannot authentically help a child in need. Yikes! This means we actually have to work on ourselves. Most parents (and teachers) would rather give advice than look at our own ‘stuff!’ 

The second is for adults to gain the skills that actually help a highly sensitive child feel safe in a world that often becomes ‘too much.’ While building this competency is not hard, it takes willingness and patience because it is a process— like learning how to become a fine artist. It can be tricky and messy…  and worth every imperfect moment!

From the time they are little, highly sensitive children have reactions to life that are bigger, more intense and different from other kids. As a result, their parents are challenged not only by the behavior but also by their own fears and frustration. Since these kids often are energy readers they pick up on their parent’s emotions that translate into, ‘Something is wrong with me.’

One way of helping a parent is to share stories of highly sensitive kids who have matured into happy, successful adults. Of course, the way happiness and success are defined vary. Parents must be gently led to give up any pre-determined image of how their child ‘should look’ in the world because HSC tend to avoid group activities, team sports, and many social events that would be a natural ‘high’ for social butterflies.  When a parent dreams about their child scoring a touchdown, getting excited about prom or applying to a top University and their child has no interest in these things, the adult has to face their ego, their dreams and their disappointments that are wrapped up in the way their child shows up in the world. 

This is not easy to do. I know. I am the parent of a highly sensitive person.  I remember feeling powerless when my daughter came home from school or a friend’s house, crying because something was ‘unfair’ or ‘unkind.’ The injustices of the world felt enormous to her and I wished I could wave a magic wand and take away her pain.

When I now speak with parents of highly sensitive kids I share the wisdom that comes with experience and perspective. I believe that these children have come to teach and to challenge us. They hold up a mirror to their parents and teachers, forcing us to re-evaluate core beliefs about emotions, the way we connect with each other and the importance we place on competition, achievement and outer rather than inner resilience.

I urge parents and teachers to reach out and get support in understanding how to set up homes and schools that respect high sensitivity.  We can avoid the layers of anxiety and depression that these kids experience in later years by offering knowledgeable support as early as possible. Our goal is to help both the parents and children thrive.

You can learn more about supporting your highly sensitive child at www.sensitiveparenting.com