21 Ways to Recognise a Highly Sensitive Child

One of the most common questions in the Happy Sensitive Kids (HSK) community is a fundamental one – how do I know if my child is highly sensitive? There’s no definitive checklist or sign that will give you absolute confirmation but there are traits and behaviours that many parents of highly sensitive children will identify with. If you recognise any of these 21 behaviours in your child you MAY be raising a highly sensitive child.

  1. Your child often puts their hands over their ears to block out loud or uncomfortable noises like sirens, alarms or DIY sounds.
  2. Your child hides behind your legs or is clingy in unknown places, with unknown faces or in busy places.
  3. Your child is sensitive and highly reactive to pain.
  4. Your child is the one retreating to a quiet corner at a birthday party.
  5. You face inexplicable meltdowns after a school day.
  6. Your child takes time to warm up when in the company of others – even people they know well.
  7. Your child has great difficulty getting to sleep at night and in all likelihood has probably never been the best of night time sleepers, even as a baby.
  8. Your child is irritated by clothes tags, sock seams or ‘scratchy’ clothes.
  9. Your child notices the details: if you move something in your front room, your child knows it. If you change your perfume, your child remarks on it.
  10. Your child cries when another child cries – or is visibly upset.They notice another person’s discomfort or feelings.
  11. Your child seems to prefer quiet games and enjoys their own company.
  12. Your child is a picky eater and finds some textures and strong flavours unpalatable.
  13. A busy playground is not attractive to your child. Your child observes whilst other children tear around from the slide to the swing to the climbing frame and back again. Your child is the cautious one – assessing the situation thoroughly before jumping or climbing.
  14. Your child startles if you raise your voice at him.
  15. Your child has a strong sense of smell.
  16. Teachers have told you that your child is shy, quiet or sensitive.
  17. Grandparents tell you your child seems wise beyond her years.
  18. Your child has a perfectionist tendency.
  19. Your child is not keen to perform in front of strangers. They don’t do as well in tests given my strangers as they do in the company of familiar faces.
  20. Your child is immensely curious, constantly asking deep questions that you may not have the answer to.
  21. Your child displays immense emotion. sometimes such deep emotion you just don’t get it.

21 Ways to Recognise a Highly Sensitive ChildGiven time this list could probably extend towards the hundred but I’ll stop there. These  traits or behaviours are all things I can relate to raising my three highly sensitive children. They are behaviours and experiences that come up time and time again in the HSK community. They are indicators and not absolutes.

If you think your child might be highly sensitive then head over to Elaine Aron’s site and do the Highly Sensitive Child test. As she states, it could be that you can answer only one question positively, but that that positive answer is so true it indicates your child is highly sensitive.

The more you understand the traits of a highly sensitive child, the more you can support your child and help give them the tools to thrive in a world that generally overwhelms them. And once you are certain your child is highly sensitive – then what?


About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
This entry was posted in The What and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 21 Ways to Recognise a Highly Sensitive Child

  1. Hope says:

    Do you find that meditation helps your children?
    Do you teach them that wherever they are,
    They are always to listen to their intuition to stay safe?


  2. jenjabbour says:

    I’m just today learning about the HSP child. After reading several articles, I’m about 99.9% sure my almost 8 year daughter is highly sensitive. I used to believe she was high-needs – as a baby, she went from happy to screaming in an instant, she did not sleep well at night, has always been a light sleeper, was always more quiet/reserved/observant. I always have described her as very shy, very emotional, a drama queen, extremely sensitive, feelings hurt easily, a perfectionist. Her emotions flip on a dime. One minutes she’s happy and the next she is a mess. I have been at my wits end with her emotions lately and am literally pulling my hair out trying to figure out what to do with out damaging her! I love her dearly, but I’m so frustrated because I don’t know what to do for her. She constantly tells me she has no friends, she is always fighting with her brother, if I raise my voice or talk sternly to her, she accuses me of yelling and being mean. I’m going to read every last article on your site. I’m looking into the book by Elaine Aron, but am hoping to start making some positive changes to how I deal with her asap.


  3. jenjabbour says:

    Oh and she is highly creative. When she was 4 and had had a very hard day at preschool (another little girl had been mean to her), the one thing that made all her sadness wash away was sitting at the table and coloring. I’ve actually never forgotten that about her – as I’m very much like her and know that for me to make it in this life, I need lots of “me” time and “creative” time. So maybe I’m highly sensitive as well…


  4. abby says:

    hi just some advise or input my son has just turned three but has been assessed with …global development delay his development is at 18months old, has sensory processing disorder, visual spacial awareness, no sense of danger and medium risk for autism …he has made jerking moments and if you invade his space or try to restrict like hold him he gets jerky and hands are all over the place grits and grinds his teeth and screeches ..he also screams and cries when another kid does ..also gets upset at something anything and i dont know what it is such as this morning he cried when he watched a cartoon he has never watched ( peter rabbit ) and there was a hose flying about …he had a full on screaming petrified moment shaking all sorts and i think it upset him was scary for him it seemed …dont know what it relates to….??


    • Thanks for reaching out. I would certainly keep seeking professional guidance to ascertain how to help your son and assess his triggers. Do you have the professional help you need to guide you?


  5. Pingback: 25 Things to Share With Your Highly Sensitive Child’s Teacher | Happy Sensitive Kids

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