Why Movies and Television Shows Affect a Highly Sensitive Child

Finding appropriate movies or TV shows to let a highly sensitive child (HSC) watch is a common problem for parents of HSCs. Often a HSC will find a movie too frightening or emotional to be able to enjoy it, resulting in tears and a half watched show. There’s a reason why.

Why Movies and Television Shows Affect a Highly Sensitive ChildFilms & TV Shows Are a Common Problem for HSCs

If I had a euro for every time I had to cut short a TV program or a film over the years whilst my three sons were watching I would have a bulging purse.

It actually took us a while as parents to understand the triggers and what could be watched, and which type of films we needed to avoid.

Even films that are rated as suitable for all ages often left one of my sons emotionally overwhelmed or frightened or upset. Without pre-wacthing a show it is hard to know whether all three of my kids will get through to the end unscathed.

It’s one of the reasons taking a HSC to the cinema is a minefield.

Why are Some Films & TV Programs an Issue for HSCs?

HSCs feel and process stimuli intensely, and notice the details. They are little sponges, soaking up the emotions they feel around them.

When they see violence on the television they really feel it, visualise it happening to them or a loved one and imagine the repercussions.

If they see an emotional farewell on a TV show they feel those emotions, put themselves in the character’s shoes. They feel the sadness of that departure and imagine what it would feel like if it was their parent or friend leaving.

An advert for a charity or the news can also have a deep impact on a HSC as they battle internally with the issues in the world.

I’m a highly sensitive person and it took me years to accept my own viewing limitations. I keep news programs and documentaries to a minimum and will no longer watch horror films. Films and shows often make me cry. It’s something that never totally fades away.

How Do TV Shows or Movies Affect a HSC?

A reaction can be immediate and clear: crying, panic, obvious fear and asking for the TV to be turned off or requesting to leave the cinema.

It can be less obvious with silent tears or an emotional withdrawal.

The affect can also be physical due to intense emotions, such as a headache, tummy ache or insomnia.

A reaction may be delayed until it is time to switch off the lights and go to sleep. A reaction may out itself in a nightmare during the night.

A HSC can end up feeling like something bad has actually happened to them after watching a fictitious show or film. Viewing can cause a (temporary) emotional dip. On a positive note, a show can move a HSC to take action for a cause.

How to Choose Appropriate Programs for a HSC

After a few ill-chosen programs it will become clear what your HSC struggles with – characters being bullied, characters dying, farewells, violent scenes, monsters, fights, scenes taking place in the dark, noisy scenes. The list goes on. Take notes.

You’ll get to understand that even if a film is officially rated as appropriate for your child it doesn’t mean it is in reality.

Read parental guides before you let your child watch something. Common Sense Media is a good place to start.

Ask in fora for parents for highly sensitive children whether others have seen a film.

Stick to programs you know are safe. Find more of the same.

One of our issues is the age difference in our children and my youngest is often taken off to do something else with one of us whilst his brothers watch something we know will impact him when it comes to bedtime…..

Don’t forget to adjust your child’s viewing boundaries as they get older. A year makes all the difference and a HSC can handle much more as they get older. Each child is different with different sensitivities which change with age.

Tip: Check out this list of films and programs that have been HSK community compiled and approved!

Final Words

TV viewing is such a common discussion point in the HSK community and I have collated all the recommendations for shows and films given by parents of HSCs. A list will go live on the blog soon!


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, The Why and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why Movies and Television Shows Affect a Highly Sensitive Child

  1. Pingback: 12 Movie Night Hacks for Sensitive Kids - Mama Go Slow

    • Thank you for linking to the Happy Sensitive Kids blog. ET didn’t go well for us first time around either! I remember it being the first movie I saw at the cinema and feeling upset at the end.

      These are great tips!


  2. Pingback: Movies & TV Shows for Highly Sensitive Children – Parent & Kid Approved | Happy Sensitive Kids

  3. Pingback: Electronic Devices and the Highly Sensitive Child | Happy Sensitive Kids

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