Despite many highly sensitive children (HSC) trying their best to blend in with the kids around them, many find that fitting in is not always so easy. Finding the balance between feeling authentic but not sticking out is a challenge for highly sensitive children and their parents alike. But a child without balance in their lives may feel unhappy and even ill. How can we help them?
Being highly sensitive is not something that is going away, and thank goodness for that. The positives of being a HSC are enormous, but there are downsides too.
My eldest in preschool was an emotional sponge, taking on the emotions of the children around him. If a new child missed their mother and felt sad, my son felt sad too. If a child fell and hurt themselves my son would have tears in his eyes and would worry about his classmate.
At a certain age he realised that these type of things didn’t seem to bother his friends, only him. He began asking why he reacted so differently.
A HSC needs lots of down time. An eleven year old boy isn’t keen on quiet time and would rather go straight out to play with his friends after school. Frustration kicks in when he realises that he actually does need some time to cool off after school before he can go out and start again. (Yes, that’s my son.) He asks why his friends don’t seem to have a problem going straight out without any a ‘break’.
It’s a fact that children compare themselves to other children. And they ask why they react, behave or think differently. And generally children do not like to stick out. The older they get, the more important this becomes to them.
Help Your HSC Accept That Different is Okay
So it’s important that a young child knows that different is okay. If they understand that actually we are all different in different ways then reacting differently to situations may not seem so unusual to them later. Help them see how we all react and behave differently in the same situation. There’s no right or wrong.
Help your HSC embrace different and help them understand why and how they behave differently, or why their needs are different to a non- HSC. If they already have an attitude of ‘I am who I am’ at a young age it will certainly help later on.
Acceptance of ourselves is a skill that many of us do not learn until later in life. How much easier would it have been for you growing up if you had understood yourself and why you react the way you do to the world around you? That’s a gift we can give to our HSCs whilst they are still young.
If the majority of children around a HSC behave or react in a certain way there will be a tendency for a HSC to withdraw, or not share their thoughts or observations with the others – because of a fear of standing out or being different.
As a parent provide a safe place for your HSC to share all their thoughts and experiences. My children will often out an opinion at home that they didn’t want to share in a group elsewhere because no one else seemed to have that opinion or idea. They don’t want others to think they are ‘strange’.
HSCs are often wiser beyond their years, and have fabulous insight. They are therefore prone to stand out, and consequently feel uncomfortable.
As they get older, they will feel more confident to share more outside of the home if they have grown up with a nurturing safe space. When they learn what they have to offer others around them they will also learn to share it with others.
Help HSCs Understand Themselves
As I mentioned HSC have a tendency to take on the emotions of others around them. If a teacher is off her game, a HSC feels that and it taints the lesson for them, or they worry about their teacher. If a friend is upset a HSC will feel sad. A HSC may come home from school feeling negative and down, without being able to explain why.
Taking on all these emotions is confusing and tiring.
It’s important that a HSC learns to understand which emotion belongs to them, which problem is theirs to solve, and when offering a listening ear is enough. Shaking off the emotions is a skill that every HSC needs to develop to avoid getting bogged down in negative emotions that are not theirs to process.
In other words, help them answer the question: What emotion is mine and which ones have I taken on from someone else?
Finding the balance between behaving so that you feel comfortable in an external environment and being true to yourself is important.
As parents we can help a HSC develop the skills and tools to feel where that balance lies as they develop into adulthood; by understanding that we are all different, that different is okay, that we accept ourselves as we are and learn that the emotions and problems of others are not ours to take on as our own.
Book Tip: Thank Goodness for Different