Being highly sensitive impacts how you parent. Some traits of highly sensitive parents influence how you parent more than others. For each parent it is different, but here are ten traits of highly sensitive parents you should be aware of. Consider the role each one plays for you personally as a parent.
1. Need for Downtime
Highly sensitive parents find parenting more draining than other parents. You need to put in more effort to do the same job. What seems simple to other parents is overstimulating for a highly sensitive parent.
How many of you have flipped out whilst trying to complete a task (such as cooking dinner, talking on the telephone, constructing an email response to school) when your child interrupts you to ask a question? When your bucket is brimming, simple parenting tasks become too much. Overwhelm makes your parenting job much harder.
You need to build in downtime to your day, preferably whilst teaching your child to follow suit at the same time. Building bucket time in to your day for everyone is not a luxury, it’s a necessity if you are to parent the way you want to.
2. The Role of Intuition
You may find that your solution or decision regarding a parenting matter comes from a gut feeling. Often, you are not sure why you feel the way you do, you just do.
You may be surprised to learn that your intuition, that gut feeling, isn’t a random feeling at all. It’s actually the result of the meticulous thinking and deep processing that highly sensitive people go through to reach a decision. Many times without even realising it.
Intuition plays an important role for many highly sensitive parents and learning to trust our parenting instinct is a complicated process many of us go through.
As a highly sensitive parent you will likely notice when other parents act in a way that has a negative impact on others. Or when other parents disregard rules for their own benefit.
An example: parents parking in the school zone to drop their kids off, despite being asked multiple times not to do it for safety reasons.
Highly sensitives reflect on an issue, process it and arrive at the conclusion that our actions may have a negative impact on others. So we choose not to do it. There is obviously a positive side to this, but it also causes highly sensitives an issue. Highly sensitive parents are more easily riled up by the inconsiderate actions of others. This stems from a couple of things. Firstly, because they cannot understand why others don’t consider how their actions impact others. Why would anyone want to cause a difficulty or issue for someone else? Secondly, rules are in place for a reason – why would ( in the example above) someone put your child in danger?
It’s a trait that causes negative energy and stress when it comes to looking after your loved ones. Awareness that you have this trait will help you manage the associated feelings.
4. Assessing Risk
This follows on nicely from conscientiousness. Highly sensitives have an automatic ‘stop and look’ reflex before acting. Highly sensitive children have this inbuilt tendency to observe the playground before jumping in and playing. What are the dangers and pitfalls? Can I do that safely? In animals it’s a survival instinct – some of the herd charge, others look and check for danger first and it’s the trait that ensures the survival of (at least some of the) herd.
And so it is with highly sensitive parents when they are looking out for their offspring. Erring on the side of caution is a natural state for many highly sensitives. However, be careful that you don’t become such an overcautious parent that you don’t allow your child to take any risk at all.
Highly sensitive parents are aware of everything that can go wrong. They are deep thinkers and processors. When you overload your mind with all the parenting worries of the world you invite anxiety in. Highly sensitive people are prone to burnout and the new role of parenting can be a tough one to adjust to.
Deep thinking about big issues. Intense stimuli processing. Melancholy. Perfectionism. Conscientious. Strong work ethic. Finding it hard to say no. Soaking up loved ones’ emotions.
All traits that add up and make a HSP prone to unhealthy stress.Warning: Highly Sensitive People Are Prone to Burnout
Parenting is tough for everyone. And highly sensitive parents need that village to help them. Ask for help from those around you and if you think anxiety is playing a large role in your life please seek professional support.
6. Aligned to Your Children’s Feelings
As a highly sensitive person you are more able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And that applies to your children’s too. You can parent with more understanding and empathy. You are more aligned to your children’s feelings. Your children will feel understood, accepted and know where to turn.
7. Noticing the Subtle Details
Highly sensitives notice the details. They see subtle changes. They notice little changes.
This is an excellent trait to have as a parent. It helps you dealing with babies who can’t yet express their feelings and tell you what is wrong. Because you notice the subtle details of your environment it is easier to pinpoint the noise, temperature changes, or activity around you that may be upsetting an infant.
The same trait can also be a plus point when parenting teenagers who can speak but often choose not to……
You may also be aware that you know when your child is getting ill before they display any physical symptoms. You are well aware of subtle changes in their behaviour or reactions. I know exactly when my children are battling a virus before they start coughing and spluttering!
8. Dealing with the Social Demands of Parenthood
You are suddenly the most important advocate for your child. There are the demands of school to contend with. Many highly sensitive children struggle in school and you can find yourself having to be THAT parent. And it doesn’t sit comfortably.
You may find your house full of children and some of them are not yours! There are play dates and birthday parties and consequently lots of interaction with other parents.
There are clubs and activities outside of school. You are suddenly in a host of WhatsApp groups about school activities, football training and matches, ballet classes and recitals or music lessons.
Parenting demands lots of social interaction, particularly when your children are young. If you aren’t comfortable in social situations, then finding tools and coping mechanisms that work for you is vital.
9. Self-Criticism & Perfectionism
Highly sensitive people are their own worse critic. And as one of the traits of highly sensitive parents it is particularly detrimental. Doubting every parenting move you make will be debilitating, if you let it.
You must have faith in your parenting abilities and decisions. You must believe you are parenting as well as possible and that it is enough. If you are meeting your child’s needs (and once you understand your child is highly sensitive that is an easier task) you are doing a great job. Don’t listen to that inner voice as it will lead to anxiety taking over (see number 5).
10. Neglecting Your Own Needs
Unfortunately, one of the negative traits of highly sensitive parents is putting the needs of your family first and neglecting your own needs. Putting your family first is, of course, not in itself a crime. But we have gone full circle to the first point in this list: the need for downtime, the need to look after yourself, the need for self care. It is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. To be able to be the best parent you can, you need to look after yourself.
Traits of Highly Sensitive Parents
There are different highly sensitive traits that help or hinder us in our parenting role. Some traits are certainly positive and will help you immensely as you go through your parenting journey. However, you need to be aware of the negative impact of some other highly sensitive traits. Bear them in mind as you parent.
The most important message I can pass on to you is this: bucket time is vital for you and any other highly sensitive members of your family, just as important as good nutrition, exercise and sleep for your body and mind.
Over to You
Which highly sensitive traits do you think have the most influence on the way you parent?