Time to Stress v Preparation Time: When to Tell a Highly Sensitive Children

My youngest sat in tears as I told him he had a swimming lesson that evening, one to replace a regular lesson he’d missed one Saturday to celebrate his brother’s birthday. I didn’t give him days of warning this time around because I knew it would cause sleepless nights and stress. So how much notice of an upcoming appointment or event they are not enthusiastic about is enough for a highly sensitive child (HSC)? There’s an art to finding the right balance between providing a HSC with too much time to stress and not enough time to prepare.

Time to Stress v Preparation Time_ When to Tell a Highly Sensitive ChildrenHSCs Need Time to Get Used to an Idea

Springing an event or appointment on a HSC at the last minute will rarely end well. HSCs thrive on routines and need time to adjust to the idea of something that falls outside of their regular activities. They don’t like surprises, and want to know how their day will look so they can prepare – usually visually in their own mind. Continue reading

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Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

When life is busy, particularly as the end of the school year approaches, highly sensitive people often feel overwhelmed. Self care is even more important at these times. Helping our children empty their buckets is vital. Getting out for a walk in nature is an amazingly effective remedy for busy days.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

This is exactly what the five of us did last week one day after school. We headed to the woods and just walked, explored and relaxed. Each of us shook off the demands of the day and went home with an empty bucket. Oh and a collection of rather large sticks…..

We played.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy: Play

The boys ran.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We stopped by the waterside and were amazed by hundreds and hundreds of tiny tadpoles swimming relentlessly around, in different states of development. Some were still incredibly small but some teensy frogs were already hopping around on land. The water’s edge was black with the volume of tadpoles.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We admired the beauty of a passing butterfly who stopped to take a moment to rest on the ground.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We walked and took in the blueness of the sky and the yellowness of the fields.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

We listened to the rustling of the wheat in the field.

Nature is the Best Remedy for Busy

Get out this weekend into all that nature has to offer. Let me know where you went in the comments……

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Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is Okay

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?

Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is OkayFeeling Different

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.

Be There

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?

Final Words

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

Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Accept That Different is Okay

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Movies & TV Shows for Highly Sensitive Children – Parent & Kid Approved

It’s not always easy finding a movie or TV show that doesn’t negatively impact a highly sensitive child. From years of advice passed from parents in the Happy Sensitive Kids Community here’s a list of movies and shows that have passed the highly sensitive kids test.

Please remember that each child is different and reacts differently to scenes in shows and movies – you know your own child best when it comes to suitable viewing material.

Movies & TV Shows for Highly Sensitive Children - Parent & Kid Approved

It is also worth noting that watching a movie in the cinema is a more intense experience for HSCs than watching at home. Here’s more on making it a successful trip to the movie theatre with a HSC: 7 Tips to Make a Highly Sensitive Child’s First Trip to the Cinema a Success.

TV Shows for Younger Children

Kipper the Dog

Clifford the Big Red Dog


Peppa Pig

The Octonauts

Gummie Bears

Little Bear

Go Jetters

Paw Patrol

Thomas the Tank Engine: Mine are now a bit old for Thomas but when they were little Thomas was a huge hit, in particular the films, which were played over and over.

The Magic School Bus - parent approved for highly sensitive children

The Magic School Bus: Emmy award winning educational series

Winnie the Pooh: A loveable classic that is as innocent as it gets on TV, if you accept that Pooh Bear thinks it wise to wear a T-shirt but no pants…….

Story Bots


Puffin Rock

Doc McStuffins

Bob the Builder

Super Wings

Justin Time 

Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs 

Go Diego Go



Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Nature Cats

TV Shows for Older Children

LEGO series: Huge hits with my three sons (ages 6, 8 and 11). The Lego Ninjago series is a particular favourite.

Factual Programs

Sending Mit Der Maus: German series

Checkpoint: Dutch program which my three boys LOVE. There’s lots of crazy experiments and tests done, resulting in lots of explosions and things being blown up. A real hit. Aimed at children 9-12 but my 6 and 8 year old are as immersed in it as their elder brother.

Klokhuis: Dutch program on NPO Zapp explaining why and how on a wide range of topics.

Movies for Children

The Aristocats

Toy Story: Some children may find Sid and his mutilated toys scary in the first Toy Story. I would put a caution warning on Toy Story 3 for younger children. In the Netherlands Toy Story is rated an AL, which means suitable for all ages. However the UK rates as a PG, which means parental guidance is advisable.

Storks: There is peril in this film but there is always a safe ending.

Boss Baby: Recommended for 6 and over, with some potentially scary scenes when one character imagines looming figures. Humour is probably more for older children and is about sibling rivalry.

The Secret Life of Pets: The animals in this movie are in peril. Common sense media states suitable for children 7-10, depending on whether you believe the kids or the parents.

Stuart Little: For kids aged 5 or 6 up, with small amounts of peril (Stuart is a mouse who is regularly chased by a cat).

Yogi Bear

Mary Poppins: An oldie but my goodness a goodie. Still trying to convince my sons to give this classic a go……

The Sound of Music: Watch out in the last ten minutes as some HSCs might find it too much.

Robin Hood (Disney)

My Neighbour Totoro

Sing: Contains characters in peril, but in general a fun, song filled movie for kids aged 6 up. My three have watched this a couple of times – and love the music.

Moomins on the Riviera

Cars: These movies can be loud, there is name calling in the first movie and the action is fast paced. Watch out for car crashes, the part where Lightening gets lost and another scene they are chased by Frank – all potential wobble moments for HSCs. In general though, my kids have loved all three of the Cars movies. Cars 2 is probably best left for older children – there’s a ‘torture’ scene at the beginning for a start and a fair bit of shooting and peril.

The Land Before Time: note that there are some sad scenes, young dinosaurs are chased by predators and natural disasters feature.

Given: This is about a family exploring different cultures.

Inside Out: A movie about big emotions and one that is possibly too complex for really young viewers. Aged 7 or 8 upwards is a good guide.

Movies and TV Shows Parent and Kid Approved for Highly Sensitive Children

Despicable Me Films: Massive hits in our house. The minions are loved and my children often make lots of random minion noises…… 6+ rating but take care with adopted children watching the first movie. The second movie carries a HSC parent warning too – the minion turn into frenzied purple minions, which can be a bit scary for younger children.

Movies for Older Children (12+)

Star Wars: There is a great age by age guide on Common Sense Media for Star Wars fans.

The Hobbit: Rated as PG 13 though Common Sense Media states 11 as an appropriate viewing age. There’s violence and scary scenes so very child dependent.

Men in Black: A movie for tweens, but again violence and scary scenes so you are the best judge if it is something for your 12/13 year old.

Films That We Had to Switch Off and Try Again a Few Years Later…..

For what it’s worth we have had a few mishaps over the years, films we started but had to cut short as they were too scary, too intense, too emotional……. Often as a year or more go by it’s worth trying again. And as I have said more than once in this post: every child is different. One of my sons has found something way too much whilst his younger brother is totally unfazed. It’s a learning process!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: the Grinch freaked my eldest two out the first time we picked this film as the family Christmas movie. A year later they loved it.

The Boxtrolls: we recently watched this and it was enjoyed by all but we did try this previously and switched it off. Lots of scenes set at night, characters in peril, scary looking villains.

Pete’s Dragon (2016 remake version)

Evergreen List – Add Your Suggestions

This list will be continually updated and added to. If you have comments on any of the shows or movies listed here please let me know in the comments. If your HSC loves a movie or TV program that is not listed then get in touch and I will add it. Together we can create the ultimate HSC friendly list!

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Electronic Devices and the Highly Sensitive Child

Electronic devices and their effects on children are a concern for many parents, not just those of highly sensitive children (HSC). As parents we are aware that we are raising children in the digital age. Electronic devices and gaming systems are unavoidable; they are a fact of life. But what impact are electronic devices having on our HSCs? Are they an appropriate tool to help a HSC empty their bucket when they need time out?

Electronic Devices and the Highly Sensitive Child

Does Screen Time Calm Highly Sensitive Children or Fill Their Buckets?

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Highly Sensitive Children Don’t Fit the Mould – And They Shouldn’t Have To

Many highly sensitive children don’t behave like other children and certainly don’t always meet society’s expectations of them. Coming up with creative compromises that play to a highly sensitive child’s (HSC) strengths is a large part of parenting a HSC. And it’s an essential element of raising a child that is happy and confident with who they are.

Highly Sensitive Children Don't Fit the Mould - And They Shouldn't Have ToModern Day Childhood

These days children are under pressure to do as many outside school activities as possible to give them a step up for their future. Children, particularly boys, are expected to enjoy team sports. Continue reading

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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 Child

Films & 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.

Continue reading

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Helping a Highly Sensitive Child Understand Their Emotions

As the parent of a highly sensitive child you are likely used to regular meltdowns and bursts of frustration from your child. You are also likely used to hearing “I don’t know” when you ask what is wrong. Helping a child understand their emotions will help them put their feelings into words, and in turn help them express them in less a dramatic manner.

Helping a Highly Sensitive Child Understand Their EmotionsWhy Children Need Help Recognising Emotions

My two youngest children recently had a student teacher helping out in their class. He taught a few lessons on the topic of emotions, using emoticons to help the children understand their feelings and which emotions belong with certain facial expressions.

Understanding visual cues of emotions is something that we, as adults, almost take for granted – particularly highly sensitive adults who read emotions well. We can recognise then someone feels angry, or worried, or upset or happy. But for children it can be extremely confusing to understand visual signals for different emotions.

At least that is what I came to realise when my 7 year old told me about what he had learned in one of the lessons about emotions. They were shown different emoticons and had to link emotions to each one – and then draw their own. It was insightful not just for my son, but for me too.

My seven year old is a master at uttering “I don’t know” when he is clearly overwhelmed, angry or upset and asked to try and explain what he is feeling.

I had spent a fair bit of time using emoticon cards I had made with my eldest, but I hadn’t done the same with my two youngest. And so that’s now on the agenda.

A HSC and Intense Emotions

A highly sensitive child is often scared or surprised by their own intense reaction to something. My children sometimes react with a fiery anger to a situation that seems decidedly low key or harmless – it is a shocking response to say the least.

If I start scratching below the surface there is a host of emotions at play, battling for top spot: tired, scared, fear of doing something because it seems too difficult, sad, confused, embarrassed, too busy in their head with the day’s events. But all those emotions, especially when they are mixed together, are hard for a young child to identify, label and understand.

Using Emotion Cue Cards

Using cue cards can clarify emotions for a child and help them understand what they are feeling. And that can help a child process their emotions more effectively instead of hitting out, slamming a door or screaming in frustration. They are more able to link how they are feeling to a specific event or series of incidents.

If you are on Pinterest there are a few links on my Highly Sensitive Board to help make your own emotion cue cards.

Naming an Emotion Helps

A common example in our home is when my husband has to go on a business trip. I brace myself for days or weeks that are more stormy than others as far as the emotions of my sons go. There will be inexplicable outbursts and tears where it seems to the boys that nothing goes right – until I suggest that maybe they are missing their papa. The penny drops and they can give their emotion a name and understand why they feel sad. A call or a FaceTime session later with papa and they feel calmer and happier.

Incidentally the film Inside Out is a great movie for discussing emotions.


Final Words

Incidentally, the student teacher said his farewells to the class – and my son made him this:

Help a Highly Sensitive Child understand their Emotions

A job well done by the student teacher wouldn’t you say?

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The Importance of Routines for Highly Sensitive Children

Having a routine in place helps most children cope more easily with day to day life, but for a highly sensitive child (HSC) it is even more important to have familiar routines in place to help them visualise what is coming up and what they need to do.

Why are Routines Important for a Highly Sensitive Child?

Ever notice that your HSC seems to be more overwhelmed than normal by their school days around Christmas?

Have you noticed the impact of an upcoming holiday has on your HSC? Or a birthday, or school trip?

The Importance of Routines for Highly Sensitive ChildrenDo you see a negative reaction from your HSC as they enter their classroom and there’s a replacement teacher standing in front of the class?

Things out of the ordinary routine tend to affect HSCs in a notable and visible way. When life deviates from the routine that they are comfortable with, and expect, it has an impact.

Continue reading

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Village or Town – Which is Best for a Highly Sensitive Child?

A rural village or a busy town? Does it matter where a highly sensitive child (HSC) grows up? It’s important to consider the role their living environment plays in daily life.

It was a question posed in the Happy Sensitive Kids community – do HSCs cope better with village life than living in a big town? Some people are clearly city folk, others prefer a more rural setting. It’s a topic I have personal experience of as I have parented HSCs in both environments.

Moving to a Village

Last summer we moved from a town with a population of around 125,000 to a village of 750 people, give or take a few. We moved from one of the most densely populated provinces of the Netherlands to one of the least. We moved out of a built up area to a rural community.

Has it made a difference for my three HSCs?

In short, yes.

Village or Town - Which is Best for a Highly Sensitive Child?Has it been the miracle answer that made life perfect?

Of course not. Continue reading

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