Has your highly sensitive child (HSC) ever uttered “This is the worst day of my life – EVER!”? And it seems like they actually make that statement regularly? Your child is not the only one. When things feel bad for a HSC they feel really really bad.
HSCs are masters at magnifying the negatives. Parenting a highly sensitive child (HSC) can feel a little like hanging out with a child with a powerful magnifying glass – one little incident is made so big – and can seemingly make or break a HSC’s day.
So, how can you help your child when negativity takes over? As parents, it is vital to highlight the positives. We need to help our children turn it around and focus on the good in their day.
Help Your Child Identify the Source of their Negative Feeling
Encourage your child to talk about their feelings. Ask open ended questions. Listen actively. Sum up what you hear. Help your child get to the core of how they are feeling. Then you can get to the why.
By getting them to talk about what is niggling at them you can help them identify exactly what they feel (see below). That cloudy feeling of ‘something is wrong’ becomes more specific and a child can move on and begin to process whatever it is that has happened.
With your help older children will be able to reach the conclusion themselves that their day (or an incident) wasn’t actually as bad as they instinctively thought. They will be able to identify the source of their negative feeling and deal with it.
So firstly help them identify the source of their negative feeling.
Talk About and Identify Emotions
Once you have been able to determine the source of a negative feeling you can help your child to identify the emotion attached to that incident.
Emotions are unconscious reactions to a situation or thoughts (which highly sensitive people have a lot of) and we don’t have control over our emotions (only how we display them).
These emotions translate into our feelings, which are conscious displays. Helping a child learn how to express their emotions and let you know what they are feeling from a young age will help as they grow older.
Often a child has a feeling that everything is awful. Once you pinpoint the source of a negative feeling it may be clear that your HSC feels embarrassed about an incident in school. They may be angry with themselves for not studying hard enough for a test. They may be scared about something they saw happen on the school playground. They may feel guilty because of the manner in which a teacher dealt with an incident. It could be worry because a friend hurt herself.
One you know what a child feels, and why you can help them to process the incident, file it away as a learning experience, or find a solution.
Help them identify the emotion attached to the negative feeling.
Consider What Role Tiredness is Playing
Be aware that a HSC that is tired, overstimulated or overaroused (in other words a HSC that is carrying around a full bucket) is more likely to experience stronger emotional reactions to situations – especially negative reactions.
We’ve experienced this first hand in our home during the last few weeks in the aftermath of birthday celebrations. Luckily my eldest has reached an age where he can realise himself that his tiredness plays a huge role in how he feels about his day and he can be talked around.
With younger children that is more difficult so keeping an eye out for signs of tiredness and getting them to bed before they fall into a negative circle is a good idea.
If tiredness is playing a big role in your child’s negative feeling then hear them out but suggest you resume talking about it once they have slept a night. The old adage it will all seem better in the morning is often true…..
If you notice that your child is overstimulated try activities that you know calm them before starting up a conversation about why their day has been so ‘bad’.
Listen to the Negatives But Focus on the Positives
Of course you should give your HSC a platform to talk and actively listen to them but if they are looking at an issue through a magnifying glass then turn the discussion around and ask about other things that happened that day – the fun things, things that have made them smile or laugh, the best thing that happened. However you phrase it, turn their mind to something good. Help them realise that their day has not been all bad.
I asked my son to give his week a score out of ten, ten being a fabulous week and one being the pits. He was fed up after his day in school, which he felt hadn’t been great and he said 6.
“But you’ve had your birthday party this week and two playdates! Were they not fun?” I asked.
He paused and thought and suddenly smiled.
“Actually it has been a good week! I give my week an eight,” he said.
A Helpful Tool: Positive Thoughts
One of the things that has worked well with my son is the idea of ‘positive thoughts’. He has two posted on his bedroom wall which he sees when he wakes up. They remind him to think about the day as a new start, a new chance to have a great day, instead of dwelling on the negative things from the day before.
When he’s facing a challenge he now states, “It’s difficult, but I’m going to do it anyway.”
Mindset plays a huge role in how we feel.
TIP: You can download the Happy Sensitive Kids positive thoughts sheet here. Print them out, cut them out, colour them in, laminate them and hang the thoughts that your child can relate to in a prominent place.
Magnify the positives.