How to Help a Highly Sensitive Child Who Feels Different

Highly sensitive children typically stand out from other children, even if they don’t want or intend to. By nature they are different, and it is noticeable. The problem is that many highly sensitive children are uncomfortable feeling different.

As the parents of these amazing children it’s important to teach our highly sensitive children (HSCs) that standing out from the crowd takes courage but that being or feeling different is ok. In fact, it’s more than ok.

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Mindfulness and Your Highly Sensitive Child

“The word mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword recently. This is partly because of the rapidly-growing body of research suggesting that practicing mindfulness regularly has physical, as well as psychological benefits,” explains Kate Berger, child and adolescent psychologist.

Mindfulness and Your Highly Sensitive ChildDue to these positive benefits, most children who develop mindfulness skills early on will have an advantage in their later years, as life becomes more complicated. This is especially true of the Highly Sensitive Child (HSC).

What is Mindfulness?

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Parenting Highly Sensitive Children: 10 Cold Hard Facts

Parenting a highly sensitive child is easy. Said no parent ever. The truth is that raising a highly sensitive child (HSC) can be a challenging journey and parents stumble upon issues that parents of non-highly sensitives do not face.

Parenting Highly Sensitive Children: 10 Cold Hard FactsLike these ten things.

  1. You’ll question yourself many times over – is highly sensitive really a thing or did I invent it to make sense of my child?
  2. You’ll blame yourself – is my child so sensitive because of me? Did I make my child sensitive with my parenting style?
  3. You’ll become an excellent planner. You’ll plan, plan and then plan some more to help your child avoid feeling constantly overstimulated.
  4. You’ll be in and out of your child’s classroom and school principal’s office. The school counsellor’s office will feel like a second home.
  5. Your friends and family will judge you and you will tire of explaining your child’s personality.
  6. You are your child’s best, and often only, advocate.
  7. You’ll always need to build in a get out clause when you say yes to events or activities.
  8. Your child’s teacher will believe your HSC is a model pupil and will be remarkably surprised to learn about the fiery meltdowns at home after a busy school day.
  9. Your HSC needs lots of downtime, but what they want and what they need do not always match. You will learn to pick your battles carefully.
  10. Your HSC will, more often than not, focus on the negatives and you will spend a lot of time trying to bring the positives into focus.

One thing you should know is that you are not alone in this parenting journey. You should also know that there are so many amazing aspects to raising highly sensitive children – and it does get easier the more you know, the more you accept and the more you show your child know that they have your unconditional love.


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Reducing Noise in Sports Halls to Help a Highly Sensitive Child

Sports halls are large spaces where noise reverberates and activity is everywhere you look. There is equipment stashed away in all corners and so much to see. And gym halls have their own unique sense of smells too. It’s sensory overload for a highly sensitive child.

Reducing Noise in Sports Halls to Help a Highly Sensitive ChildOverstimulation On Gym Days

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How Emotionally Honest Should You Be With a Highly Sensitive Child?

How do you feel when someone tells you they are fine but you see signs they have been crying? What message do you take away watching someone say they are happy with a decision whilst their facial expressions tell you something different? It’s confusing right? This is often the reality of life as a highly sensitive person (HSP).

For a HSP it’s almost a full-time job to decipher the mixed messages that come in.

How Emotionally Honest Should You Be With a Highly Sensitive Child?High Awareness of Emotions

Highly sensitive people are, generally, clued up on emotions around them. They can sense a negative atmosphere in a room and are able to pick up subtle unconscious social cues. They are adept at reading facial expressions and body language.They are empathic and intuitive.

In fact, a HSP can be aware of how someone is feeling before that person realises it themselves.

It’s difficult having that kind of information, being aware of listening to words that don’t match the real feelings of a person. It’s even harder for a highly sensitive child (HSC) to deal with and make sense of.

Think about these situations through the eyes of a HSC:

  • A mother insists she is not cross about something but a HSC sees in their mother’s eyes that she is. The child senses that she is trying to contain her anger for the child’s sake. The words do not match the message that the child can read on their mother’s face. What should the HSC believe – what they sense and see or what they are told?
  • Two people have been exchanging cross words before a HSC enters a room, but a cease fire has been called because the child walks in. What does the child feel? Uncomfortable and awkward for sure.
  • A teacher is behaving a little differently and talking to her class in a clipped tone. A HSC senses that all is not well with their teacher and carries this around with them.

Why Are Highly Sensitives So Emotionally Intuitive?

It’s not voodoo or psychic abilities. It’s much simpler than that; highly sensitive people notice the details, and then process those details deeply. So facial expressions, crossed arms, shrugs of shoulders, the slight wince, the tone that isn’t quite right – these are all things a HSP notices and then processes to determine the meaning.

But it can create problems.

The Down Side

Besides from being confusing it can evoke trust issues. It can shake a child’s confidence.

It can make a HSC self-concious and earn them a shy label. Their line of thinking can be that if they are able to notice so much and ‘read’ emotions surely that means that everyone else is also watching them intensely and noticing everything about them – including the mistakes they make! Worrying about what others think of you and what you do is a hallmark of a HSP.

This skill of reading emotions can mean that a HSC chooses not to be wholly open and honest about what they want or need in order to spare the feelings of others, or not disappoint someone.

It’s why it’s important to find the balance between overloading your HSC with your own emotions and issues, whilst at the same time remaining honest and open with your child so that they know they can trust you implicitly.

A HSC is prone to taking someone else’s problems on their shoulders and, as parents, we need to be careful to protect them from that. We need to stop them taking on someone’s problems as if they are their own. But we also need to ensure that our HSCs are raised in the real world with the tools to deal with real emotions and genuine problems.

How do we do that?

How to Help Your Highly Sensitive Child

It’s not always easy. And we have to find our own way through. Discover what works for your child. What works for your family.

If you are a HSP then you are likely to share the same ability to pick up on the emotions of others. You can use that to your advantage and share your observations with your HSC so they do not feel like they are the only one who noticed, for example, the sadness of a family member, or the ‘hidden’ anger of a friend. You could talk about ways to help. You can reassure.

You could choose to share some information, but not all.

When I saw the media reports of the washed up body of Alan Kurdi I sobbed. My children were home and when they came into the room they were immediately concerned about why I was upset. We talked about refugees. We talked about why they were fleeing war torn countries. We talked about what they were trying to do and the danger they faced trying to get to safety. I told them that some refugees, even children, were losing their lives. I didn’t show pictures. I didn’t go into the specifics. And they chose to take action to help local refugee families.

We found a balance, a manner of explaining my emotion, without sentencing them to the depths of despair. Something positive even came out of the conversation. (This is the beautiful positive side of raising HSCs – the desire to help, to make the world a better place).

If you hide things from your HSC, they, in general, will know. Intuition will tell them that something isn’t right with the picture you are painting. However, sharing all your problems (or allowing those around you to do the same) with your HSC is overwhelming for them. As parents, we need to find a middle road through the two extremes…..

Over to You: How emotionally honest are you with your HSC? Is your HSC able to read the unspoken emotions of others? What helps prevent your HSC becoming overloaded with the emotions of others?




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Raising Children to See the World Beyond Our Doorstep 

It can be a challenge parenting a highly sensitive child (HSC), but many elements of raising HSCs are definitely worth celebrating.

Our HSCs notice the details and see the world around them; I mean really see the world around them. They notice when there is injustice, they see the differences, and they are well aware of the wrongs – and better still they want to right them.

These HSCs are the children who are destined to be adults that will make a difference in the world.

These HSCs are beacons of light in a world that badly needs them, the sensitives.

After all, there’s a reason 20% of the population is highly sensitive……right?

This is the topic of my latest article on Mamalode: Raising Children to See the World Beyond Our Doorstep. I would love to hear what you think – does it resonate?

Celebrate your highly sensitive child.

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Highly Sensitive Children are Masters at Magnifying the Negatives 

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.

Highly Sensitive Children are Masters at Magnifying the Negatives 

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.

Highly Sensitive Children are Masters at Magnifying the Negatives 

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