4 Tips For Helping Highly Sensitive Children

Children with high sensitivity have very special qualities, but they also have to face some challenges in which parental support is essential. We'll provide some tips for helping highly sensitive children.
4 Tips For Helping Highly Sensitive Children

Last update: 25 July, 2021

We tend to think of children as restless, noisy, active beings who enjoy bright, stimulating environments. However, not all children are the same. For children with a high level of sensitivity, these environments can be overwhelming. In this article, we’ll offer some tips for helping highly sensitive children.

About 20 percent of the population has the condition of high sensitivity, which affects both adults and children–both boys and girls alike. However, since they’re the minority, these people can feel very misunderstood.

High sensitivity is a hereditary and innate trait that’s due to a greater development of the neurosensorial system. For this reason, it’s very common for highly sensitive children to have at least one parent with the same characteristics. Understanding the needs of these children and helping them to take advantage of their abilities is essential for their well-being.

The main characteristics of a highly sensitive child

A mother crouching down to talk to her toddler daughter, who looks upset.

It’s not always easy to spot a highly sensitive child. Sometimes their reactions are mistaken for misbehavior or certain psychological disorders. For this reason, here are the main characteristics to keep in mind in order to recognize them:

  • These children are sensitive and empathic, easily detect other people’s emotions, and experience emotional states of great intensity.
  • They can feel overwhelmed in very stimulating environments (with excessive artificial light, crowds, and bustle). For the same reason, they tend to enjoy time alone and more relaxed activities.
  • They’re perfectionists and demanding, very sensitive to criticism, and easily frustrated.
  • Their skin can be hypersensitive, so they may be intolerant to certain fabrics and clothing labels.

Helping highly sensitive children

Parental guidance and support are essential for highly sensitive children. These adults must help them to understand themselves and manage their sensitivity in an appropriate way. To achieve this, the following guidelines are important:

Understanding

Highly sensitive children are in the minority and, as a result, their way of seeing and understanding the world can sometimes be hard for others to understand. Often, they’re labeled as dramatic, theatrical, or exaggerated, or their condition is perceived as a disorder to be solved. However, this personality trait’s completely valid. Therefore, the first step is to make an effort to understand the child’s perception, accept it, and validate their feelings, rather than ridicule them.

Helping highly sensitive children: emotional intelligence

Education in emotional intelligence is essential for all children, but especially for highly sensitive children. They need to learn to identify their emotions, name them, and deal with them so that they don’t suffer unnecessarily. But in order to teach your child in this regard, you first need to know how to recognize and manage your own emotions and theirs.

In particular, be careful when correcting your child if they’re highly sensitive, as these children are already very critical and demanding of themselves. Therefore, your comments can affect their self-esteem if you don’t express them in an assertive way.

Controlling stimuli and environments for helping highly sensitive children

The objective isn’t to “fix” the highly sensitive child and make them adapt to the way everyone else is, but to respect their traits and characteristics. So, if you detect that your child is overwhelmed by certain spaces, such as shopping malls, try to stay for as little time as possible and accompany them to do more outdoor activities.

At the same time, if they feel more comfortable in quiet tasks or spending time alone, allow them those spaces. Not all children have to play soccer or do gymnastics; perhaps art or yoga are more appealing and beneficial to them.

A little boy performing yoga exercises.

Relaxation techniques

These children may feel anxious or overwhelmed in the face of emotional intensity, so it can be very helpful for them to know some simple techniques to regulate their arousal. Deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness can be useful alternatives.

The advantages of the highly sensitive child

Finally, it’s important to remember that high sensitivity isn’t a disadvantage. It’s true that, at certain times, it can be difficult for the child to handle, but it also brings very special and advantageous qualities as well. These infants are creative, imaginative, deep, reflective, and empathetic. And this can bring them benefits on a personal and social level. So, why not recognize and enhance these strengths? This will also help to reinforce the child’s self-esteem and self-image.

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  • Acevedo, B. P., Aron, E. N., Aron, A., Sangster, M. D., Collins, N., & Brown, L. L. (2014). The highly sensitive brain: an fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others’ emotions. Brain and behavior4(4), 580-594.
  • de Beijl, K. Z. (2019). Niños con alta sensibilidad: Cómo entenderlos y ayudarlos a transformar sus diferencias en fortalezas. La Esfera de los Libros.