By Maureen Healy
Does your daughter pull out all the tags from her shirts? Or perhaps your son prefers quiet play versus loud video games? Maybe you’ve even got a “picky eater” or a child that’s been called fussy. If you are nodding your head by now, you may be raising a highly sensitive child, and I promise that’s a good thing.
Highly sensitive kids are those with keen perception, and highly aware nervous systems that are very responsive to sensory input (for example, smells, sounds, lights and mood).
Succeeding with Sensitivity
Parents, teachers and extended family frequently come to me seeking help with their highly sensitive children. First, I usually explain that sensitive children are like the orchids of children – they are not the marigolds or dandelions. They are more fragile emotionally and need gentle care, so learning how to honor their gentle nature, cultivate their inner strength and steer them towards feeling good is our work.
So where do we begin? Our first step is to cultivate a deeper sense of strength in these children. When they realize within them is a Power greater than anything in their outside world, they are more likely to persevere, progress and find their way in this not-so-sensitive world. Some ways to do this on a daily basis (not sporadically) include: prayer, meditation, affirmations, uplifting music and movement like yoga.
I want to emphasize that nurturing in children a sense of strength and inner confidence isn’t mystical or magical – this is merely a skill to develop in them. My last book, “Growing Happy Kids,” explains how to cultivate inner confidence in children, and how it is the foundation for children’s lasting happiness, especially the sensitive ones.
3 Keys for Success
Cultivating inner strength in our children (and ourselves too) is necessary to live a happier life. So as we keep mindfully nurturing the deeper sense of self-belief and inner confidence in our children, I find there are three additional things sensitive children in particular need to know about their sensitive nature in order to thrive.
1. See Sensitivity as an Asset – Helping kids see their sensitivity as a strength is really important. If you look back over many of the great people throughout time there were many sensitive ones like: Joseph Campbell, Einstein, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of these great people learned how to honor their sensitive nature and bring their unique gifts to the world. Of course, you may not be raising Mother Teresa, but your child certainly has great gifts to give, and we want him or her to stay connected to Source or God, so he or she can fearlessly share their gentle yet powerful talents.
2.Educate Kids Emotionally – Children often feel like their feelings are bigger than them, and succumb to their overwhelming emotions (anger, sadness, or other upset). It is important to help teach children they are in charge, and can make healthy choices when they feel their intense emotions. For example, you can teach Marcus at age four to take deep breaths instead of hitting his sister. Or perhaps your middle school daughter, Melissa, likes to yell when she’s upset – so perhaps you can teach her to take a walk around the block instead of screaming.
3.Celebrate them (and their talents) – Sensitive kids are often highly creative, imaginative and compassionate kids. My neighbor, Amanda, at age eight held a lemonade stand and made $55 in one day (really good lemonade)! She wound up donating this money to the local animal shelter so the bunnies in their care could stay till they found homes. I am just so amazed and delighted at the compassion in action of this eight year old, and really praised her efforts.
Parenting with Love
Sensitive kids kiss you for no reason, and say the sweetest things to you. They may also meltdown in a moment’s notice. So parenting these sensitive yet often challenging children requires a high level of patience and skillful parenting approaches. I also see no greater opportunity to deepen our experience of absolute love than raising a highly sensitive child and being their greatest advocate in this often not-so-sensitive world.
Maureen Healy is a practicing expert with sensitive children and their parents. She also writes a popular blog on Psychology Today, PBS and Beliefnet. Her latest book, “Growing Happy Kids,” can be found wherever books are sold. For more information, visit her Web site at www.growinghappykids.com or follow her on Twitter: @mdhealy