The Sensory Processing Sensitivity temperament type (also known as being Highly Sensitive) isn’t just worrying a lot. There’s more to it.
It’s not just getting their feelings hurt easily, or getting overwhelmed at birthday parties. It’s also not the same as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not ADHD. It’s a personality trait that is telling of how your child receives and processes information emotionally, mentally, and physically.
#1 Anxiety and Sensory overwhelm are a major part of the trait. Remember when I said that SPS is telling of how your child receives and processes information? Well, this includes ALL stimuli. Emotional, physical, environmental, etc. For example, If you go somewhere and it’s too hot, too loud, too crowded, and their clothes feel too constrictive, itchy, or uncomfortable, and their lunch has too many flavors… you may want to pay attention to how your child is processing stimuli. Do they melt down? Shutdown? Get overwhelmed?
They are also very inquisitive and ask deep and clever questions. Sometimes, it even seems like your kid is ten years older than they actually are. This gets confusing because even if your five year old sounds like a 10 year old, emotionally, they are still five.
#2 Hyper Awareness of the tone of the environment. Highly Sensitive kids take in every detail of the room the moment they walk in. They notice who the loud talker is, the quiet kid sitting in the corner, how sporadic an activity is, and in that time, an emotional response is forming within their bodies. If they attend boy scouts and the troop leader speaks to the troop in a harsh tone, your HSC may struggle or not even be able to push through the activities. In contrast, an anxious child could ignore the grumpy troop leader and pick up on your joy, carrying on with that encouragement and support.
In addition, HSCs notice when others are worried and upset, and they work to decrease the person’s happiness. It’s ingrained in your kid to have a kind and compassionate soul.
#3 Shame plants its roots in your HSC after a meltdown, which can lead to another meltdown. Highly Sensitive children are more prone to shame, and shame is different than regret. Shame says “I hit my brother because I’m a bad kid,” but regret says “I hit my brother and now I’m in trouble,” When HSCs do wrong, they think they are bad people, a bad child, and try to hide these feelings to please adults. You’ll notice the difference when you go over the wrong behavior with your kid, and how this conversation could lead to another meltdown.
The bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with children with huge worries and sensitivities.
Again, your HSC processes information differently. None of the things mentioned above means that your child is broken.
HSCs and their parents need support to fully understand how to honor their child’s Highly Sensitive trait and navigate the world. If you want to learn more about how to help your child get through their emotional overwhelm and feel confident in sitting through the storm, check out our Parents of Highly Sensitive Children 8-Week Workshop!