Dr. Elaine Aron writes about the highly sensitive temperament type, and her work has greatly influenced mine. I teach parents how to understand children who need extra support in various environments. This is the first of my 3-part blog series about the highly sensitive child and how you can support him/her.
There’s a difference between having a child who worries a lot, and one that is highly sensitive.
- Highly sensitive children often experience anxiety and sensory overwhelm. They don’t just worry about a new situation, they also experience the environment to be too loud, too hot, too crowded, their clothes too scratchy, or the fruit too juicy bursting in their mouth.
- A highly sensitive child seems more attuned to the tone of the environment. If a swim instructor speaks to them in a harsh tone, they may not be able to push through this to be excited about the pool and learning how to swim. An anxious child with the same experience can pick up on your happiness about the experience. They can usually ignore the grumpy instructor with encouragement and support.
- Highly sensitive children experience shame after their meltdowns that may lead to another meltdown. This is different than a child who experiences regret for their actions after a tantrum. Highly sensitive children tell themselves they are a bad kid, and often hide these feelings in order to please adults. You will notice this difference when you review with a child what they did wrong if they misbehave. This discussion can often lead to another meltdown.
- Highly sensitive children are perceptive. They notice when others are worried or upset, and usually will work to decrease this person’s unhappiness. This makes them kind, compassionate souls.
- Highly sensitive children are inquisitive. They ask clever, curious questions that you would not think would be something a child of their age would wonder about. Think of your little worrier and how elaborate her worries can get. When highly sensitive children worry to the extent that it interferes with their ability to participate in their daily activities, it may be time to seek professional guidance.
There is nothing wrong with children who have great worries and sensitivities.
Their brains process information differently. They (and their parents) sometimes need support to further understand how to navigate the world while honoring these superpowers. If you would like more information about the highly sensitive child, and to take a quiz to further help you determine whether your child fits this personality type, visit Dr. Aron’s page here.
Next week I will be posting about how highly sensitive children experience their world. This will help us further understand their sensitivities.
Is there something you’d like to know about the highly sensitive child? Let me know in the comments!