Highly sensitive children are at risk of internalizing a lasting and highly damaging sense of shame – a sense that they’re somehow “lacking” compared to more outgoing siblings and peers. Parents and other significant adults in their lives need to do all they can to prevent this unwarranted sense of shame from taking root.
If you have a highly sensitive child, the following points are likely just reminders for you. However, they may be helpful for others who are important to your child too.
Value your child
A highly sensitive child’s experience of the world may be different from yours, but it is real. He or she is not “faking” tantrums or frustration to get attention or manipulate you. Your child can’t adapt to “be like you” and the sooner you can gratefully accept the child you have, the happier you will both be.
Validate your child
All highly sensitive children eventually notice that they are different from other kids. Your child needs to know that you value them and that they are not an oddity. Remind them that many people are like them.
When they face their weaknesses or failings, they need you to counter their self-doubts with a more balanced perspective. Bringing up a success to match a failure is important for wiring your child’s brain for self-esteem. Remind them of their unusual strengths in another area.
Protect your child
To build confidence in a new situation, your highly sensitive child will need to take smaller steps than other children, with lots of encouragement from you. It’s extremely important not to force your child to go beyond what they’re comfortable with. Pushing this child to help them “get over their fear” will backfire terribly. Certainly, don’t let others pressure your child to do something he or she is not ready to do.
Accept that a slower pace means peace
Highly sensitive kids thrive on predictability and routine, and they need much more down time in their schedule than “regular” kids. Any intense experience should be balanced by a quiet, restful “retreat” that allows them to regroup emotionally.
When discipline is called for, always remember that even a stern talking to can be crushing to these kids. Generally, they’re harsh self-critics, quick to condemn themselves as “bad” or “useless” when they mess up. It’s a good idea to conclude discipline with a reminder that everyone makes mistakes.
Don’t fret about all the “fun things” your child seems to be missing out on, advises Aron. Your child doesn’t have to live the same childhood that you did. He or she has their own ideas about what is “fun.” Stay positive, be proud of your child and predict a great future for them, and you’ll help your child stay positive too.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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