Your sensitive child is the helper on the playground. Your sensitive child is the first one to notice when other people cry. She is kindhearted. He is considerate. They go out of their way to make sure everyone is happy. They look for your approval, their teacher’s approval.
Their heart is big. Their armor is small.
They are crushed when people are mean to them. They are confused when others go out of their way to be cruel. They are devastated when they think they have disappointed anyone.
The same wonderful qualities that make your child kindhearted are crushing your child’s spirit and optimism.
How do you raise a sensitive child to survive the harsh world around them? To handle the cruelness of other kids – the harsh tones parents and teachers sometimes deliver?
I have worked with some of the most giving, loving and caring children in my practice. Their hearts are wide open. So wide open that they come wounded into my office – from a world that isn’t as kind as them.
Unfortunately the world isn’t changing anytime soon.
BUT YOU CAN TEACH YOUR SENSITIVE CHILD…
Just like athletic skills or academic skills – emotional intelligence is not evenly distributed among children (or adults for that matter). Some people lack the ability to empathize. Sometimes this can turn into callousness and sometimes it can turn into something far worse.
Highly sensitive children do not get this at first. It is a harsh lesson that they start to learn as they go through school. At first there may be wonder and concern about why another child would be mean to them. I explain it to kids this way:
Unfortunately there will always be a sprinkle of mean kids in your classes. This world is full of really thoughtful, kindhearted people and a sprinkle of mean spirited people. Some kids like to be cruel. You can be the nicest person on this planet – but some mean spirited kids are still going to find it fun to be cruel to you.
The good news is kindhearted people outnumber the mean-hearted people. So for the three or four mean kids you might encounter each school year – they’ll be just as many kindhearted people silently wishing you the best.
NOT TO BE A TARGET
Teach your sensitive child how to avoid being a target. Their natural personality doesn’t come with any armor – which makes them very vulnerable. Bullies look for big reactions. Unfortunately a sensitive child often has a hard time containing their sadness. They also don’t typically fight back.
They will need to develop skills to handle these situations – as their natural instincts aren’t going to help. For some tips on how to help your sensitive child with bullies click here.
TO ASK – IS IT ABOUT ME?
The sensitive child often thinks things are directed at them – even when the situation has nothing to do with them. When the teacher is scolded the class – they are being personally attacked. When the teacher is disciplining the child sitting next to them – they are being disciplined. Help your child reassess the situation. Teach them to look at whose behavior the teacher is addressing.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TONE AND A SHOUT
I hear parents say over and over again, “She thinks I am yelling at her – when I’m just using a firm tone.” When you are stern they think you are shouting. When you redirect them they think you are scolding them. This can get frustrating and tiring.
A sensitive child isn’t crazy – they are just emotionally more open and sensitive. Some even have sensory issues. That being said – their experiences are magnified – and that unfortunately includes your tone.
Play fun games to help them learn the difference between firmness and yelling. You can play a guessing game called “Being Firm or Yelling” and get them to guess which one it is. Although this will seem obvious in the moment – it will help your sensitive child generalize the difference.
TO AVOID WATCHING UPSETTING TV AND VIDEO GAMES
Usually the sensitive child has a wonderful memory. They archive everything you’ve ever said to them along with every negative experience. Some of us can watch a disturbing TV show or play a violent video game without any residual effect. A sensitive child often has an unusually good visual memory. I often hear sensitive children complain to me that they just can’t get the scary or upsetting image “out of their head.”
Teach your sensitive child how their brain files away upsetting material for later. Teach them how their brain doesn’t have a separate file for fantasy or fiction. Their subconscious brain is filing all that they see in one ever growing disturbing file. A file that will be reviewed late at night or when a similar situation pops up.
Once your child understands the impact those disturbing images have on their brain – they will begin to be more careful about what they watch. In the meanwhile, you might have to do that for them.
Sensitive children are the most beautiful and considerate children I have ever met. They fill my office with love and understanding. If you can teach your sensitive child how to overcome some of the above obstacles –they will blossom bigger than the rest of us!
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