Friday, January 17, 2014

Ouch! (The Overly Sensitive Child series)

You don't need a quiz to know if you have an overly sensitive child.  If you could identify with the title, you know you have a sensitive child.  Each child has his or her own unique blend of sensitivities; but the overly sensitive child seems to have an exceptional number of little sensitivities, or a few really big ones.  This series will deal with the overly sensitive child and ways that you can help them acclimate to the (insensitive) world around them.

What makes a sensitivity?
A sensitive child might react to their physical environment: loud sounds, strong smells, bright lights, fast movement.  They could be physically sensitive to touch; labels in clothing, textures of jeans, seams in socks are all common triggers.  Dressing the sensitive toddler is a nightmare.  I've had at least one child reject jeans, because of the tight, scratchy feeling makes them uncomfortable.

An emotionally sensitive child will react to your tone of voice, your facial expression, or a general mood.  They may not like change.  They're picky about their friends and teachers.  They take discipline especially hard; a simple "don't do that" can be the start of an hour long pouting session.  As the parent of a sensitive child, you might feel like you are walking on eggshells.  One wrong word, or one misinterpreted word might throw your whole day off course.The Sensitive Child

As a parent of a sensitive child, you've probably heard lots of advice from others, quick to judge.  You wrestle between making them "toughen up" and "grow a thick skin", or hugging them and trying to coddle them out of their corner.  This series aims to put your mind at ease, while giving you a few tools to try at home.

1. Focus on their strengths:
Sensitivity can be a gift!  I've seen my own sensitive child reach out to another suffering human being and touch them with kind words and deeds, and I stand amazed at this little creature.  Your child needs to know that they have this super sensitivity that no one else has, but that they can hone it and use it to make the world a better place.  Show them examples in their own lives that they can relate to.  There is the kid that doesn't seem to be affected by anything.  Ask your child how that kid might respond to different situations.  And then ask your child how they, themselves, might respond to the same situation.  This helps your child to realize that everyone's sensitivities, responses, and thresholds to certain things are different.

Sometimes an emotionally sensitive child will draw into themselves when another's words upset them.  They need to understand that their sensitivities can isolate them from the rest of the world and make them into a miserable person. Their hurt and isolation can, in turn, hurt the people that love them. But there is good news: they can learn to control those sensitivities, and use them to connect with other people. This will bring meaning to their lives and others.  It takes time and patience.  An overly sensitive toddler might sulk for an hour in the corner.  An overly sensitive elementary aged student might make the lives of everyone miserable for a few hours, until they work out their hurt feelings.  They will not be a world-changing personality overnight.  It takes time and lots of little life lessons.  Be there to help direct those life lessons, so that your child can develop and control their sensitivities in a positive way.

Next in this series: Toughen up, kid!
Third and last in the series: Positive Mentoring

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