This article is third in a series about the Sensitive Child. You can read Part I Ouch! (The Overly Sensitive Child), and Part II Toughen Up Kid! at those links.
Find positive mentors for your child:
If you pay attention, you'll notice certain personalities that are at odds with your child and also personalities that have a harmonious affect on your child. With my own child, she pares up well with an organized, stern, but very fun adult. This adult has to be outgoing and enthusiastic, but also needs to bring a natural order to things. If a fun but stern adult with no organization enters the scene, it will lead to hurt feelings and a meltdown. An adult that focuses exclusively on "rules" will also trigger a meltdown. It seems to take a unique character to be this mentor in my child's life. When I find that person, I use that opportunity to reach and mentor my child.
You'll also meet many people that have the opposite affect on your child. Eventually, your child will have to work harmoniously with these personalities in their every day life. Minimize these encounters if you need to, until your child has the right tools necessary to handle it. For us, I purposely hand select teachers and classes at our homeschool co-op. However, I do not have control over the teachers at church. So, we use the situations that arise at church to be our life lessons. We use the hand-selected co-op teachers to be the mentors. As homeschoolers, we have some control over our environment. I can sit with my child in a troublesome class and help her through it, if she requires that. I can talk to the teachers outside of class and come up with a strategy that makes the class go more smoothly for everyone.
Give them tools to handle their strong feelings.
Anticipate triggers and plan ahead with your child. It might mean "role play", or simply talking about a possible situation. What happens if the boy next to you at church slugs your arm and calls you a moron? How should you handle it? What if your co-op teacher tells you to stop talking and you think she is being unfair? How should you respond? Work through possible issues before they arise so that your child is comfortable (and desensitized!) to the idea, and doesn't run solely on emotional response.
Discipline lightly, as necessary. Don't overdo it. An emotionally insensitive child won't care that you don't him in a loud, mean voice to stop picking his nose. The emotionally sensitive child, however, will pick up on your tone of voice and think they are the worst most rotten child. The sensitive child will need less intensity and will actually feed more into it than is actually there. A softer voice and fair consequences, followed by a reminder that they are loved but certain behaviors cannot be allowed...this is enough discipline for the sensitive child.
Lastly, it's ok to make mistakes, lose your cool, or need a time-out, yourself!
You are modeling, modeling, modeling for your child. What happens when your child's special set of quirks just sets you off one day like a 4th of July fireworks display? It happens. Do what you need to cool down and readjust to the situation. Don't be afraid to share these things with your child. They need to know that you're not perfect. Apologize when you goof up. Hug, cry, live...it's life, and you are prone to the human condition like anyone else. Also, if your child can see how you handle upset, anger, frustration, it can be a positive lesson in what to do (or what not to do). "I flew off the handle and yelled, but what I should have done was..." or, "I'm feeling really angry and frustrated right now and just need some time alone." If you are a Christian, praying together can also be a wonderful way to bring a negative situation around into a positive one. Praying for help in dealing with strong emotions, and/or praying for forgiveness, if needed; these can be very positive prayers during a negative time.