Posted by: coachingparents | October 8, 2008

BEST School Year with Highly Sensitive Child


Would you like to make the schoolyear as smooth as possible for you and your sensitive child? Many of the suggestions that follow may seem to run counter to what some parenting experts would say about developing children. But as you may have experienced, what works for some children may actually work against your best intentions when approaching highly sensitive children.

There is a completely different set of rules for our highly intuitive, perceptive, and deep-thinking kids. Sensitive kids love structure based on feelings, emotions, connecting, listening, and processing deeply. Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone. The tips below should be considered in the context of your individual child, using what works and tossing out what does not. Whatever happens, you will have tried some new things and your child will sense that you’re making a sincere effort to help. And who knows, your small efforts today might just make enormous marks in your sensitive child’s well being, today and for years to come.

  • When Helping With Schoolwork, Be Gentle, and Subtle.
    For best results, begin study time with questions that are focused on the child’s feelings rather than facts. Then offer your encouraging supplemental instruction. Try looking away when he or she is attempting something you are instructing him or her to do. The emotional pressure of being watched over the shoulder is especially evident in children with the trait of high sensitivity. Giving them the time and space to figure out how to do new things and letting them ask questions along the way can prevent nervous mistakes, keeping esteem high.
  • When On the Playground, Say It’s OK Not To Play.
    Highly sensitive children can become overwhelmed by their keen intuition, involuntarily sensing and internalizing the negative moods and feelings of other kids. This can make socializing feel complex and baffling, especially when the child is not able to pinpoint why playing in large groups feels so distressing. In addition, sensitive kids may be hiding an intense fear of failing, being teased or getting hurt. Therefore, left to their own devices, they often learn to scheme and daydream their way out of social situations, even opting not to play with the other kids. You can help by offering private validation of their choice to simply observe or play in smaller groups. Your patient understanding will usually draw the sensitive child back into the larger fold on his or her own accord.
  • When Chaperoning a Celebration, Let ‘Em Hide.
    Birthday parties, picnics and other social events are designed to be fun. However, forcing sensitive kids to go against their nature by talking to new people, making eye contact or performing, playing or trying on clothes in front of others can be traumatic and can perpetuate social anxiety. Sometimes a party can be very overwhelming for a sensitive child. Let them be shy for a short time (taking “breaks” away from the crowd when they need to), but check on them regularly to know they aren’t forgotten. A quick, repeated check-in of “just wanted you to know I love you” does wonders. Leaving early before overwhelm strikes is twice as nice.
  • When Your Child Acts “Different” from Most Kids, Ask the Experts, Not the Child.
    Sensitive kids don’t know why they act differently from other children and asking them only asks for trouble. Save your questions for experts, or connect and share successes and frustrations with other parents and teachers who are in regular contact with sensitive children.
  • When Tears Flow and They Can’t Say Why, See the World on their Shoulders.
    Extra-sensitive kids want to fix the problems of the world. When they can’t they feel guilty and unsafe. When tears appear, replacing esteem-eroding comments like, “you’re too emotional,” with validating statements like “I know you have a big heart and feel things very powerfully” can re-establish trust and a sense of security with the child.
  • When Bad Dreams Come, Offer A Chance to Say or Write A Different Ending.
    Sensitive children often have vivid, sometimes disturbing dreams. It is not clear why, but it may be because during the day they can “see the unseen” and are aware of things others would never notice. That gives them a lot to think about and process. Allowing them to mentally write a new script is a great way for you to hear their fears while also empowering them.
  • When You Spot a Pout, Sit Still and Listen.
    Learn how to recognize surfacing emotions before they go too far. Take time to make eye contact and encourage your child, even if he or she is not speaking up about what might be wrong. If you wish to try guessing what is troubling your child, acknowledge that it is likely not anything simple or superficial, but something bigger than you can see. Many of your child’s feelings will be too big for words. Validating that fact is a security-builder. Many times you won’t be able to guess how the pout came about, but that’s OK. Your presence, encouragement and full attention will still boost his or her general well-being that the world is a good and safe place to live.
  • When There is Teasing At School, Help Turn Vulnerability into Power.
    Keep yourself informed about how to build a sensitive kid’s courage and confidence. Sensitive kids need help turning what our culture defines as weakness into power. Shy, creative, emotional kids have a unique way of being in the world. Help your children understand in concrete terms how their differences can be seen as great gifts today and as they grow up.

About Jenna
Having reversed her own life-long habit of anxiety using a wide variety of acquired techniques, Jenna now guides and directs sensitive spirits of all ages to see past learned limitations and live out the legacy that awaits.  In her memoir Help Is On Its Way, Jenna dares to talk honestly about growing up with the trait of high sensitivity and tells the story of how she used the power of hope to press through a childhood that seemed utterly hopeless. Jenna’s memoir is also a testament to the residual impact of her parent’s divorce. Her writing is inspired with the faith that any individual can gain ground and find personal fulfillment, no matter what obstacles are present.

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