Are you worried that your child seems too fussy, sensitive or overly reactive to almost everything; temperature, tastes and smells, scratchy fabrics or labels inside clothing, loud noises, messy hands or wet clothes, changes in routine or teachers, correction and discipline, even sad, happy or angry people?
If so, your young one may have the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity. Research conducted by clinical psychologist, Dr. Elaine N. Aron and others, has identified that about 20% of children (and indeed adults) have this trait. A child with the trait is commonly referred to as a highly sensitive child (HSC).
The trait is visible from birth and these children are deeply reflective, sensitive to the subtle, easily overwhelmed, highly empathetic and often gifted. The trait is not a disorder, rather an innate variation of personality that offers distinct advantages in certain situations.
See the research about the trait of high sensitivity here.
I’m not sure if my child is highly sensitive.
I strongly recommend that if you have concerns about your child’s level of sensitivity or any other aspects of their development, you seek the advice of a medical specialist or child psychologist.
You can also take the assessment at Elaine Aron’s website http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-child-test/. (Simply close the browser when you are finished and you will return to this page.)
I think my child is highly sensitive so how can I fix them?
You may feel concerned that there is something terribly wrong with your child and feel the need to fix them of their ‘disorder’. I have spoken with many parents who feel it is their job to toughen up their child so that he or she will cope better in the big, wide world.
Whilst your intention to toughen up your highly sensitive child may be well intended, taking such an approach will almost certainly not yield the desired outcome. Instead your child is likely to be come even more anxious and fussy, more clingy and less able to learn age appropriate self-management strategies.
Having introduced thousands of babies and young children to the water and taught swimming and survival skills to these little ones over the years, I can assure you that forcing a hesitant child does not turn out well for anyone. Taking things inch by inch, at the child’s pace, thereby honouring the child’s need for security, and their level of readiness to participate is by far the best way to a developing a willing, self confident, empowered participant. It may seem slower at the start, but the long term results are well worth the time and effort.
There is so much to learn about raising and working with a highly sensitive child. I will continue to share tips and suggestions for helping you understand your highly sensitive child so keep coming back to the site.
What you can do to help your child, yourself and others:
- organize Janine to speak at an event in your area or hold a workshop for your group or organisation
- share about the discovery of your child’s trait with your true friends
- network with other parents of highly sensitive children so you can share stories and strategies
- let your friends with highly sensitive children know about this site so they too can learn
- smile! – contrary to what you might think or feel about your child’s trait at this time, having a highly sensitive child is a gift. If you are not highly sensitive yourself, your child will help you to see the world in a way you may not have otherwise known. If you are highly sensitive yourself and feeling sad that your child is also, then this is a sign you need to work on yourself and how you feel about your trait so that you can set a good example of how to be a successfully sensitive person for your child.