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Show Notes: How to Help your Sensitive Child to Thrive
Do you have a sensitive child? Does she have major melt-downs especially after high excitement, or in a new or crowded place. Does he notice the little things? Does she sometimes seem shy? Being a sensitive child, and a sensitive person is a wonderful thing, if we just craft our environment and actions. Listen to this interview with Alane Freund to discover how to help your sensitive child to thrive.
Listen to this episode first, then check out How to Help your Sensitive Child to Thrive Part 2 here.
Highly Sensitive Children
Highly sensitive people are distinguished by the following characteristics:
- Depth of processing: Reflect more than others about the meaning of life, decisions, ideas etc.
- Over stimulation: Notice everything and therefore get overstimulated easily.
- Emotional Responsiveness and Empathy: Stronger emotional reactions, easily moved to laugh, or cry.
- Sensitive to subtle stimuli: Notice moods, subtle sounds, smells, tastes.
Sensory Processing Sensitivity Trait
Highly sensitive people and children are those with the sensory processing sensitivity trait. This trait is:
- Common across species: Found in 15-20% of over 100 species, possibly present in all species.
- Innate: Animals and people are born with it.
- Adaptive: Every species need highly sensitive members to warn them of danger, to survive threats, and think more deeply about things.
- Even present in prey animals: All horses are sensitive because they are prey animals, but still 15-20% are more highly sensitive. Tend to be more spooky, challenging, and don’t like to be touched.
- Equally common for males and females at least in humans.
- Observed in both extroverts and introverts: 70% of HS people are introverts.
- Expressed differently depending on the person/animal and environment.
Highly sensitive children and people are really wonderful as long as they look after themselves and limit over stimulation:
- Ask really insightful questions.
- Think deeply about issues.
- Detect and warn of danger.
- Stop to smell the roses.
- Empathise and make deep connections with others.
Possible developmental challenges
Highly Sensitive Children experience similar developmental stages to other children, but these can be amplified. For example they can be (but aren’t always):
- Particularly fussy eaters.
- Perfectionists: Prefer to do something once and make sure it is done right.
- Difficult sleepers: Sleep difficulties due to over stimulation and over arousal. Screens and caffeine (even from chocolate) can be especially problematic. Can have greater sleep need.
- Experience Social Challenges: Need to process new situations and places before entering and engaging with them.
- Labelled “Shy”: Can become labelled as shy. Tend to prefer quiet play.
- Prone to tantrums, meltdowns, and other challenging behaviour when over stimulated: E.g. Get over stimulated when children at preschool get too loud and busy.
Parenting a highly sensitive child can be challenging. In addition to the points above:
- Childhood looks very different for a highly sensitive child. Some parents can struggle to accept this. E.g. HSC’s may not want big birthday parties.
- Hard to access the amount of patience that a highly sensitive child needs.
- If an HSC’s needs aren’t met, behaviour becomes challenging
- Takes longer to move into new environment.
- Can still meltdown from overstimulation even when changes are gradual, they are well slept, and well fed.
If you suspect you have a highly sensitive child, or are highly sensitive yourself…
1. Test yourself and your child for high sensitivity at www.hsperson.com
2. Read The Highly Sensitive Child and check out other resources at www.hsperson.com
3. Explain the trait to your child. Perhaps you could describe it as a special sort of superpower. Explain that sometimes it might feel like the world doesn’t fit, but it is OK to be different.
4. Prepare your child’s carers and preschool.
It can be useful for carers to..
- Understand the trait.
- Predict over stimulation and remove the highly sensitive child from the environment with a constructive alternative before they become overstimulated.
- Assign the HSC as a helper for another child – This allows them to use their empathy, and provides an important role and focus.
- Seat next to teacher or at the back of the room so that they can observe everything and everyone.
- Consistently meet the child’s needs. Provide lots of sleep, frequent healthy food, enough exercise and time outside.
Equine assisted growth and learning
Alane has a herd of highly sensitive rescue horses. Through equine assisted growth and learning her clients learn self-discovery, communication, self-care, and personal authenticity as modeled by the horses. You can find out more about her equine assisted growth and learning workshops for HS people and children at http://www.heartandmindequine.com/.
During the workshops:
- Highly sensitive people don’t ride the highly sensitive horses.
- They observe how high sensitivity is an asset for a horse in its natural environment.
- Learn how HS Horses become challenging when they are forced to live in a stall and prevented from grazing as they would naturally.
- Observe how horses are masters of self-care and survival.
- Self test for adults and children at hsperson.com
- Books on highly sensitive people and children at hsperson.com/store/bookstore/
- Blogs and support networks for parents of highly sensitive children at hsperson.com/resources/for-parents-of-hsps/
- Blog post where I discovered the trait: 7 Things You Should Never Say to the Parent of a Highly Sensitive Child (by Megan Stonelake)
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What is your experience of being a highly sensitive person, or having a highly sensitive child? Please leave your comments below.