8 Tips for Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child

Think you might have a highly sensitive child living under your roof? Learn how to deal with a sensitive child and understand them, too.

If you read our March cover story “Raising a Highly Sensitive Child,” you know how being a Highly Sensitive Person might impact the way your child interacts with their world.

Knowing how to deal with a sensitive child is important if you think you’re parenting a Highly Sensitive Child. Read about eight tips for helping your child, and understanding Highly Sensitive People, too.

1. Show respect. To her, it really does matter if mashed potatoes touch her broccoli. Allow her opinions, but teach her to be polite in expressing them to you and others. Listen sincerely and help your child gain skills to manage her feelings.

2. Don’t look for a cure. Sensitivity is not a disorder. Yet knowing it exists can explain behaviors and make them easier for everyone to deal with.

3. Stop pushing. Don’t just tell her to “toughen up” and deal with things that push her over the edge, like joining a competitive team or visiting noisy places. Instead, listen to her interests and give strategies to excel in the things she loves.

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4. Mind yourself. HSCs are more sensitive to your moods and cues and can be more impacted by instability in the home. They can also be highly attuned to your own anxiety and labels you give them, so be aware of the messages you send.

5. Leave them in good hands. When a parent can’t be around, be sure to leave your HSC with trusted caregivers as they can be more sensitive to separation anxiety, perceived dangers and non-attentive adults.

6. Find your fit. Let your expectations go and meet your kids where they thrive. “There is always a good fit when parents accept their children for who they are, then adapt their methods to suit the child,” says Dr. Elaine Aron, an author and psychotherapist based in Mill Valley, California.

7. Monitor meltdowns. Does your child act fine all day but crumble as soon as he gets home? Some HSCs, being sensitive to others’ expectations of them, will behave at school and in public but let loose once they’re back in their safe zone. Let his behavior clue you in as to what might be causing stress, anxiety and overstimulation outside the home.

8. Stop worrying. Your HSC will grow into a Highly Sensitive Person, who will likely find fulfillment in a career like academia, medicine, science and the arts. He will be empathetic and caring toward others and feel emotions – including happiness, joy and contentment – more fully that non-HSPs can conceive.

Photo by Lauren Jeziorski

This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.