Does your child tend to have a panic attack when they’re in crowded areas? Do they catch a fit because of the tag on the back of their shirt or seams in their socks? Perhaps they yell at the top of their lungs for what appears to be a tiny skin scrape? If so, your child could be dealing with a highly sensitive temperament. As a parent of a highly sensitive child, it is imperative that you learn how your children respond to sensations and find suitable ways to reduce those sensitivities.
What is Sensory Sensitivity?
Sensory sensitivity is simply the level of which children are aware of and respond to sensory channels including touch, taste, smell, and sight. Everyone has some level of sensitivity. They also have varying ways of expressing them. If your child is highly sensitive, their reactions can be extreme. They may throw tantrums or fits when the surrounding environment triggers one of those senses.
How Can You Help?
Raising a child who is highly sensitive can prove difficult if you don’t have the right tools. To help them cope with this and to ultimately navigate the world around them despite their differences, consider following this advice:
- Don’t Treat it Like a Problem – Everyone has some level of sensory sensitivity. There are people who have a heightened sense of smell, a low tolerance for pain, and a strong palate that enhances their ability to taste. Though your child may not yet know how to express themselves when triggered, it is imperative that you don’t resort to treating it like a curse or a problem. Being highly sensitive can actually be a gift as it is commonly found in individuals who go on to be artists, leaders, and innovators.
- Find Ways to Help – Once you’re aware of what your child’s sensitivities are, you should look for ways to help them. This might include buying seamless clothing for kids, avoiding crowded places, and even providing them with ways to cope when they are triggered like taking a few deep breaths or calmly expressing their concerns.
- Focus on Strengths – As stated above, some of the most creative and talented individuals are highly sensitive. Your child’s sensitivity to certain atmospheres can actually be perceived as a strength. Their strong intellect heightened sense of awareness, and creativity, for instance, should be praised. It can help both you and your children to stop focusing on their challenges which can include being overly emotional or introverted.
- Create Safe Spaces – The world is filled with triggers that can make a highly sensitive person feel overwhelmed. As school can often be an environment filled with triggers, the home should be a safe space they can retreat to. While you don’t have to make your entire home calm and trigger-free for your child, giving them their own space can work. For example, you might install soft lights in their room and make sure they have headphones to block out certain sounds. This way, when they become overwhelmed, they know they have a place they can go.
Raising a highly sensitive child does require patience and a plethora of resources and support, but it isn’t impossible. The first step to helping your child is to first acknowledge and accept their differences. Then, begin identifying their triggers and developing ways for them to avoid or cope. With time, it will get easier, and their temperament will get better.
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