Children with high sensitivity see impressions more intensely. This makes them more tense or anxious. But that doesn’t make children any different. Melanie Vita explains that with the right strategies and the right communication, parents and children can feel good.
When children develop differently than their parents expected, disappointment can emerge. Possible scenario: Jan notes that his son Tim is somewhat different. “I was imagining all the things I would do with my son: have adventures, play football, fight… Then I realized that none of this corresponded to my child’s nature at all, and that my child is cautious, not very spontaneous, sensitive. That’s when the world shakes” .
Another possible variant: Mary, Leah’s mother, is repeatedly asked about her upbringing style. “Your child does not dare to go to the bakery alone? But at that age he should have been there long ago. You are so careless.” – “What kind of games does your child play with you while eating? What is on the table being eaten! Leah let slip Of everything. If you grow up with me, you will not be so afraid.”
High sensitivity could be an explanation
What upsets Jean and Mary is how different their children are. If the offspring does not comply with the norm, it is understandable that parents are concerned: What is behind my child’s behavior? Have I made mistakes How can I nurture my child according to his talents and help him grow strong and confident?
In search of answers, many parents come across the topic of high sensitivity. In many cases, children’s reactions suddenly make sense. It quickly becomes clear that some behaviors are not due to a fault in upbringing nor to a child’s quirks, but rather that their cause can be found in the particular way cognition is processed.
What is high sensitivity?
According to Aaron, high sensitivity is an innate personality trait. Children with high sensitivity have a more sensitive nervous system from birth. They perceive sensory impressions more intensely than others. Hardly anything bounces off them. They want to process, reflect, and understand what they are observing, feeling and perceiving. They pick up on much more detail than other children and think about everything more intensely.
Understandably, everything quickly becomes too much for them. The amount of impressions – human moods, noises, smells… – ensures that children need plenty of time to process events.
If too many impressions overwhelm these children, sensory overload can occur. You feel overwhelmed, stressed, want to protect yourself from the outside world, or are irritable. They start crying or having tantrums to indicate that everything is too much for them.
Sleep problems, headaches, and stomach aches can also be warning signs of overstimulation. Highly sensitive children approach new situations with caution and observation. You think of all the risks. It is only when they feel safe that they become active and behave.
How can I identify high sensitivity?
E. Aron names four basic characteristics that can be found in their entirety in highly sensitive children. The properties can be well explained using Lea and Tim:
Leah and Tim are very observant. While they sometimes seem passive or dreamy, their brains work overtime to absorb a lot of details. They are curious and fast learners.
On the other hand, they find it difficult to take spontaneous actions or change situations. They need a lot of time for answers, decisions and instructions because they want to do their tasks properly.
Leah and Tim live very intensely in everyday life, their antennas are constantly received, they are present with all their senses. This quickly leads to overstimulation. How this appears is different. Leah tends to withdraw and become tearful.
Tim empties his feelings for those around him, and comes out with his tension. Both require more periods of retreat and rest than other children to maintain balance.
Leah only shows her feelings very sparingly. Conflicts and misunderstandings affect them. If the other kids argue, she sympathizes and exasperates herself. This is why Leah Harmony is so important. In return, she prefers to remain silent about the refusal to demarcate.
Tim shows his feelings directly. He is kind and helpful. However, if he sees that the situations are unfair, explosive feelings appear. No matter what feelings he’s going through, every one of them is intense.
Leah sometimes seems nervous. Complaints can then be heard such as ‘the jacket is itchy’ or ‘jeans are too bulky’. On the other hand, Tim is very noisy in class and there is a lot of noise on the court.
What sounds like a heresy is actually neurologically explainable. Hypersensitive children perceive perceptual perception as if through an amplifier, which can lead to stress.
Stop-and-go system or traffic light system
In addition to the four main characteristics, there is another indication of whether a child is hypersensitive. As already described, it can happen that children just want to observe or be alone in new, unfamiliar situations. This response has an important meaning to understand: a hypersensitive child has a strong safety system.
She sees herself at a red light so she knows what the rules and expectations are and even feels understood. Only when the child feels he is in control of the situation does he become active: the traffic light turns green.
What are the strengths and challenges?
Highly sensitive children have many valuable skills. This includes good empathy, a strong sense of justice, reliability, and creativity. Qualities that enrich the group. High sensory perception often shows musical or artistic talent. In order to reinforce these strengths, it is important to recognize them and give them space. If children show interest in their playmates, if they comfort them in the event of minor accidents or if they adjust while playing, this can be positively encouraged.
At the same time, other children also have the opportunity to learn tolerance and reflection. In order to develop this potential, it is necessary to allow children to rest and to take their need to step back seriously. This way they can process events and information.
Highly sensitive children usually display challenging behavior when they lose their balance due to stress and anxiety. New situations and unexpected activities cause stress in her. If stress signals such as whining, emotional outbursts, interrupting activities or slowing down are not recognized as such, misinterpretations occur. Taking children’s energy levels seriously and paying attention to them helps reduce stress.
What can parents do if they are very sensitive?
Whether a child perceives his high sensitivity as a strength or a weakness, the gift or the burden largely depends on his experiences. Basically, it is important to understand and accept the child in his own way and be accepted. Balancing a child’s needs with societal requirements can be a major challenge for parents.
You should prepare for new situations with highly sensitive children through discussions, role-plays, etc. Every conversation, every hint and every extra piece of information about what to expect for babies means more safety for severe allergies and therefore less cause for fear. The more time invested in preparing for a new situation, the more relaxed the child will be in dealing with the unfamiliar situation.
Since highly sensitive children are overburdened, stressed, and overwhelmed by stimuli, they constantly need breaks and opportunities to retreat. This may mean reducing recreational activities and scheduling activity-free times. Family rituals and organized daily life are also helpful.
Highly sensitive children are self-critical, have high expectations of them, and are preoccupied with trying to please everyone. It is crucial that parents show indulgence when mistakes are made or when children cannot jump over their shadow. In this way, highly sensitive children feel comfortable and learn that they are loved and accepted.
Do not reduce to high sensitivity!
Knowing the high sensitivity of the child makes it possible to better assess the behavior. At the same time, it is important not only to reduce the sensitivity of the child, but to give space to many other aspects of the personality.
The child is not only reserved, but perhaps also caring, courageous, practical. It is important to grab these resources and support the child’s development in this way. In short: accept what is there, but also enable growth. From “that’s just the way it is” to “there’s something else going on”.
He is a qualified social worker, educational therapist, and author. She advises children, young people, parents and adults with high sensitivity in her own practice “The Highly Sensitive Life”.
This article was written by Melanie Vita