As a parent, you love your child more than almost anything in the world. You want the best for them.
With raising a highly sensitive person (HSP) this can be particularly challenging. You want to discipline your child, but you don’t want to make them feel bad for being sensitive. Or do something that really hurts their feelings.
Remember first that your child being highly sensitive is a good thing. They know better how people are feeling, and desire to help them and love them more than most.
Traits of a Highly Sensitive Child
In Dr. Elaine N. Aron's article on the highly sensitive person, she lists of a few questions that reflect the qualities of HSPs. Among the traits implied from the questions include:
- Prioritizing avoiding upsetting situations
- Being overwhelmed by strong smells or loud sounds
- Needing to withdraw on busy days
- Getting rattled when needing complete tasks quickly
- Avoiding violent shows or movies
Highly sensitive kids are creative and bright, so they’ll be more able to find ways to make it in this world. With a skill for noticing subtleties in the world, they have a unique perspective that could inspire people someday.
So as a parent, don’t be worried, be excited that your child is highly sensitive. All you need is the right tools to nurture their amazing traits.
There are parenting strategies you can use that respect their sensitivity, but also help them to grow. Here are 9 useful strategies for parenting your highly sensitive child.
9 Parenting Strategies for a Highly Sensitive Child
1. Show your child relaxation techniques during downtime
This is one of my favorite strategies for parenting a highly sensitive child. Dr Elaine Aron recommends meditation as one of the best ways for highly sensitive people to deal with over-stimulation.
Sometimes your child might not be able to get to their room. So they can use something like the practice of mindfulness to calm their stimulated sense in the moment.
Something as simple as teaching your child to focus on their breath can bring a whole lot of relaxation. There are many studies that have proven mindfulness and mediation helps is to be more calm and relaxed.
You might find you’d really benefit from it too. It can also be a great way for you and your highly sensitive child to bond as well.
2. Give your child a routine
Dr. Elaine Aron notes in her book, "The Highly Sensitive Child", that routine is very important for highly sensitive children. And it makes sense when you think about. Your child can react to even the slightest changes, such as a loud noise or a new smell.
Imagine how much more they react to a change of plans, like not going home right after school. Or not having the food they were hoping to eat for dinner.
These kinds of changes can really impact their emotions in a potentially unpleasant way. So it’s good to keep a consistent routine in their life as much as you can.
But also, you as a parent can help your child learn to deal with changes. Let’s face it. They’re going to face a lot bigger changes in life as they get older, if they haven’t already.
Moving to another city to start school. Taking on a challenge new job.
Getting married, having kids, and so many other exciting but stressful life events. It’s best help your child learn now how to handle when life throws them curve balls.
Teaching them coping mechanisms like writing down their feelings. Seeking out encouragement and support from friends.
Doing meditation. So many other activities and options that will make your highly sensitive child’s life transitions much easier.
3. Let your child be creative with their room
As has been mentioned, highly sensitive people are very sensitive to their environment. They notice and feel sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch more than most people.
One of the best strategies for parenting your highly sensitive child is letting them organize their room in a way that makes them most comfortable. It can be their retreat from the world to re-energized enough to go out and face it again.
So if you’re child likes a specific color, let them use it to paint some of the walls in the room. If they like the feel of a specific cover or pillow, let them have that for their beds.
If you realize they like a certain smell, try to find it way to have that scent in their room. By using this highly sensitive child strategy, you’re letting your child get to exercise their innate creativity.
That will have them smiling and being happy. And you’re also showing your child early ways they can cope with the world. Having their own personal getaway to make themselves feel good.
In her book, the highly sensitive child, Dr. Elaine Aron says that it’s important for HSP children to get plenty of rest, breaks and sleep when they need it. Their room will be the perfect sanctuary for that, and they’ll be thankful you allowed them to create that.
4. Keep telling your child it’s okay to be sensitive
We live in a world where toughness is valued over sensitivity, especially for boys. Your highly sensitive child is going to need your encouragement to fight against that.
I can recall a story when I was in middle school. A friend that was in my class cried in front of everybody.
Everybody was laughing at him. Even the teacher was trying not to laugh. We can’t imagine how that might have affected his confidence at the time.
Though I can tell you he grew up to serve in the military. I’m sure half the kids that laughed at him wouldn’t have the strength to serve his country as he did. Let that story tell you that being sensitive doesn’t make you weak.
The ability to wrestle with emotions deeply makes your child stronger than most. Tell them they don’t have to shut their feelings down to survive in this world.
That it’s okay to let them out, because that’s what’s going to help them cope with those emotions and have inner-peace. The more you tell them it’s okay, the more they’ll be confident to not let the bullies in this world make them feel bad for being sensitive.
5. Listen to what they tell you they feel
This is a great parenting strategy for your highly sensitive child. People are going to try to make your child bad for their sensitive feelings. But it’s your job to make them feel good, so they know it’s okay for to them to be sensitive.
And part of doing that job is listening to them. Always be respectful to what they tell you in their own words. Don’t be dismissive of their emotions in the moment.
Show respect to your child by acknowledge those emotions they’re feeling. Showing them that you understand what they said and that you empathize with their emotions.
And then after acknowledging, you can try to offer them a suggestion or a solution to help cope with that emotion. Or a different way of thinking about what they’re feeling.
We live in a world that loves to just say, “suck it up”, “Put on your big boy or big girl pants”, or “just deal with it”. But that’s the worst kind of advice that can be given to a highly sensitive child.
Because then they feel worse for how they’re feeling. But just the simple act of listening to everything as to say, and respecting what they say, will go a long way in making your child okay with their sensitive trait.
6. Teach them time management
One major trait of an HSP is being stressed easily with having a lot of work to do in a short time. Your highly sensitive child is probably going to deal with that early in life with school.
Because of that, it’s important to teach them time management skills. Planning time to do the work. Breaking down the work into pieces if it’s going to take long.
Being consistent in following a schedule, which that shouldn’t be too hard since your child likes routine. But teaching these management tools early will stick with them when they have busy jobs or careers.
The last thing you want is for them to develop a habit of procrastination. Start showing them how they can manage their school work and extracurricular obligations today.
In fact, you can set the example by showing them how you timely manage your own work schedule. When your sensitive child sees how well you do it, it’ll give them confidence that they can do it well too.
7. Be gentle with discipline
Because your highly sensitive child can feel things deeper than most children, you should be gentle in your discipline. Try to avoid yelling or using physical punishment them.
Instead, use discipline that is appropriate to their misbehavior. For example, if your child makes a mess, make them clean it up. Have them do cleaning chores for a time period to learn their lesson.
If your child breaks something, place them in a time out. Have them do work to make up for what they broke.
Most importantly, have a conversation about why you’re punishing them. Explain what they did that was wrong and explain why their punishment fits with the bad behavior they did.
8. Show them the world isn’t all overstimulating
Your child will probably recognize quick that the world can be too stimulating for them at times. Loud noises like sirens, cars, and blasting music. Bright lights and strong smells that can really overload their senses.
The amount of stress that it can put on them might lead them to believe the world is all overstimulated. Your sensitive child might start to think it’s better to be inside all the time.
That the world is too much stress and anxiety. But you need to show them that the world is not all overstimulating. And the best way that you can do that is by taking them out in nature.
Let your child experience pleasant stimulation through the sounds of the birds chirping. Green valleys, blue skies or oceans that can soothing to their eyes.
The smell of fresh air that nature so uniquely knows how to deliver to us. These positive environmental affirmations will make them feel that there are places in the world out there for them. And they’ll be more comfortable in giving themselves a chance to go out and experience it more.
9. Teach your child to say no
Highly sensitive children may have more of a deep desire to please others that other children. They have a natural empathy that makes them want to help everyone.
But it’s important they know when it’s necessary to decline requests from others. People in this world will be tempted to take advantage of the HSP’s giving nature.
Using their sensitivity against them to push them to do things they don’t want to do. You as a parent can teach your child that’s it’s okay not to do everything for everyone.
Because it’s important for them to take care of themselves first sometimes. Tell your sensitive child that they may feel more disappointment in turning people down than most would.
And it’s okay, because no one ever wants to disappoint anyone. But even with feeling disappointment, they’re still doing the right thing and making sure they’re not putting too much stress on themselves.
Final word on parenting strategies for a highly sensitive child
As you see with these parenting strategies for a highly sensitive child, you have to do things a little bit differently with your kid sometimes. They have specific needs that need to be taken care of in order to be their best.
As their parent, you have the power to give them all the comfort and confidence they need. With the knowledge you hold now, you can help them thrive in this world with their highly sensitive trait.
You can really bring the best out of your child’s trait. As the years go by and you watch them grow, you’re going to see them become smart, creative and loving human beings.
All because you supported your child in letting them be the naturally sensitive person that they are. And that’s going to make them feel all the love in the world they need.