Creative Child

Learning to Embrace My Highly Sensitive Child

by Deborah Song on Oct 9th, 2014

I noticed the signs early on. When my daughter was 18 months old, she once cried watching an episode of Mickey Mouse because a hungry baby Goofy burst into tears. Even as a young child, she never took a toy from another kid. So if another child snatched a toy out of her hand, she took the offense very personally, and sobbed.

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Her tantrums as a toddler were intense. When erupted in public, they were impossible to contain and I desperately wanted to crawl into a hole. Gentle correction works better than harsh punishment. Even the threat of taking away a sticker on her sticker chart is too much disappointment and stress for her. She is very hard on herself and can't stand losing. If she can't get something right the first time, she gets upset, walks away and doesn't want to continue, usually with tear-filled eyes. She's a perfectionist. Above all, she feels things deeply. Read on for more on parenting highly sensitive children.

But the highs have been higher too. Her rapturous laugh is the spring of life in our house. She'll laugh hysterically when someone snorts, something startles me, if dad runs in his slippers, or at pretty much anything. Her teachers have described her as a very happy girl and a joy to be around, but a child who needs constant reminding to use her "inside voice." She's creative and loves to sing and dance. She is very expressive about how grateful she is and how much she loves me. Even with a younger more aggressive sister who jumps on her, pulls her hair and takes her toys, I've never seen her lay a hand on her, not even in the heat of the moment. She's a gentle soul. Above all, she feels things deeply.

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So with the good comes the bad, to put it simply. But as an exhausted mom, I often wished she were an easier child to raise. Moreover, I worried about her. Mostly about how easily her feelings were hurt. So I scoured the Internet for help and found, "The Highly Sensitive Child," by Dr. Elaine N. Aron, which gave me incredible insight.

Highly sensitive children are mislabeled as "dramatic," "reserved," or in my extended family, "spoiled." If they seem reserved, it's because they would rather observe from the outside before jumping into a situation. So they're also naturally more cautious. Nor are they difficult for the sake of being difficult. Their intense reactions are a result of their heightened nervous systems. They just feel more ; more scared, more anxious, more nervous, more pain, but also more excited and more joyful.

Understanding the reasons for her sometimes challenging behavior has enabled me to see life's daily experiences not as something gone wrong and something that required constant fixing, but as an opportunity to embrace her for who she is. She still needs to learn coping skills, but I get why some forms of discipline work better than others. 

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