Help for highly sensitive children

Is your child or one you care for highly sensitive? An estimated 15–20% of the population are ‘highly sensitive’. This is a genetic personality trait rather than a ‘disorder’. Highly sensitive children:

  • are often deep thinkers;

  • can get over-stimulated easily by the physical environment or the emotions of others;

  • feel things very deeply and can get easily upset;

  • can experience joy and happiness more intensely.

Highly sensitive children can be full of curiosity, they may ask many questions about subjects which are difficult to address, they can be very caring about animals or the environment.  They may notice how you are feeling or pick up on details about what you’re wearing or the furniture in your home.  Some highly sensitive children are affected by the texture and taste in food, some may complain that their clothes are ‘itchy’ or uncomfortable.  They can become shy or anxious (because they over-think) or they can be very confident and seem to take on an ‘adult’ role within the family.  They will usually take longer to get things done than their peers, because they are conscientious, they may appear to ‘day dream’ or to get lost in fantasy.  Some highly sensitive children are very headstrong and determined while others wish to please and will seem quiet and reserved.  Sensitive children can have talents in a particular area such as music, science or art.  They are often creative, they can be intense and they can be exhausting to be around!

Here is a quick online questionnaire which can give in an indication as to whether your child might be highly sensitive.

Highly sensitive children at school

In school sensitive children may under-achieve because they can’t keep up with the expectations to get work done within a set timescale.  There may not be ‘room’ in the curriculum to explore their creativity. They can struggle with friendships and they can get over-stimulated by noisy classrooms, playgrounds and lunch halls.  The ‘emotional intelligence’ of the sensitive child is sometimes difficult to recognise.  There can be a pressure to ‘join-in’ if teachers aren’t aware of the needs of the child.  As these children are likely to become over-stimulated easily their ability to think clearly can be impaired and their learning can suffer. Teachers may notice that there are times when the child seems very intelligent but at other times they ‘close down’.  As they are often stressed and not operating at their full potential their talents and abilities may be ‘hidden’. Sensitive children will usually be strongly affected by children in the class who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, they will notice the dynamics within the class and they can help to alleviate tensions that may arise.  Sensitive children have a strong sense of justice and if something doesn’t seem fair to them they will want to address the situation. 

Highly sensitive boys

Highly sensitive boys will have particular difficulties because of expectations around being ‘masculine’ (high sensitivity is a trait that is equally present in males and females).  This tends to arise as they become older and as they become more aware of their differences.  Families can find it confusing when one child seems to behave differently from their siblings.  Boys may start to try and ‘toughen’ up but they will struggle as this will be in contrast to their natural inclination.  They can feel a deep sense of shame because they get upset easily and often they wish to be more like their more ‘carefree’ friends, they can grow up feeling that there is ‘something wrong’.  

Help for highly sensitive children

I offer several programs which are particularly helpful for highly sensitive children and their parents.

Family Stories

These weekly sessions help to establish a calm family life with improved communication. Sessions take place in your home and are gently facilitated. Through practising mindfulness, learning relaxation skills, having fun, telling stories and creating art work. A sense of wellbeing is established and negative feelings can be dissolved.

This program can be particularly effective for highly sensitive children (HSC) and their families.  HSC have a strong need to be heard and valued but they may not always want to talk directly.  This is where using stories can work really well, children can communicate about their deeper feelings through the characters and events in a story.  Parents can then gain a better understanding of what their child might be going through and how they can help.  Co-creating stories helps both the parent and child feel empowered and solutions to problems can be found, at first through the safety of the story and then in real life. Sometimes HSC need to practise skills such as being assertive or managing their feelings. They can only do this when they feel supported and calm. Learning relaxation skills help them to regulate their over-stimulated nervous system so that they can access their higher thinking skills easily.  As a highly sensitive person myself I can ensure that sessions are run in a gentle and encouraging format so that your child will get the most from each session. Follow-up discussions with the parent (either by Skype or in the home) enable parents the opportunity to think through what the child may be experiencing. I can also offer support and guidance on effective positive parenting strategies and ways of being with your child.  A six week programme is £360 within a 40 mile radius of Chilmark, Wiltshire.

Skype mentoring for parents

Highly sensitive children can be difficult to understand and meeting your child’s needs may not always be easy.  I can talk you through strategies that may help and support you in reflecting on the underlying meaning behind your child’s behaviour.  Often talking through a situation can lead to insights and simple techniques can lead to big changes.

Training and support for teachers

I also offer training and mentoring for teachers to help them understand how best to meet the needs of Highly Sensitive children in their class. You can read more information about services I offer to schools on the schools page.