High sensitivity (also known as sensory processing sensitivity) is a personality trait seen in about 20 percent of adults; and needless to say, all adults start out as kids. Your sensitive kid is very likely a typical kid, but one who needs some special attention and care.
Common characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) include being:
Sensitive to tastes and smells
Sensitive to physical touch
Sensitive to fabrics and/or cuts of clothing
Sensitive to irritants (highly reactive to chemicals, dyes, additives, stings, bites, scratches, etc.)
Sensitive to light and sound (especially fluorescent lights, and loud and very quiet noises)
Affected greatly by the feelings of others (especially negative feelings)
To understand your Highly Sensitive Child's (HSC) feelings and needs, consider these 10 realities of your child's life:
1. Your HSC feels everything more intensely
So frustration sounds like screaming, screaming feels like a slap, and a slap feels like a punch. Everything, especially negative things, are felt more intensely and will leave a lasting impression on your HSC. Your HSC may cower and withdraw from you long after an incident if they feel threatened by something you barely remember.
2. Your HSC can appear emotionally unstable or imbalanced
He may simply switch from one end of the emotional spectrum to another. He can go from highly excitable, to the point of hyper, to extremely upset and crying in an instant. Whatever he feels he feels deeply, in that moment.
3. Be conscious of how you behave toward and in front of your HSC
He will take things personally and internalize his treatment. Punishment needs to be adjusted to fit your child individually, and used to teach and correct him rather than inflict suffering.
Being sensitive means your child is likely to get negative feedback from his family and peers and be criticized for his sensitivity, then feel that negative interaction deeply. Likewise, growing up in an abusive or neglectful environment leads to problems at a higher rate in these children than their peers.
5. Your HSC is highly susceptible to stress related issues and illnesses
Headaches, stomach aches, digestion issues, and more are just some of these illnesses. Constant stimulation and agitation is bad for the body, so these kids often need more medical attention.
6. Your HSC needs to be protected from bullying at all costs!
Bullying is difficult for any kid, but can be detrimental to the development of your sensitive child. Make sure he gets the TLC he needs and leave no room for bullying in his world.
7. Your HSC lives in the moment
When things are bad, the world is bad. When things are good, nothing else matters. So try to keep his world happy and positive as much as you can.
8. Your HSC needs to be heard and understood
So when he speaks, listen. If he feels ignored, he will internalize this to mean he is not valued, worthless, and his feelings don't matter.
9. Never tell your HSC to stop being sensitive
You are asking him to change his fundamental makeup, and reinforcing his feelings of being different, unvalued and worthless. You are telling him who he is, is not okay. You can, however, encourage resilience at a pace he is comfortable with.
10. Seek help for your HSC if you feel like you can't handle things on your own
Now recognized as fairly common, kids and adults with high sensitivity are more susceptible to subtle stimuli but process and use it normally. Unlike sensory processing sensitivity, sensory processingdisorder is much less common and the causes incorrect identification and response to normal stimuli. Your child may have either or both the sensitivity and the disorder. But in any case, your kid will need special care and attention, and a lot of understanding.
Although it can cause great challenges in the lives of those it affects, and even more around them, sensory-processing sensitivity is not a disorder; it's who your child is. And sensitive kids are awesome kids.