Does your child worry about the simplest of things? Does he or she get upset easily? Do they seem to have empathy beyond their young years? Chances are you have a sensitive little soul on your hands.
We all know the sensitive child. They are the ones clinging to Mum’s leg in the supermarket when someone stops to say hello. They’re found in tears at the birthday party, upset by all the noise and excitement. And they are often the ones worrying about not being ‘good at’ a particular activity in the classroom or playground. Parents of the sensitive child often feel embarrassed making excuses such as ‘She’s just a little shy.’ And ‘She gets upset easily’ smiling in hope that the other parents understand.
As a parent seeing our child in tears and overcome by worry is challenging and fraught with emotion. We often tend to overcompensate with concern or the opposite, try to dismiss the behaviour as silly or unnecessary. Parenting the sensitive child can be a gig and one hard to get right. But there are simple strategies that you can put in place to make everyday situations calmer and less emotional for you both.
According to parenting expert and publisher of happychild.com.auYvette Vignando, the fundamental key in dealing with a sensitive child that the child feels secure and loved by their caregivers.
“When a child feels secure, loved and connected to their main caregivers, this is the foundation of most aspects of a child’s emotional wellbeing.” This sense of security teamed with creating a balance between nurturing and encouraging is important.
Being a good listener and helping your child to be aware of and express their feelings is vital in enabling them to problem solve on their own. Once they have the security that they are loved and the confidence that they are being heard they will be more at ease to dip their toes in what may have once been a stressful situation.
“Eventually your child will need to learn to push themselves in situations that they feel worried about”, says Yvette. “So helping them with those strategies at a young age, will give them a good coping framework when they are older.”
It is also good to remember that progress can be made and just because they are overly emotional now, doesn’t necessarily mean they always be.
“Your child may always be a sensitive soul but that does not mean they cannot participate in everything that life has to offer. Your empathy, understanding of their feelings, your validation of their feelings and your encouragement will also help them on their way”
Tips for parenting the sensitive child
- Talk to your child about their fears, discussing what they are worried about and ‘worst case’ scenarios. Often just having someone listen to how they feel can alleviate many of the initial fears. Also the reality check that things are possibly not as bad as they think can be a great game changer.
- Don’t let your anxiety become their anxiety. Often if you as a parent are worried, sensitive children in particular will pick up on this so your response to your child’s concerns are vital.
- Encourage and support your child, not only in everyday activities but also in new and different situations. This allows them to develop a confidence in both.
- Allow your child the opportunity to do things on their own and make their own mistakes. This is often harder for the parent than the child, but it is important not to jump in and try to make things easier for them.
- Encouragement, support and praise. When your child steps out of their comfort zone don’t forget to praise them for their efforts, rewarding them with your time and acknowledging their achievements.
- Take small steps. Be sure to be consistent in your efforts and work in small steps and remember sensitive children have caring and empathetic souls and that is a special thing!