By guest blogger, Sharon James, Senior Parent Educator, Beech Acres Parenting Center

Playing on a team or interacting with a group of kids who have strong personalities can be difficult and stressful for children of all ages. It can be particularly tricky for a highly sensitive child. Highly sensitive children may demonstrate some of these qualities:

  • incredibly perceptive
  • very inquisitive
  • prefers quiet play over play with others
  • often labeled ‘shy’ or ‘highly emotional’
  • quick to react
  • feels their feelings deeply, especially rejection and criticism of others or of others being mistreated.
  • becomes overwhelmed easily by new situations, crowds or noise
  • has difficulty not thinking about others in need
  • passionate about understanding the meaning of something

Nearly one-quarter of children experience some or all of these symptoms.

A highly sensitive child internalizes and experiences feelings with more intensity so what might bounce off of a child that is less sensitive, can be very difficult for a highly sensitive child to let go or take less seriously. Their rich emotional lives can often create a challenge in that they can misinterpret the behaviors of others, especially those that have strong personalities and display behaviors such as being loud, demonstrative, teasing or wanting to be in charge.

When a child reports to their parent that someone has mistreated them and he or she reports their reaction and feelings strongly, it is important to ask questions about the situation before jumping to the conclusion that bullying has taken place. While bullying always needs to be treated seriously by a parent or caregiver, understanding your child’s perspective of what happened is especially important for a child that takes everything to heart.

You may start off a conversation with: “You really felt bad that someone said things about your science project after you worked so hard on it. Laughing at your work really hurt”.  “It sounds like they were not acting in a way that you felt was kind. Can you share what happened?”  You might also inquire about whether or not your child sees this same behavior with others and how they respond. Ask them“How do your friends respond when others speak to them this way?” This can help them understand other children better.

Parents find that acceptance, being nonjudgmental and focusing on what their child does well and the gifts he or she brings as a result of being a highly sensitive child can create a stronger bond between parent-child and build confidence. It will also really help the child to manage difficult behaviors he or she encounters at school.

You can use Natural Strength Parenting™ to help your child navigate these situations.

  • STRENGTH SPOTTING Highly sensitive children need to see their sensitivity as a strength to feel empowered and recognize the positive of being sensitive such as being insightful, empathetic and creative. Since many highly sensitive children are labeled in a negative way, this is especially important to their well-being. It is also an important reminder to parents as they manage their concern and frustration with their ‘emotionally charged’ child.
  • BE MINDFUL Learn their specific triggers and co-create solutions with them to manage those big emotions. Mindful techniques like breathing may help them to feel less overwhelmed and reactive. Tapping into their strength of creativity, you may visualize with them a different way of responding to stronger personalities and how different that can feel. Doing a mindful body scan to talk about where they are feeling their emotions or imaging their first reaction to float away on a cloud can also be helpful.
  • BE INTENTIONAL The more your child can visualize a different response to something that is being said that they do not, the greater the chance they will feel empowered and less at the whim of others. Work together to create a “slogan” or positive phrase for the week and say it together each morning before school.

By gaining insight into your child’s experience of others, you are helping them navigate the strong personalities they will encounter throughout their lives. Consider the boisterous co-worker in every meeting or the vocal parent on the PTA. With Natural Strength Parenting™, highly sensitive children can develop powerful relationship skills and discover the good in how they perceive their world.