As parents, we strive to understand and support our children’s unique traits and personalities. If you’ve noticed that your child seems to experience the world in a deeper, more intense way than others, you may have a highly sensitive child. Don’t worry; it’s not a disorder but a special temperament that comes with its own set of strengths and challenges.
In this article, we’ll explore the ground breaking work of Elaine Aron, a psychologist who discovered the concept of Highly Sensitive Persons, and how it can help you better understand and nurture your highly sensitive child.
What is a Highly Sensitive Child?
Highly Sensitive Children are those who have a more sensitive nervous system, making them more attuned to their emotions and the world around them. They may notice subtleties that others miss and get easily overwhelmed in busy or noisy environments. If your child is empathetic, thoughtful, and sometimes seems ‘too sensitive,’ they might be a highly sensitive child.
Elaine Aron’s Discoveries
Elaine Aron, a renowned psychologist, conducted research that led her to identify Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). Through her work, she uncovered the fascinating traits of HSPs and how their brains process information differently. Her discoveries have had a profound impact on understanding the highly sensitive temperament.
Traits of a Highly Sensitive Child
As you embrace your highly sensitive child, it’s essential to recognise some common traits they may exhibit. HSCs are often more perceptive, compassionate, and creative. They may need more time to process information, and busy or chaotic environments can be overwhelming for them. Understanding these traits can help you provide the right support and create a nurturing environment.
Sensory Processing Sensitivity
Elaine Aron termed the trait of high sensitivity as “Sensory Processing Sensitivity”. It describes how HSCs process sensory information more deeply, leading to their rich and vivid experience of the world. It’s important to remember that Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a natural variation of human temperament and not something to be fixed or changed.
Nurturing Your Highly Sensitive Child
As a parent or caregiver, you play a vital role in supporting your highly sensitive child’s unique temperament.
Here are some nurturing opportunities that can help your child thrive:
- Calm and Safe Spaces: Create designated quiet and calming spaces at home where your child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. This could be a cosy corner with soft cushions and blankets, filled with their favourite books and toys.
- Mindful Activities: Encourage mindfulness practices like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These activities can help your child learn to regulate their emotions and reduce stress.
- Nature Walks: Spend time outdoors in nature. Nature has a soothing effect and can help highly sensitive children feel more grounded and connected to their surroundings.
- Artistic Expression: Support your child’s creativity through art, music, or writing. Engaging in creative activities allows them to express themselves freely and process their emotions.
- Sensory Play: Offer opportunities for sensory play with materials like playdough, kinetic sand, or water. Sensory play can be calming and therapeutic for highly sensitive children.
- Empathy and Validation: Practice empathy and validate your child’s emotions. Let them know that it’s okay to feel deeply and that their feelings are important and valued.
- Consistent Routines: Establish consistent daily routines to provide a sense of stability and predictability for your child. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and overwhelm.
- Limit Overstimulation: Be mindful of overwhelming environments with loud noises, bright lights, or crowded spaces. Limit exposure to these situations when possible.
- Social Skills Coaching: Help your child develop social skills and emotional intelligence through gentle coaching and role-playing scenarios.
- Encourage Self-Care: Teach your child the importance of self-care and help them identify activities that recharge and relax them, such as reading, drawing, or spending time alone.
- Limit Media Exposure: Monitor your child’s media exposure and ensure they engage in age-appropriate and positive content to prevent potential overstimulation.
- Positive Reinforcement: Acknowledge and praise your child’s efforts and accomplishments. Positive reinforcement builds their confidence and self-esteem.
Elaine Aron’s ground breaking work on Highly Sensitive Persons has given us incredible insights into the world of highly sensitive children. By understanding their unique traits and processing style, we can nurture our highly sensitive children to thrive and embrace their wonderful sensitivity. Remember, being highly sensitive is a gift, and with your love and support, your child can flourish and make a positive impact on the world.