It can be exhausting parenting a sensitive child.
Sometimes it feels like they overreact to everyday occurrences, or get upset at something you didn’t even notice happened. Some children are highly sensitive, to the texture of their clothing, to the noise you can barely hear coming from another room.
Sound familiar? Your child could be highly sensitive to the world around them.
The scientific name is sensory processing sensitivity. It’s not a disease, nor does it develop over time.
It’s a temperament, and about one in five kids is born with it, says Candy Crawford a licensed clinical social worker and therapist who operates a private practice in Chicago. Being highly sensitive means you recognize and process every little detail around you.
Think of it like this, Crawford says:
“Picture an orange factory: The oranges come down the conveyor belts and are divided into three different slots like large, medium, small. (For) the kid who has this wiring, it’s like 15 slots. All that information is coming in all the time.”
It’s not just exhausting for the parents, but also for the child who is sensitive also.
Is It Autism?
Though the two are often conflated, Crawford says they are not the same.
Both a child with autism and a child who is highly sensitive tend to withdraw and become overwhelmed.
A child with autism will often experience a “hyper” or “hypo” reactivity, meaning they react very actively or react abnormally low, “due to problems in properly processing information, social and otherwise,” she said. “They fail to sort out the information, so it’s there all the time.
“For the highly sensitive kid, they process information very carefully, and yes, we become overstimulated if there too much for too long, but … we do not become fixated in an extreme way.”
What They Need:
- These children MUST have downtime. They do well relaxing in nature, going somewhere quiet, closing their eyes and often practicing yoga.
- Parents should practice self regulation. This means learning to remain calm in intense situations because highly sensitive children are so easily impacted by their parents’ emotions.
- Highly sensitive children thrive when in the proper environment. Crawford says HSCs are brilliant and excel easily when put in a comfortable atmosphere.
- If possible, limit daily activity to two errands or less. And if your child still becomes overwhelmed, it can help to take them outside for a breather or allow them to rest in the quiet car for a bit.
- The best possible form of rest for these children is sleep.Sleep is fundamental to their ability to live happily!