Before I jump into the details of who is a Highly Sensitive Child, or why he is like that, let me ask you a personal question here. How many of you have seen a child who is very sweet-natured and is willing to please others always, but suddenly throws a full-blown meltdown for some simple reasons? These simple reasons can be anything – like they didn’t like the feel of the dew drops on the grass in the park, or they got scared due to that loud-mouthed uncle standing there and narrating his day, or he didn’t like to drink water from that yellow bottle? Balloons at a birthday party looked scarier than the fun he is going to have at the party?
Believe me, I was there in all those above situations and a lot more stuff. My child who seems to be a very happy and confident child throughout the day will be crying at the drop of the hat for seemingly inconsequential reasons. And we used to feel like walking on a tight rope, as we weren’t sure when his meltdowns would start. But there are times when he talks like a very mature person when compared to his age. He could observe the feelings in others even at the tender age of four years. All this used to bewilder us a lot and none of our standard parenting techniques helped us in this case.
That’s when we came across an article about “Highly Sensitive Child” by Elaine Aaron. She is the first person to identify this trait called “High Sensitivity” and did extensive research to understand how this trait affects the lives of people. She found out that 1 in every 20 people is born with this trait.
When we read her article and later her book, it was as though we were reading about our own child. Everything she described there are the real-life happenings in my house.
Who is a Highly Sensitive Child?
A highly sensitive child is one among the 20% of the population born with a hyperactive nervous system if I have to put it in a simple manner. These kids are highly sensitive to their emotional and physical environments. They are able to grasp subtle changes and prefer things to remain in the same order. Any disturbance here and there would overwhelm them. They are also deep thinkers and they prefer reflecting within themselves before reacting. These kids can be outspoken or shy, they can be both extroverts or introverts too. One can find these kids having all the different traits which a normal human can possess. But the only difference is that these kids are highly emotionally intense, deep thinkers, demanding, persistent and of course, they can be very difficult or active kids too.
Common Traits of a Highly Sensitive kid
So now, you might ask what are the common traits that these “Highly Sensitive Child” display and how to identify the Highly Sensitive Child?
Highly Emotional: These kids are highly emotional and can get triggered for various reasons like discomfort, hunger, anger, or upset over other person reactions. The intensity of their emotions does overwhelm us as well as them too.
Highly Sensitive: These kids can be highly sensitive to external factors like sound, light, clothing, and scents. Their sensitivity to these factors depends on their sensitivity levels. My kid is so allergic to the tags in the back of t-shirts that I had to cut them off during his toddler days. Later slowly, he overcame that sensitivity. So, it depends really on the kid to kid about these issues.
Don’t like Surprises: These kids typically hate surprises. They want to know everything in advance and prepare for the outcomes. So any changes in the pre-determined plans wouldn’t be taken lightly by them.
Highly Intelligent to their age: These kids typically exhibit high intelligence levels when compared to their peers at that age. They are normally very inquisitive and keep seeking answers. They want the correct and accurate answers. No one can fool them by giving superficial information.
Highly Worrisome: These kids worry too much about everything and anything. They are more sensitive towards natural disasters, weather conditions, death, and all the age-inappropriate things as well.
Highly Perfectionists: These kids can be highly perfectionists. Even when they don’t seem really perfectionists to the outsiders, they keep comparing themselves internally and will be very hard on themselves. They will never agree to anything that’s inferior to their expectations. The result is that they keep berating themselves every time for any failure (in their eyes).
Well-behaved: Surprisingly, these kids are the most well-behaved kids in the entire classroom. The teachers always term them as no-problem kids. The reason for this behavior is that they are way matured over their age and they know that they can breakdown only in front of their parents.
So, now you might understand that these kids are born with high sensitivity are not really different from other kids, and they can be misunderstood as normal children. Only the parents of the Highly Sensitive Child can understand the importance of this recognition and the way we can handle these kids.
Does my Child fall under Highly Sensitive Umbrella?
There are no proper tests to identify the high sensitivity. So, Elaine Aaron, has come up with this online questionnaire “Is your Child Highly Sensitive?” while she was doing the research for her book “The Highly Sensitive Child“. The questions in this list come from the data collected from more than a hundred parents of highly sensitive kids. Of course, this is not a standardized test but can give you a fair idea about this trait.
Also, her book and blog are my first go-to resources if I have any doubt about my child’s behavior. So, I can personally vouch for them.
Now if any of the above-mentioned traits fit your child, then Congratulations and welcome to the world of Highly Sensitive Kids. My advice to you guys as a parent of HSC is that you need to have utmost patience in handling the HSC kids. Believe me, you are one of those few lucky parents to have a child who can understand everything and empathize with everything. This big world definitely needs few solid shoulders to lean and cry, and your child is going to provide that strong solid shoulder to the people around him. So please don’t worry about him.
The last piece of advice is to ignore your well-meaning friends and extended family members, as they tend to give you an earful of advice to toughen up your kid as he needs to face this competitive world and he can’t wear his emotions publicly on his sleeve. Believe me, nothing of those suggestions make sense in an HSC. So just ignore them.