“I don’t like this shirt; it picks me.”
“I don’t want to wear socks.”
“That is tooooo loud.”
“I won’t eat THAT.”
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
These comments can be humorous or exasperating, but I no longer view them as the problem behavior of a picky child. These children are sensitive. And while many of these sensitive children acquire labels – anxious, ADHD, Aspergers, or autistic – these are only labels. I don’t believe your child has a problem, though at times the behaviors can be challenging.
If you are wondering if your child’s behaviors are indicators of being highly sensitive and want to understand your child better, you can examine the five senses.
Touch: This is the most common. Children complain about scratchy fabric, embroidery that irritates the skin, shoes and socks, or the sensation of water on the skin. Some children find the touch of another person to be uncomfortable or intolerable. When this is the case, use a firmer touch. Occupational therapists might prescribe skin brushing and weighted vests for extreme cases.
Hearing: This child hears everything (other than directions to clean their room or put out the garbage). Certain tones can be distracting or distressing. I had a student who couldn’t concentrate in a classroom because of a loud fan. Another student was distracted when the TV in the classroom was on. Though the picture was off, it emitted a high-pitched sound. The student heard this above the other classroom sounds. Oh, and that noisy classroom? A sensitive child can have difficulty distinguishing a specific sound in the midst of others, and may even tune everything out.
Taste: There are some children who only eat certain foods. Many are choosy about the flavor, consistency or texture of the food.
Smell: This is the least known. But if you ask your sensitive child questions they will acknowledge smelling things that others don’t, or being irritated by certain smells.
Seeing: The highly sensitive child tends to see everything. They notice the smallest details and feel compelled to take it all in. Once they are familiar with a room they are less distracted by the visual stimulation.
There is also the sixth sense. It tends to be the most overlooked. This is the awareness of others’ emotions and moods and helps us to be empathic and intuitive. The sensitive child doesn’t realize that they are sensing the emotions of others. Teach your child to realize that the anxiety, anger or sadness that they feel might be coming from the people around them. Help your child understand this concept and teach them to then ask, “Is this mine?” to help them identify if it is their own emotion.
It is important to realize that being highly sensitive is not just experienced by children. Many adults also have these traits. As the parent of a highly sensitive child, it is likely that you also have some of these characteristics (though probably not as intense or as many). You have a wonderful opportunity to educate your child and to model acceptance and ease.
There are many things that you can do to help your sensitive child:
- Educate yourself about your own sensitive nature.
- Don’t focus on your child’s challenging behaviors.
- Provide structure and familiar routines.
- Keep your own energy and emotions calm when communicating with your child (especially when giving corrections).
- Recognize your child’s compassion, empathy, creativity, and intelligence.
- Accept your child and appreciate his/her gifts.
- Explain to your child that these gifts help us to become a society of loving, compassionate, accepting people.
- Help your child to realize that they may be affected by the moods of others: family members, students in class, people in malls, etc.
- Understand that this experience can be overwhelming for your child.
- Learn more by reading about Highly Sensitive People, Indigo Children and Crystal Children.
- Find a mentor or counselor who understands sensitive children so that your child can learn how to minimize the sensitivities, deal with the experiences and recognize their inherent gifts with ease.
Being a sensitive is a challenge as well as a beautiful gift. You can help your child to be the full expression of who they really are!
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, May 2011