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6 Tips to Help Your Highly Sensitive Child Make Their Way

Your highly sensitive child is a joy – perceptive, empathetic, attuned to nature’s beauty, acutely aware of the world’s injustices, and caring toward those who suffer.


But sometimes all of this sensitivity and compassion can seem a bit too much! It’s tough to watch your child overreact to every slight, absorb the sadness in the world, and experience devastation while other kids just seem to go with the flow.

Imagine what it must be like to:

  • Experience strong, intense reactions to seemingly minor events because the person, place, or situation triggers a powerful memory or association
  • React intensely to even routine situations, experiencing strong emotions and sometimes physical symptoms such as heart palpitations or headaches
  • Feel drained because of overwhelming empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate
  • Struggle with heightened sensitivity in social situations, experiencing anxiety and even panic in response to seemingly minor social slights
  • Experience intense and emotional reactions to physical sensations, sounds, sights, music, TV shows and film, smells, taste, touch, or the “vibe” of a situation
  • Respond to failure, punishment, or criticism (real or perceived) with profound distress and an inability to “shake it off” and move on
  • Weather criticism for being too sensitive, dramatic, emotional, introverted, pessimistic, serious, or naively idealistic

 

 

If you also recognize the above traits in yourself, you can probably relate. If you respond to the world quite differently, it may be more difficult to understand this degree of emotional intensity. Either way, it can be heartbreaking to see your child struggle with such powerful emotions.

It is important to remember that your child’s reactivity is not purposeful. This may be hard to keep in mind when you are weathering a melt-down or providing endless reassurance. Highly sensitive children just may be wired this way. Their sensitivity has been documented in studies that show brain differences in their response to the environment. For example, researchers Arthur and Elaine Arons used fMRI technology and found that brain activity differs in individuals who are highly aware and emotionally responsive.

Even though your child’s emotions may seem overwhelming, there are some strategies that can help to quell the storm:

1 | Create a “no-shame” zone

Due to their sensitive and emotional nature, highly sensitive children are particularly vulnerable to feeling criticized and shamed. Well-meaning attempts to help them gain perspective can backfire if you inadvertently minimize their feelings. If they are told that their feelings are nonsense, or that they are just being too sensitive, they may feel ashamed of their reactions, and even about their basic nature. Establish an environment where feelings are acceptable, even if you don’t always agree with their opinions or behaviors.

2 | Help them understand their emotions

Even very young gifted children can appreciate that thoughts and situations can influence powerful emotions. You can help them understand that feelings are not magical, and are usually linked with actual events. For example, you could point out that most people feel cranky when they are hungry, angry when someone takes their toys, and anxious on their first day of school. Simple, reasonable explanations help children make sense of their inner turmoil and remind them that their feelings are normal. You can encourage your child to be a “junior detective” who tracks down the origins of those troubling emotions. This will give your child a better understanding of how they evolve from start to finish.

3 | Find outlets for emotions

Highly sensitive children thrive when they can feel safe expressing their feelings. Helping them to verbally express what they feel in an open and respectful manner at home teaches an essential life skill, and prevents an escalation of potential problems. For example, learning to verbalize anger (e.g., “I get really mad when my brother stays up later than me”) reduces the likelihood of either acting out (hitting said brother), or learning unhealthy suppression of anger. Appropriate physical outlets also help, like punching a pillow or engaging in exercise. Creating an environment where sad feelings are acceptable and tears are never mocked is also essential for emotional safety.

4 | Explore healthy tools for managing and containing emotions

Learning when, where, and how to express frustration, anger, and sadness is a valuable lesson. Highly sensitive children often feel overwhelmed by their emotions when they lack the skills for containing these feelings or calming themselves. You can teach your child how to relax, and use comforting and healthy distractions when upset. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and calming music are useful tools that even young children can learn. (Note: While there are many relaxation and mindfulness apps and tools online, if problems persist, meeting with a licensed mental health therapist may be needed.)

5 | Avoid harsh discipline

Highly sensitive children can feel traumatized if discipline is too harsh. Physical punishment, such as hitting or spanking should be avoided, and can be harmful to any child. But any volatility, such as threats of violence, yelling, or harsh criticism can be particularly devastating for highly sensitive children. Grazioplene and colleagues, for example, found an interaction between the degree of nurturance or harshness in a child’s environment and the expression of a cholinergic receptor gene (which influences sensitivity to one’s environment). The environment mediated the extent of the genetic influence, determining whether the child responded with either anxiety or openness and curiosity when confronted with uncertain situations.

6 | Help them appreciate who they are

Highly sensitive children must accept and make peace with who they are. Emotional sensitivity is not just a theoretical construct – research has identified greater activity in brain regions associated with empathy among highly sensitive people. These children can learn to accept their emotional reactivity as one aspect of who they are, and as a trait that can enrich their world. It can enhance their lives with great sensitivity, insight, and intensity, but also bring pain and despair if left untended. You can help them appreciate this gift by showing acceptance for their sensitivity, offering tools for managing their struggles, and demonstrating compassion when they need your support.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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