How to Win with Sensitive Kids – Straight Tips
Tip number 1: Understand
Get informed. Once you start to learn about the inner struggles that sensory driven kids experience, you begin to realize that your child feels terribly guilty about her heavy emotions and wishes she could just be “normal.” He also knows he is more clever, wise, and perceptive than most. You’ll learn that behind your child’s anxious or defiant behavior is a deep and nagging need to have his or her intense feelings acknowledged. Spend time talking with your child where he or she can open up. For example, plan for spending time with her in nature or work together with him to create a calm uncluttered quiet environment that’s free from chemicals and other subtle annoyances. As you spend time together, let your child know that you know he or she is wise and special and has very important things to offer the world.
Tip number 2: Validate
As you have likely found in the information-gathering stage suggested in tip number one, some children find their senses so overwhelming that they truly believe their presence in the world is a mistake, that they don’t belong on earth because nothing feels right and nothing fits right. It can be life-changing for your sensory driven child to hear and experience two main messages repeatedly: “You belong in the world” and “you belong in our family.”
Tip number 3: Accept
What works for most children most likely will not work for super sensory kids. Your sensitive child’s reasons for doing what he does runs deep. Punishing that behavior can cause your child to lose confidence in himself and feel helpless. Rather than rushing your child to make a decision, for example, you might say, “I know that choices might frustrate you and take you longer that others, but it’s because you’re weighing countless outcomes and looking at all the details.” That tells him you realize that being thoughtful or picky about his choices, (his clothing, his food, or his friends) is part of who he is and that it’s ok. This allows him to accept the sensory-driven part of himself that’s telling him what does and doesn’t feel good. Letting him know that you understand it’s his nature to feel things deeply and consider things slowly tells him that you are there for him and that you two can work as a team to deal with any decisions, challenges or upsets that may come in the future. While it may seem that this form of patience encourages slow behavior, it actually builds confidence towards his making quicker decisions in the future.
Tip number 4: Empathize
Sensory-driven kids have a hard time finding enjoyment in life because their senses are often rubbed raw. When they finally find fun, sometimes they can’t bear for it to end. When enjoyment is quickly taken away from a young supersensory child, it can be especially traumatic, because he or she doesn’t know when the fun will return. Before punishing the temper tantrum that sometimes starts when the fun ends, try to empathize by saying, “I know you’re mad and I know you want to keep all the toys, because you’re having fun and sometimes fun seems far away.” Make an effort to enlist your child in consoling, enjoyable and nurturing activities where no strangers are present to balance their anxiety and soothe their senses.
Tip number 5: Relate
“Everybody hates me. I feel so alone. I hate the world.” No matter how extreme and unrealistic your child’s declarations sound, try to relate by sharing a time in your life when you felt the same way. Without offering suggestions or changing the subject, remember out loud how you felt the world was against you and then simply listen to your child, allowing him or her to explore and express his or her feelings freely.
Tip number 6: Empower
At every single moment, your child is paying very close attention to every word on television, every song lyric, every sigh between you and your spouse; analyzing it, evaluating it and searching for the meaning behind it. It is your child’s choice what he or she will do with that information once it’s processed. In the four steps above you’ve taught your child through experience and circumstances that she is safe, that he isn’t alone, that she can trust her nature and that he can process his feelings out loud. With this foundation in place, you can empower your child to make healthy choices based on the sensory information they have collected.
All in all, setting a goal of having compassion for how your child experiences things, your consistent effort and presence will pay off for both of you, stimulating a parent-child bond that relieves your child of the anxiety that lies at the root of his or her over-the-top behavior.