How to parent sensitive kids

How To...
Help Your Child

Every child is different, and parenting a highly sensitive child isn't easy. If your child is especially sensitive, you need to learn to parent a little bit differently to make life easier on her and yourself.

Mom hugging little girl

Step 1: Adjust your behavior

It's easy to tell your son to "man up" or try to make your daughter behave differently. However, the truth of the matter is that some children (and adults) are just more sensitive than others. Instead of criticizing or trying to change your child's behavior, adjust your own. Love your child unconditionally and accept his sensitivity as you would anything else about him.

Step 2: Figure out his triggers

Does your child get overwhelmed in crowded places? Does he interact better in small groups rather than large ones? If you find your child gets upset, overwhelmed or highly emotional in certain situations, you can often defuse issues before they start. Work with your child to help him feel more safe and secure.

Step 3: Take things slowly

If your child gets distressed over new or different situations, don't thrust her into changes. Instead, take things slowly. Encourage her to try new things without scolding or correcting her behavior if she doesn't take to it right away. You want her to feel more self-confident, not less. So don't push her into a situation where she isn't going to be comfortable.

Step 4: Focus on his strengths

Being sensitive isn't a horrible thing. In fact, it can be beneficial in plenty of situations. If your child is especially sensitive to people's emotions or the feelings of animals, it could eventually be the driving force behind his career choices. Sensitive children might have a better than average imagination, be gifted in certain areas scholastically or empathize when many others don't. Focus on your child's strengths and help him develop strong skills and good habits.

Step 5: Get help if you need it

In some circumstances, your child's sensitivity may be related to sensory processing disorder. Learn about the signs and symptoms of SPD and talk to your pediatrician. Children with SPD general need more routines in their lives. You can also help curb their symptoms, by using a sensory "diet." Seek help from your doctor, occupational therapists and other specialists to help meet your child's needs.

More parenting how-tos

How to monitor your child's online activities
How to properly hold a newborn

How to become more patient with toddlers


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Comments on "How to parent sensitive kids"

Geena October 09, 2013 | 11:50 AM

Wow, his dad sounds like the real bully. Men think totally differently than women, which is sad for little boys who clearly are not men but expected to behave like men. I would talk to your husband and ask him to find ways to boost your sons self esteem in front of his friends rather than show others how to treat him...if they see his dad disrespect him, what's to stop them!? I don't have a son, I have a daughter but she is so sensitive, especially in kindergarten, and her father tried to toughen her up. Got to the point where I explained to him that if he was no longer in the picture he would not be missed as he was not bringing any joy into her life by doing this. Amazingly that seemed to change his tune and the 4 years since he has grown to be super dad and while our daughter is still sensitive, she has learned to stay tough at school and come talk it out at home. We've also taught her to release her frustrations (unruly kids drive her nuts) by playing sports outside after school. You are your sons advocate, let him know he can talk to you, and let dad know your son comes first. He needs tools to get through his issues, not to be yelled at for having emotions. Good luck!!

Kim A. May 26, 2013 | 4:43 PM

Please help. My five year old boy is a bit more sensitive, and my husband is yelling at him for crying in front of other children. Saying that he is going to be bullyied by other boys saying that the kids are going to call him a baby. We were at a picnic and daddy yelled at him and he came running to me with a fake smile on his face and tears running down his cheeks. That just didn't seem right to me. Is there a solution, any advice would be appreciated. I want my son to be able to express himself. However my husband says I wasn't a crying boy in school. Thank you, Kim

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