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How to parent sensitive kids

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

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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