Highly sensitive child? 10 Features & Advice For Parents

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Do you often have your hands in the hair when your little one gets the umpteenth tantrum?

Does your child sometimes ask you difficult life questions?

Does your son agree with his friends too often and does he not dare to stand up for his own opinion?

Does your daughter often retire to her room after school?

Don’t worry too much right away. Your child is probably highly sensitive.

If you indeed suspect that your son or daughter is highly sensitive, the 10 characteristics and advice in this article can help you!

Purpose of this article:  in this article you will find out what the characteristics of highly sensitive children are. This way you can check whether your son or daughter indeed has this character trait.

Do you not always find it easy to understand your child’s behavior? Are you unsure whether you are dealing with this character trait in the right way? Then the advice in this article will help you.

What is a highly sensitive child?

Highly sensitive people feel everything more intensely and need more time to process these impressions.

You can read that in this extensive article in which I describe what the most important 25 signs of being highly sensitive are.

As an adult it is often easier to avoid situations where your senses are extra stimulated. You don’t go to parties very often, you avoid noisy environments and you withdraw when everything gets too much for you.
Woman sitting alone and staring forward

This is not so easy with children. They cannot avoid crowds from classmates, for example, and parties often make much more noise than they would like.

Because children often do not sense when they need to come to themselves for a while – or do not get the chance to do so – this character trait can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

That is why highly sensitive children are often thought to suffer from a behavioral disorder such as autism or ADHD. Yet this is not the case at all. High sensitivity is simply a character trait.

Scientific research has shown that highly sensitive people have a more sensitive central nervous system.

No less than 15 to 20% of all children are born with this.

Because high sensitivity is not a disorder or disease, it cannot be diagnosed. However, Dr. Michael Pluess, a developmental psychologist at the University of London, has drawn up a scale.

The HSC scale maps the environmental sensitivity of highly sensitive children. He emphasizes that this scale does not imply a diagnosis of high sensitivity.

Child with hand on forehead

Do not think that high sensitivity should be ‘treated’. After all, it is not a disorder or condition at all. Your child is just more sensitive to certain things.

Your child has a hard time with some things – just like non-highly sensitive children. However, your highly sensitive child also has very special and beautiful qualities.

Be especially aware that your child needs a somewhat different approach to education than a non-highly sensitive child. As a parent, it is especially important to know exactly how your highly sensitive child works, what he struggles with and what he is good at. And this article can help you perfectly.

Child with cape and superhero pose

Impressions are much stronger in highly sensitive children. Typical examples of such impressions are sounds, tastes, images, etc…

Highly sensitive children also often have a low pain tolerance and feel stress or tenseness very well.

They think deeply before they act and they are very conscientious.

Some highly sensitive children are quite difficult to deal with, demanding and have a mind of their own. Other highly sensitive children are calm and more introverted.

Girl blowing at a dandelion

What all highly sensitive children do have in common is that they are very sensitive to everything that goes on in their environment.

Now that you know what a highly sensitive child is, you may wonder if your child is also highly sensitive and how you can recognize this.

Some characteristics are very typical for highly sensitive children. You will learn more about it in the next section.

How do you know if a child is highly sensitive?

If you want to check whether your child may be highly sensitive, pay particular attention to the following signs.

Child thinking

#1 Sensitive to external stimuli

Highly sensitive children are very sensitive to external stimuli. These can be sounds, as well as images, tastes, smells or general impressions.

Itchy fabrics or clothes that don’t fit well can be very annoying for your child. As a parent, you may think that your child will act if he does not want to wear a piece of clothing.

Don’t be too quick to judge this. Maybe putting on a certain piece of clothing for your highly sensitive child is really a nightmare.

There are more children who do not like certain dishes. If your child is highly sensitive, this sensation goes much further than simply not liking something. Sometimes the taste is really too strong.

Boy sitting on the floor with arms around legs

Your child also feels very strongly about moods. This way it can immediately feel whether someone is sad, happy or angry. Highly sensitive children have a very strong empathy and often absorb the feelings of others.

A boyfriend who cries can make your highly sensitive child deeply sad. But tensions in the family can also cause your child a lot of stress.

If all these stimuli become too much for your child, he can react very strongly.

Some children become rebellious, act moody and sometimes these impressions can even lead to real tantrums. Other highly sensitive children just become very quiet and start to withdraw.

Highly sensitive child who looks angry

#2 Mindful and sensitive to change

You may have noticed that your child notices immediately when your hair is different or when you have something new on.

Highly sensitive children are very observant and have an eye for detail. Even if you deviate from a certain routine, for example, your child will notice this fairly quickly.

In fact, highly sensitive children do not like changes and – as crazy as it may sound – do not like surprises. You may have noticed yourself that your child doesn’t like going somewhere unexpected at all.

Child lies on the floor and screams

You want to provide a pleasant surprise, but for your child, changes and surprises mean extra incentives that they are not very good at dealing with.

#3 Curious, ahead of their age and careful

Does your child sometimes ask you some really difficult questions for his age?

Does your child often think about profound matters? Is your child always doing his best at school? Do teachers describe your child as an exemplary student?

These are things that can indicate that your child may indeed be highly sensitive.

Curious girl wants to learn and looks at tablet

If your highly sensitive child asks you difficult questions, it’s not just out of curiosity. It is characteristic of highly sensitive children that they think very deeply about everything.

When they have learned something, they usually want to know the details right away and expect a clear answer. Many highly sensitive children are therefore ahead of their age.

You may have noticed that your child performs tasks very meticulously. Highly sensitive children do not want to disappoint anyone and therefore always do their utmost.

Child who is very focused drawing

Your toddler tries to color within the lines as neatly as possible or to put together something very perfectionist. An older highly sensitive child is usually very dedicated in the classroom.

#4 Careful, thoughtful and intuitive

Highly sensitive children think carefully before they act and are very careful. They intuitively feel what suits them or what it is better not to start at all.

Does your child find it much more fun to tinker together than to romp in the garden with his friends? Have you never caught your son being reckless with his bicycle?

Child playing outside with a twig

Does your daughter prefer to color in silence instead of practicing dances to loud music? There is a good chance that your child – still unconsciously – wants to avoid too many stimuli.

#5 Quickly upset or withdrawing completely

If highly sensitive children have to process a lot of stimuli, they can become quite upset. Have you ever had your son or daughter throw a tantrum in the supermarket?

You may immediately think that he or she wants extra attention or something new. Nothing is less true. It’s the sounds, the visual stimuli and the general impression that make your child so upset.

Child with hands in front of eyes sitting on the stairs

All stimuli literally create chaos in your child’s head, causing him to direct his emotions outwards. As a result, your child sometimes reacts impulsively and violently.

However, not all highly sensitive children react impulsively when too many impressions come to them.

About 70% of all highly sensitive children will just withdraw and become very quiet.

Perhaps you have already experienced that your child is just very quiet in the car when you drive home from the supermarket.

By shutting himself off from the outside world for a while, your child tries to protect himself against even more external stimuli. Small children actually do this unconsciously. If your child is already a bit older, this can be a very conscious choice.

#6 A vivid imagination and creative

Highly sensitive children like beautiful things. As a result, your child sometimes creates his own beautiful fantasy world. Because your child also thinks more deeply, it can be completely absorbed in this fantasy world.

Creativity is also inherent in highly sensitive children. It is precisely because of their lively imagination that they often create beautiful works of art.

Child cuts a star out of cardboard

Highly sensitive children experience the world around them very intensely. They need rest to process all impressions.

Yet highly sensitive children often find it difficult to rest and fall asleep very difficult. They may also have problems staying asleep.

Highly sensitive child and sleeping

Throughout the day, your child gains a lot of impressions. Adult highly sensitive people can process these impressions better than highly sensitive children.

Adults isolate themselves from the outside world for a while and thus come to themselves again. They know that they need this to be able to deal with it again and they do so very consciously.

Boy in bed with hands on eyes

This is different with children. If your child needs to sleep, they don’t understand the meaning of rest. It does not understand that resting or sleeping also immediately means that it can get rid of all the impressions of the past day.

Highly sensitive children take their impressions to bed and can spend a long time working on them.

Another reason why your highly sensitive child often sleeps badly is because he also receives too many impressions in his room.

A cluttered room, the sound of the TV downstairs, street noises, flashes of light from passing cars… these are all things that can keep your highly sensitive child from sleeping.

Child lies awake in bed

If your child does not sleep well at night, he is tired during the day. This in turn leads to extra irritability.

This puts your child in a vicious circle and this can have a significant negative impact on your child’s behavior and quality of life.

Raising non-highly sensitive children is difficult, but leading highly sensitive children into adulthood can sometimes be a real challenge.

As the parent of a highly sensitive child, you have a special task. You have to try to find a balance between understanding and exercising control.

First and foremost, it is important that you understand exactly what your highly sensitive child is struggling with.

Family in which parents help their daughter

Every child is different and there is no such thing as the highly sensitive child. Nor is there an ideal way to raise a highly sensitive child.

It is important that you take into account both the needs and the qualities of your child. Only in this way can you find a balance between meeting your child’s individuality and the demands of today’s society.

As I wrote before, there is no one way to raise a highly sensitive child. However, I can give you some tips to help and guide your highly sensitive child as best as possible on the path to adulthood.

Curious about these tips? Then read on carefully.

girl smiling

Dealing with a highly sensitive child? 6 tips for parents

Tip 1: Keep an eye on when your child has a meltdown

Are you unfamiliar with the term meltdown? I would like to explain this one to you.

As a parent you probably recognize it: teachers at school think your child is an exemplary student. He or she gets good grades, is social, listens well and immediately does what is asked of him or her.

However, as soon as your child comes home, the first tantrum sets in. Your child whines, gets moody and starts yelling or crying when you ask them something. This is what is called a meltdown in child psychology.

Highly sensitive child who cries

According to Dr. Stacey Haynes , psychologist and CEO of the Little Hands Family Services psychological center , it’s quite natural for children to let go of their emotional, mental and physical energy when they come home. After all, children have to show a lot of self-control in school.

Such a meltdown therefore does not only occur in highly sensitive children. As a parent, it is important that you understand what triggers such a meltdown in your highly sensitive child.

Does this happen more often after a normal school day or just more often after your child has had a test? Does your child also have a meltdown after half a day of school? Is it mainly certain subjects at school that cause such a meltdown?

Child with meltdown lies on the floor

Show understanding for these emotions and let your child express his emotions during this meltdown.

Give your child the opportunity to talk about what made them so upset. If your child does not want to talk about this (yet), this is also okay.

If you show understanding, your child will tell you sooner or later. In this way you can work together step by step on processing all superfluous stimuli.

Tip 2: Provide rest and downtime

Highly sensitive children can be overstimulated by all sorts of things: bright lights, noises, chaotic environments, other children, etc…

Mother lets daughter rest

If your child is highly sensitive, it is very important to limit certain activities. Birthday parties or playing with friends is of course very nice for your child. And you don’t have to refuse that either.

However, try to limit other activities if your child has had a busy day. After such a day, let your child skip football training or ballet class.

Also, make sure your child gets plenty of rest and downtime at home.

If it is quiet in the house, this is already one less environment that stimulates your child.

Boy is at home on the floor

A great idea, for example, is to create a ‘resting corner’ at your home where your child can withdraw in silence – or with noise-canceling headphones.

Your child can relax there with some coloring and/or picture books or a puzzle. So it does not always have to retreat to its room to find peace.

In a quiet environment, highly sensitive children can better process the stimuli of the past day.

Tip 3: Teach your child to verbalize his feelings

Try to express exactly how you feel right now. Not easy huh? Well, naming emotions and feelings is even more difficult for children.

Boy makes a funny face

If your child is not feeling well, then they have no option but to make it clear through their actions.

If it is upset, your child will scream. If it hurts, it will cry. If you don’t know exactly what it feels like, a tantrum usually follows.

As a parent, you often misinterpret this body language. Crying doesn’t always mean your child is in pain. Your child may also cry out of helplessness because they cannot explain exactly how they feel.

You can help your child recognize and express his feelings. Try not to tell your child what it should feel, but what it should feel.

Girl looks angry

So instead of saying, “Don’t be sad.” it’s better to make it clear how you think it feels. Say something like, “It’s okay if you’re feeling sad.”

This way your child can communicate better with you and vice versa. The better you understand each other, the easier it will be to raise your highly sensitive child.

This tip, like the next one by the way, is based on the study of the American researcher John Gottman . His research showed that children who are emotionally supported by their parents are much stronger in life.

Parent comforts their child

He himself speaks of ‘ emotional coaching ‘‘. This method consists of 5 techniques through which parents can help their children to increase their emotional intelligence.

Teaching your child to express his feelings is a technique of this. The next tip is one of the other 5 techniques.

Tip 4: Teach your child to think problem-solving

Your highly sensitive child often feels overwhelmed by situations and impressions. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that it doesn’t know how to react in these circumstances at all.

Father and daughter look ahead together

That is why it is important that your child knows that solutions exist. As a parent, it is your job to teach your child to look for solutions.

It is very important for your child to handle his problems in the right way. Teach your child how best to do this. When your child realizes that they can also handle difficult situations, they will gain confidence.

Tip 5: Help your child accept who he is

High sensitivity is not just a theoretical character trait.

I mentioned earlier that the nervous system of highly sensitive children is much more sensitive than that of non-highly sensitive children.

Specific brain research by Dr. Elaine Aron showed that highly sensitive children react much more strongly to social situations that trigger emotions than non-highly sensitive children.

It is important for your highly sensitive child to accept that they react a little differently than other children. You as a parent can help your child with this.

Many highly sensitive children are ashamed of who they are. They are particularly vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. If your child is told that his feelings are nonsense or that he is just too sensitive, his self-confidence will take a serious knock.

This will make it even more ashamed. Even if you don’t always agree with your child’s behavior, make sure your child understands that you understand this.

Child with hands in front of her eyes, sits on the floor ashamed

For example, if your child is completely upset because he – a perfectionist as he is – did not get good grades on a test, try to say that you know that he did his best.

And that it really shouldn’t be upset because the test didn’t go as well this time.

Make it clear to your child that the way they sometimes react is part of who they are and that their special qualities enrich their world.

The best way to help your child is by appreciating their sensitivity, by helping them when they need them, and by being there when they need support.

Smiling daughter on father's lap

Tip 6: Offer structure and don’t put your child under time pressure

A fixed routine and structure is important in order to receive as few stimuli as possible. Stick to a fixed daily and even weekly schedule as much as possible and make sure this is clear to your child.

Your highly sensitive child is also sensitive to time pressure. Your child can get very moody if everything has to be done quickly. You can also reduce this time pressure with a regular routine.

Always wake your child at a fixed time and follow fixed steps: brush your teeth, shower, breakfast, some time to recover and then go to school.

Make sure it doesn’t get hectic when your child has to go to school. If the day starts hectic, it only creates more stress.

Girl brushing her teeth as a regular routine


Every child is different and that also applies to highly sensitive children.

Consider these tips as a general guideline for interacting with your child.

If you notice that a certain tip does not work for your child, feel free to follow your gut feeling. After all, you know your child best.


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