Highly sensitive children are different and require a different approach. That is sometimes quite close. You could say that with these children you get back exactly what you do and give yourself. If you adjust the way you interact with your child based on this knowledge, a lot can change.
What’s so different?
Recently I was on the sports field during a training session of one of my children, watching with great amazement the communication of a girl. She looked rather sullen and angry and actually seemed to communicate mainly in a grumbling manner.
A little later her mother came and I saw exactly the same with her. For me it was a beautiful image on the one hand, but on the other I was astonished: this way of interacting seemed to be normal for them. And the girl had really become a copy, a duplicate of her mother.
It was very normal for these people to communicate in this way and I saw that they had no problem with that. It was just how they were. In every family children are going to do what their parents do, that happens in every family. But because a highly sensitive child perceives more and more intensely, it comes in much harder, if this is not done in a good way for them. Or if you yourself are disconnected .
That’s why with highly sensitive children it is mainly about how you treat them. This is not only because they feel so much and so intensely , but also because they have different needs .
The 5 most striking characteristics of a highly sensitive child
- They are very sensitive
Because of their highly sensitive nervous system, they can react intensely to sensory stimuli. They perceive much more than other children and all that has to be processed. As a result, they become overstimulated more quickly:
- They perceive more and feel more intense;
- They transfer emotions and moods from their environment into their own system, leaving them tired and exhausted;
- They often express themselves strongly, because they also experience events, perceptions and emotions so intensely;
- They are easily upset when it comes to arguing, injustice and violence;
- They experience criticism as rejection. Sometimes they don’t understand criticism either, because everything they do and say comes from their hearts. A lot of criticism can make them afraid of failure.
When dealing with highly sensitive children, you are regularly confronted with intense emotions, because all their experiences are intense. For example, my son often talks about the most beautiful or the worst day of his life. And there have been many of both. He also regularly walks away from a movie, or he starts screaming, crying or stamping when something happens that is not okay.
Highly sensitive children can also react strongly to food, medicines or vaccinations. All of this can lead to overstimulation, with each child having their own ways of getting rid of the stimuli.
There are also children who say they don’t like life anymore. That is frightening, but it is often prompted by an intensely unpleasant experience.
They sometimes know things, without being able to explain how. This often clashes with the opinions of parents and other people in their environment. With this they challenge people around them to start living more (or even more) from their feelings. Many have psychic experiences, such as seeing entities (energy in the form of deceased persons or angels and guides).
There are children who can communicate with these energies. There are also children who perceive auras, which is the energy field around you. Other children have memories of past lives. Some children have healing abilities and others see things before they actually happen. Surely you understand that such experiences can become too much for a child.
If children are not taken seriously in this, they can block and close themselves off. Then they can no longer be themselves.
- They are connected to their own wisdom
They have good contact with their own wisdom and therefore know well what they want. They can be real bon vivants and they can make wise statements. They often have a very strong will of their own and often show anger and frustration from an early age.
They can be demanding and compelling, but they mainly test how far they can go. They push boundaries. According to Drs. KMW Janssen, author of the book ‘ Educating children consciously ‘, a (loving) disciplinary response to their demanding behavior is sometimes desirable for this reason.
They have difficulty with the authority of someone who is not in their power and react to this with transgressive behavior, when they actually need clear boundaries.
In addition, they often have great difficulty with authority , then they do not feel fully-fledged, misunderstood and not recognized or recognized in who they are.
- They become one with the other
They have a strong sense of unity, which means that they feel one with everything. As a result, they do not see the difference between themselves and the other. If you, as a parent, become angry with your child, your child becomes one with this anger and feels angry too, while the feeling is not his. They become one with the other and lose themselves and their own strength, absorbing many stimuli. These children are more focused on the other than on themselves, but as a result have less contact with their own body and with what they want. I regularly encounter this in my practice in adults.
- they mirror
Today’s children also clearly show what is happening in their environment. They become ‘annoyed’ or sick when there is a lot of tension in their environment. With their behavior they invite you to look at yourself. ‘Do I recognize something in your child’s behaviour?’ or ‘Was I myself like that as a child?’ are questions you can ask yourself.
They show aspects of you that you often do not want to face (yet) and they reflect unprocessed emotions, such as with a bullying past, but also your own too full agenda or your own pent up anger. They mirror, so that you can reconnect with your child and other people around you.
Children today have an important message. They challenge us to be who we are and to be what they need. They need understanding and space to do and experience things their own way. They show that with all their possessions.
According to KMW Janssen , the following needs are essential to them and I endorse them with all my heart:
- They have a strong need for, and are extremely sensitive to, justice. Injustice can throw them completely off balance. It makes them angry and sad;
- They have a great need for boundaries, because they themselves are often chaotic and boundless and have difficulty with structure, planning and organization. Often they cannot feel their own body well and they do not experience any physical limitations of their body, in that case they often become difficult and can then continue in what they are doing;
- They need time to relax and discharge and often need a lot of sleep to recharge;
- They want to be treated fully and with respect . They need explanation, but also clarity and boundaries from the authoritative parent.
They want to be recognized for who they are and thereby ask for an understanding and awareness of who they are and what they really need. If their needs are not met, they lose themselves. Then they no longer feel seen and heard in their needs. Then they can start to feel lonely and insecure . Then the child feels insecure about who he is and about his place in the world.
Some are extroverted to unmet needs. This often manifests itself in defiance and anger. Others show their insecurity through withdrawn, shy or fearful behavior and turn inward. They react introverted to their feeling of insecurity.
If they experience rejection, they ask for attention in a less pleasant way. Negative attention is better than being ignored. If the parent does not wake up, this behavior can become extreme in the form of non-listening, taunting, goofing off, aggressive behavior and even lead to labeled complaints and problems.
But really they only want to make one thing clear: see who I am, accept who I am and please love me as I am . If they do not find recognition, limiting beliefs arise here. These beliefs become truth for the child and it will then develop a survival mechanism. In this way a child creates his own safe place but in fact goes out of power because he gets removed from his own needs.
As a result, a child develops into a person with unmet needs and if he is not recognized for who he is, the world becomes an unsafe place to be.
A feeling of insecurity is essentially at the root of almost every (behavioural) problem, and insecurity entails uncertainty, which may lead to fear of failure.
Children of this time mainly live from their feelings, which is seen as a feminine energy. They mainly use their right hemisphere. They need clarity and boundaries from their parents to regain their power in a way that they can cope with. So not from authority, but from connection.
Then it is about setting boundaries, willpower, decisiveness and standing up for oneself. The child may learn that the world is not only made up of feelings and emotions. That is mainly a masculine energy, which by the way does not necessarily have to come from a man.
If a healthy balance is not created between feeling (the feminine energy) and thinking (the masculine energy), problems can arise. Simply put, a child then mainly ends up in thinking and is mentally very strong, but closed off from his feelings. Or it becomes (over) sensitive and feels especially unsafe and easily overwhelmed. In both cases, the child may learn to come into contact with his own feelings again.
Both basically cannot be who they are and feel less valuable than the other. And both are not connected. Finally, there is also a group in which both sides are strongly represented, which mainly feels misunderstood because the sensitive side is overshadowed, but is strongly present.This includes the strong, strong-willed child with a high degree of sensitivity.
They are different, the children of today. They’ve always been there, but they seem to be getting more and more. They have specific properties and needs. If they are not seen for who they are and if their needs are not recognized or recognized, problems arise. Taking all this into account, what matters here is HOW you treat your child. You can immediately do it differently, no matter what happened before and however you did it.
You can do this by relaxing yourself (more) and by making real contact with your child first. Then you can learn to let your child’s emotions be present and then look for the underlying needs together.Then you help your child through all the heaviness and your child can learn to focus and focus on his own needs.
It is also possible that you yourself have started to follow one of these strategies and that your child mirrors this. All kinds of combinations are also possible.
I think there are already many who are increasingly aware that you must first resolve your own trauma and frustration, as well as that of your child (you can read more about it in my series ‘If your child is not well’). Often – until we are separated from the energy of our (ance)parents – we still live in the survival mode of fight, flight and freeze and it is almost impossible to do it differently from our parents. Nevertheless, I advise you to immediately start training yourself in your own balance by consciously relaxing yourself during the day and in your communication with your child(ren).
- Your own balance
The first thing that is needed for your child’s balance is your own balance. And it is not only important to be in balance, it is also very important that you react in relaxation from this balance to, for example, the intensity of your child. Your child needs you to relax again and that is only possible if you are calm. And your acceptance helps with that.
That means in the first place: reacting calmly to the behavior of your child. In addition, you can also learn to let go of your fight and flight attitude in other situations. You are the example for your child and if you are in survival mode, then your child cannot help but do the same. Then you do not experience the world as safe and it is also not possible for your child to see the world as safe.
It sometimes takes quite a bit of training and discipline, but trust me, it’s really worth it. The first thing you can do for this is learn to respond from relaxation, that you are aware of your breathing and that you literally consciously relax your body. And then respond.
Children do what you do and will react to certain situations exactly the way you do. If you give respect, you will get respect in return and if you listen to your child, your child will listen to you. And if you command a lot, your child will find it perfectly normal to do that too. And if you respond, for example, by raising your voice because someone does something you do not want, your child will do the same.
And usually that is also greatly magnified and we do not understand the intensity of our child. Then we want our child to react differently, but we still do it the same way. If you know that children do what you do, you may also understand that you can first change yourself and that your child can only follow.
Calling your child to hurry up and get dressed from the kitchen usually doesn’t make sense. Your child often has completely different interests and a different perception of time than the parent. Then parents sometimes think that children do this on purpose, but I don’t believe in that.
Rather go to your child, say his name, touch him if necessary and then ask him to get dressed. Then you can say that you understand that it wants to play for a while, but that you think it is important to be on time. Eye contact is a connecting factor here.
- Guiding your child
In this step it is very important to become an observer and watch your child without liking it. And without there having to be anything else. That your child and the situation are just fine as they are in a kind of total acceptance . Also the acceptance of all associated emotions. What is possible for a child depends on age.
In fact, children are often not yet able to express themselves in a different way, so it can also take some time for the children to develop a new habit. However, if you relax, the intensity doesn’t have to last as long.
It is very important for children – just as it is for adults – that they are allowed to have emotions. Otherwise they will pile up and it will only get worse. Please check your own system carefully. There are many parents who think they accept the behavior of their child(ren), but if they observe more closely, they find something about it, they feel tension in their bodies and they often stop breathing for a while. That’s not real acceptance. Then you could just relax.
Then you use your own feminine energy and show understanding, then you step into the masculine energy and set boundaries. That’s like, “I hear you. I see you. I understand you. Because I know you. But don’t ever do that damn it again.”
Also know that under every undesirable behavior there is a need. Stimulate your child to express his emotions and when children are still a bit small, you help them with that. Some children block and then it is nice if the parent helps for as long as necessary. Then you can ask what they would like. You can give small children suggestions and the older children you can ask open questions.
It may seem too simple to be true, but give it a try. You will see that usually something changes immediately.
Ultimately, your own balance and connection with your own core is the most beautiful thing you can achieve for your child. By now I can tell you from my personal experience that if you end up in a triggerlessness, then there is balance. Then there’s happiness! Then I say that we are just like a normal family, although the happiness is so much greater.
Then you reap the fruits of the hard work, which is really rewarded twice. Then there is no longer a struggle and if things go wrong, you still follow the 3 steps and react from understanding and connection. Then you will notice that the experience will be a thing of the past in no time.
Usually confusion arises in such a period of triggerlessness. Because what should you do when everything is suddenly good and in balance. Often sadness comes up, because then you see what a fight you have been in lately. And besides, you don’t know what to do next. In a literal sense in terms of doing, but also in your life.
Then you can check whether everything is still correct and new choices can be made. And that’s where all kinds of feelings come into play. Be comforted: you can let them be there quietly. Then you can trust that the answer will come to you and that you don’t have to do anything now.
Even after complete triggerlessness, periods can arise in which you are triggered again or live in frustration. But believe me, that doesn’t have that much impact anymore, because you also relax more in this. And if it doesn’t have that much of an impact on you anymore, it will also be for your child. If you learn to reconnect with yourself, your child can follow you.