There are children who prefer to occupy themselves alone. They often seem very thoughtful and ask surprisingly profound questions. At the same time, they are extraordinarily compassionate and react very sensitively to a wide variety of stimuli. Do you observe something similar in your child? Then he or she could well be highly sensitive. But what exactly does "highly sensitive child" actually mean? And what is the right way to deal with a highly sensitive child? In the following, we will clarify all your questions.
Highly sensitive child: the initial situation
Since the 1990s, the terms "high sensitivity" and "highly sensitive child" have increasingly found their way into psychology. Responsible for this was, among others, the U.S. psychologist Elaine Aron, who published the books "Are you highly sensitive?" and "The highly sensitive child" at that time.
However, it should not be forgotten that the number of highly sensitive children is increasing as modernity and digitalization advance. Children are exposed to more and more stimuli that they cannot always process easily. Highly sensitive children and adults increasingly have problems dealing with this enormous overload of stimuli and are therefore more noticeable than they were just a few decades ago. This is another reason why the topic of high sensitivity is getting more and more attention.
By the way: Numerous psychologists view the designation "highly sensitive child" rather critically. They fear that it would be associated with something negative, such as hypersensitivity. They prefer to speak of highly sensitive personalities, which in their opinion sounds much more positive.
What happens in the brain
According to experts, probably every 5th person shows typical characteristics of high sensitivity. But how does it actually develop?
The nervous system of highly sensitive people reacts very sensitively and perceives even the smallest stimuli to which others do not yet react at all, because they have significantly more neurotransmitters. These are messenger substances in the brain that transmit information from the excited nerve cells to other cells in the body. At this point, humans actually have a built-in filter that decides which information is important enough to be passed on and which is not. This filter does not exist in highly sensitive people.
At some point, the stimuli transmitted from cell to cell are simply too much and violent reactions such as sudden aggression may become apparent. Others, however, prefer to withdraw quickly and reduce the stimuli in this way. For those around them, these behaviors are often difficult to understand.
Highly sensitive child: 6 typical characteristics of highly sensitive people
Highly sensitive children and adults perceive significantly more stimuli than others and experience everything much more intensively - so far so good. But how exactly can you tell if your child is really highly sensitive? We have compiled the 5 most important characteristics for you.
1. emotional outbursts
Children still have an incredible amount to learn. Many things are completely new to them, which is why they are already exposed to significantly more stimuli than adults. If the child is now also highly sensitive and has great difficulty filtering all the influences that are pelting at it, the barrel quickly overflows.
From one second to the next, they show outbursts of anger, start crying or run into their nursery and slam the door. These reactions are their outlet to get rid of all the stress that suddenly builds up due to these countless stimuli.
2. thoughtful behavior
A highly sensitive child observes a lot and prefers to be there instead of in the middle. From the outside, it has everything in view and can perceive all the stimuli in a more controlled way. It shows itself very thoughtful, because in fact it likes to analyze and rack its brains over many things that are untypical for its age. He will therefore often ask you profound questions that you would not expect from a child of this age.
Because of their observant behavior, highly sensitive children often tend to become loners. This is not because they have problems making contacts or finding their way in a group. They choose the loner's path themselves because it allows them to observe better and to pursue their thoughts in peace. Interpersonal Relationships They often find it exhausting, which is why they like to play alone.
4. controlling behavior
Highly sensitive children usually do not know that they are highly sensitive, but they can certainly assess which situation will overwhelm them in terms of stimuli. They feel most comfortable when they can control what happens.
That's why they are reluctant to put themselves in situations where they don't know what will happen next. They like to hedge their bets and run through countless possible scenarios in their heads. For each of these scenarios, they come up with several strategies on how to master them.
5. highly emotional behavior
For every child it is important to grow up in a harmonious environment, of course. But for a highly sensitive child this is of even greater importance. It perceives even the smallest tensions intensively and sometimes suffers greatly from them. Even when others argue, he feels it as if he were affected himself, because he is extremely empathetic.
Accumulate negative emotions a highly sensitive child quickly reacts with anger or aggression. If, on the other hand, they feel strong positive emotions, they have to get rid of them somehow. This happens with screams of joy, running around, hugging the dearest cuddly toy very tightly or asking parents or other confidants to hug him very tightly.
6. sensory sensitivity
"The sweater itches!" "The food feels weird in my mouth!" "I don't like the way this toy feels in my hand!" These and similar phrases are typical of highly sensitive children.
They perceive feelings not only on an emotional basis, but also on a sensory basis quite intensively. They often freeze much faster or get very warm very quickly. But this is also due, among other things, to the stress they feel when countless stimuli pelt down on them.
What strengths do highly sensitive children have?
Almost everything in life has its pros and cons. Yes, even high sensitivity has its good sides. The topic "highly sensitive child" and advantages do not fit together for you at all? Then read on and let us prove you wrong!
A highly sensitive child has very fine antennae. He immediately senses when something is bothering another person and behaves very empathetically. He or she can empathize excellently with them and understand how they are feeling at the moment. And it seems as if your child has a seventh sense.
It notices everything that others miss, because it is very attentive. Therefore, it is often easier for him to understand facts, because he is able to read between the lines. It is not uncommon that it understands with others almost without words, because it knows exactly what its counterpart is trying to express.
The topics "highly sensitive child" and "conscientiousness" are closely connected, because the little ones think ahead. They always have one or even several plans as to how they can best master unpredictable situations and therefore very rarely act rashly. They can weigh up exactly which behavior is most effective in which situation. They take even the smallest details into account when making their decision.
It is not uncommon to observe that highly sensitive children are particularly intelligent. They are very interested and ask many questions because they want to understand all the stimuli they perceive and the reasons why they experience them exactly the way they do. This often results in impressive questions that never cease to amaze parents. Often, they can't even explain how their child comes up with such an intelligent question and first have to think about what the answer is themselves. Incidentally, this also often results in a very intelligent sense of humor and a pronounced sense of irony.
Highly sensitive child: 5 tips for handling
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule for how best to deal with a highly sensitive child. That would be too good to be true! Every child is individual and therefore you, as a parent, must patiently find out what makes your offspring feel best. But of course we won't leave you out in the cold without any clues. If you pay attention to the following five points, you are already taking big steps in the right direction!
- Ensure that there are sufficient rest periods in which it can process all the impressions in peace.
- Reduce unnecessary stimuli and limit time in front of the TV, smartphone or game console.
- Allow your child alone time where they can be with themselves and their thoughts.
- Create rituals that give your child structure and support and help him or her view the noisy daily routine full of stimuli in a more organized way.
- Create a balance between stimuli and rest. If you completely shield your child from as many stimuli as possible, he or she will not be able to develop coping strategies and everyday problems will intensify.
Adapting lessons for highly sensitive children
Time and again, it can be observed that highly sensitive children feel uncomfortable at school. They leave the protected framework of home and first have to find their way around. But unfortunately, there is no getting around the challenges of the educational institution. The problem, however, is that the school system is not designed to help children with deviant Needs to do justice to
Teachers are often overwhelmed when it comes to the topic of "highly sensitive child". They often label these students as problem cases because they don't fit into the pattern. In fact, highly sensitive children are usually much more intelligent than their classmates. But because of all the stimuli and distractions that school offers, it is often difficult for them to reach their full potential. Potential to unfold.
Highly sensitive children often have problems concentrating on what is happening in class. They are still thinking about something from the last lesson, have noticed that a classmate is not feeling well, or have discovered something in the textbook that they find much more interesting.
A place in the classroom near the teacher can then be an advantage. But first of all, it is important that you inform the teachers about your child's high sensitivity. If your child seems absent-minded, they often think he or she is dreaming and reprimand him or her. In fact, he or she is just thinking intensely about the current topic and doesn't understand why he or she is getting into trouble now. So now he is brooding about it and thus really digresses from what is going on in class.
The topics "highly sensitive child" and "above-average intelligence" are firmly interwoven. The children are often already ahead of the subject matter and are therefore bored at school. Sometimes they consider doing certain tasks at home or even at school as pointless, because they have already mastered the subject and do not need any more practice.
This can quickly lead to conflicts. In these cases, it is important to support the highly sensitive child individually, for example by allowing him or her to solve somewhat more challenging homework or to explain a new fact to others in class.
Here's how you can help highly sensitive children learn
Highly sensitive children need one thing above all: attention. This does not mean that they should be under constant observation, because they like to have time to themselves. Rather, it means that their high sensitivity should be listened to, even when learning.
Learn how to best support your highly sensitive child in learning in our free E-Book. Here are 10 valuable tips waiting for you to help your child on their journey through the school years.
Do you have a highly sensitive child yourself, understand the problems parents and teachers can have at the beginning and want to support them? Then become a Learning Coach and help the next generation develop!