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Tips for Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child

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Authored by Douglas Mefford in Parenting
Published on 01-18-2010

The greatest danger in trying to raise a shy, sensitive child is in not understanding the actual level of intelligence that creates such behavior. It is a mistake to assume a shy or introverted child is mentally slow. The truth is that they are generally quite intelligent and thoughtful. They can often see the future potential and possible negative effects from a situation and be merely trying to avoid the problems. Sensitive children sometimes have trouble making decisions because they want to know as many of the facts as possible so as to make the right choice.

The sensitive child is usually a very creative person and can be highly observant and understanding of the subject at hand. Their attention span is longer than normal and their questions are often insightful in nature as they attempt to learn all they can. When properly appreciated for their intellect, it is often observed that the “sensitive” child is also a “gifted” child. Their attention to detail, when properly channeled, can create scientists, mathematicians, and artists.

While the sensitive child is given due worth in many cultures, they have many problems in the American, “Gung-Ho”, success at any cost, culture where their reticence for looking before they leap is considered a liability. In order to give your sensitive child the best chance of developing into a fully functional, well-developed adult, there are some parenting tips to aid this development.

Do not try to force the sensitive child into situations they are hesitant to enter into. Let them assimilate the data and progress at their own pace. Avoid using negative terminology towards your sensitive child. Rather than accusing them of being “shy”, you can use the term “reserved.” Children tend to believe they are what their parents tell them they are so encourage them with proper labels.

Since the sensitive child may take longer to assimilate the information about a new activity, try to not over-fill their schedules. Give them time to study and then decide to join in a new activity. By all means avoid using harsh punishments on the sensitive child. Being of greater than normal intelligence, they are often quite aware of rules and a gentle reminder of an infraction may get them to chastise themselves more than anything you could do to them.

The slowness the sensitive child exhibits in new social situations will need to be addressed and dealt with. While not forcing such situations on the child, the parent should nevertheless help plan new situations and acquaintances for the child. Help and encourage them to explore the new situations and people and offer assistance in integrating into the new environments. Try a balanced approach between protecting the child from harm and pushing them into situations before they feel safe.

With a bit of patience and a lot of unconditional love, you can help your sensitive child grow both emotionally and socially so they can reach their full potential. Understanding their complex emotional makeup will prevent them becoming truly inhibited through improper care for their sensitive natures.

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