Three-year-old Tilly is confident, highly communicative and strong-willed yet there are hundred everyday scenarios that will make her crumple into tears in an instant. I’ve been starting to get to grips with what it’s like to be a highly sensitive child.
Being the parents of a highly sensitive child, or to be more accurate a child with a highly sensitive nervous system, is a concept that we’ve only very recently been aware of. I was googling some of the challenging aspects of Tilly’s behaviour when the term first popped up. Reading on, it was clear that Tilly fitted the bill for a highly sensitive child extremely well. The leading voice on the subject, Elaine N Aron has a very handy test, if you want to check your own child.
Reading the test made for another realisation, that I was once a highly sensitive child and am a highly sensitive adult now, still preferring to avoid certain environments. However for me, shying away from noise and crowds seems like a logical extension of my preference for introversion. Things are much less clear-cut with Tilly, where she’s the life and soul of the party in some respects but completely unable to cope with it all in others.
A normal day with Tilly is one filled with intense reactions to what she is experiencing. Small things that other children may make little of or not even notice can lead her to blowing up. She seems to go into many situations with preconceived ideas of how they will pan out and when that doesn’t happen we have fireworks. Her diminutive, placid demeanour can at one transform into one of frustrated aggression.
Being a fairly chilled pair of parents, dealing with anger doesn’t come terribly naturally. However, as we’re learning about high sensitivity we’re coming to understand that managing Tilly’s interactions and feelings are they key rather than attempting to discipline her tantrums.
That’s why it’s so helpful to know what we’re dealing with. Having a name for it means we can access online resources and a modest community, although given that high sensitivity can affect as many as 20 per cent of children should perhaps be larger than it is. Reading about the experiences of others facing extremely similar behaviour is both extremely reassuring that we’re not alone and empowering in that we’re following others to make things work better for our daughter. It will be a long road ahead but one which we’re more ready than ever to tackle.
We’re learning about it all with The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N Aron.
Are you the parent of a highly sensitive child? Leave your experiences in the comments section.