Were you a highly sensitive child? Are you raising one now? Here are some dynamite resources for understanding your own sensitivity and for parenting your precious youngster.
Best books for understanding the highly sensitive child
If you’ve only read a few articles and still feel defensive about your sensitivity, resolve to learn more about what your parents and teachers didn’t know and couldn’t always help you with. You may find your sensitivity is far more of an asset than you had realized. Some things are worth “studyin’ on” and this is one of them.
Begin with either—or better both—of the following books by Elaine Aron, Ph.D. They will provide a foundation for all that you will learn about yourself and your child.
There is no better book than this one by Dr. Aron to explain sensory-processing sensitivity. The trait is inherited from one or both parents. So you can’t fully understand your child without understanding yourself and your spouse.
In this book HSP author and researcher Dr. Aron writes that…
One reason for the variation among HSCs is that temperament traits seem to be caused by several genes, each having small cumulative effects. Thus each flavor of sensitivity—sensitivity to the subtle, the overwhelming, the new, the emotional, the social, or the physical and non-social—may be caused by a different gene. Yet there is still something common to these different sensitivities and they may tend to be inherited together.
Not sure if yours is a highly sensitive child?
Dr. Aron has provided a quiz you can use to determine your child’s sensitivity level. She also stresses that no such questionnaire is so accurate that you should use it to make all your decisions about how to treat an individual child.
Remember that sensitivity is an inborn, heightened sensitivity to context, be it positive or negative. It is not shyness, neurosis, inhibitedness, histrionics, or being touchy and self-absorbed. Those are behaviors; they are learned.
Love them for their strengths
In an interview, parenting expert Dr. Lea Waters explained that the benefits of noticing strengths spreads broadly through the family and beyond:
The whole idea of strength-based parenting is learning how to reprogram yourself as a parent, taking more conscious control over what you look for and the patterns in your own brain. The more you start to look first for the good in your children, it spills out everywhere because you genuinely reprogram your brain. You start find it easier to see the strengths in your partner, in your friends, in your colleagues.
A strengths focus isn’t this month’s fad. Positive psychology has spent the last two decades documenting the benefits.
It brings into focus the gains of strengths-spotting versus the harm that can be done by relentless criticism. You might worry that if you don’t keep after your child, he or she will become weak, lazy, self-centered, and thoughtless of others. That’s a misunderstanding.
In Parent’s MagazineKaitlin Ahern wrote that you can identify your child’s strengths because they show up over and over in…
Yearnings: Activities or environments your child is repeatedly drawn to
Rapid learning: Skills or activities your child picks up quickly and easily
Satisfaction: Activities your child is enthusiastic about and that fulfill her
Timelessness: Activities your child becomes so engrossed in that she seems to lose track of time whenever she's doing them
Clear, practical examples you can use
Here's a great resource for parenting your highly sensitive child...or any child. This book is recommended because…
Unlike many parenting books, Strengths Based Parenting focuses on identifying and understanding what your children are naturally good at and where they thrive — not on their weaknesses. The book also helps you uncover your own innate talents and effectively apply them to your individual parenting style.
By showing you how to throw the “Strength Switch,” you can help your children build resilience, optimism, and achievement. This approach enhances self-esteem and energy for both children and teenagers. The Strength Switch will show you that a small shift can yield enormous results.
--Lea Waters, The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish.
How to survive everyday parenting struggles
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive
Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. take on the meltdowns, tantrums, and horrible moods a child can get into. Then they walk you through how to reach the child in his or her distress and restore calm, all without making the situation worse. If you want a great “refrigerator sheet," here’s the PDF.
These books and articles describe in detail what you can do to raise that sensitive child to be the best he or she can be. Isn't that what you would have wanted for yourself? Isn't that what you want for your children?
Watch next month's blog for a post on parenting styles--important information that you need to know.
We would also welcome you into Happiness and the Highly Sensitive Person, a five-week teleconference that uses as a text Aron's book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You described as the first resource in this article.