3 Tips for Parenting Sensitive Children

Sensitive children have special gifts. Their compassion, intuitiveness, and keen awareness are blessings, but these same traits can also present a challenge both for them and their parents. I realized my first born was a sensitive child when he was a toddler. He’s 10 now, and though the struggles with his sensitivity have waxed and waned over the years, I’m finding that the tween years are presenting new challenges as he is increasingly exposed to certain harsh realities of the world.


My son, like many sensitive children, is deeply bothered by the injustice and violence he sees on television and learns about at school. He’s asked tough questions like, “Why do we have wars? Why can’t people solve differences without violence?” to which I cannot formulate a good answer. He’s acutely aware of the emotions of those around him and seems to soak them up like a sponge. He asks us to catch mosquitos that get inside and put them back out unharmed. The challenge for us (and I’m sure all parents of sensitive children) is helping him to retain his sensitivity in a tough world while building resilience and a means to filter all that input. I want him to view his sensitivity as his strength – his superpower. As with all superpowers, he must learn to control it. Here are my three tips for parenting sensitive children:

  1. Validate emotions. Sensitive children show strong emotions, and as a parent, this can be difficult to handle. It’s hard to see them sad, and sensitive children feel sadness deeply. Anger can also feel too big to handle. On the other side, when they’re happy, their joy seems to radiate outward and fill the room. Let sensitive children know that emotions are normal and they are fleeting. Sadness won’t last forever. Anger subsides. Sit with them through the big feelings and be as empathetic and supportive as possible, and teach real coping strategies and skills to help them move through negative emotions.
  1. Set up a positive environment. Sensitive children do not thrive in a negative environment. Foster positive sibling relationships and don’t allow teasing or name-calling. Try to be careful with your words so that they do not damage your sensitive child’s self-esteem. Give plenty of affirmations and encouragement. Work with your child’s teachers to make sure they’re being supported and are in a positive environment while away from home. Use positive parenting skills to provide steady, calm, gentle discipline.
  1. Teach your child how to set personal boundaries. Karen Young of the website Hey Sigmund defines a boundary as, “the line between what is me and what is not me; between what they think and what I think. With a strong boundary, there’s an acceptance that just because they think it/ feel it/ say it/ do it/ doesn’t mean I have to as well.” Tell your child that she is always the boss of her boundary and she never has to stay around people who make her feel bad. It may be helpful to roleplay some situations and give your child a script so she knows what to say to toxic people.

Sensitive children bring with them a light that the world so desperately needs. It is our duty to help them protect that light so that it shines for all to see.

~Post by Rebecca Eanes–founder of www.positive-parents.org, creator of the popular Facebook page Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, contributing editor to Creative Child and Baby Maternity Magazines, and author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide.

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