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We all know that children, in general, are quite difficult to handle. Certain children, however, are noticeably more reactive to certain situations than others. They are highly sensitive to parents being firm with them or things not turning out the way they want to. This leads to extreme reactions that range from extremely whiny to be completely disconnected from any conversations. This, pretty much, is what it feels to be around a highly sensitive child.
What Are the Signs of a Highly Sensitive Child?
When it comes to a highly sensitive child or hypersensitive kids, the signs are rather apparent in their behaviour. These are on the verge of an emotional breakdown and resulting in total loss of control of themselves. It’s best to bring these signs to the attention of your child so that they, too, are aware of themselves.
- Whining – Once they start crying, they cry for a long time either in bursts or a constant whine throughout the day.
- Fidgeting – Seemingly unsatisfied with how the situation is, they will try to engage with certain objects or even their own selves, constantly moving around.
- Begging – If their demands are not met, they start begging for it, which may result in dramatic behaviour around you.
- Irritation – Any conversation with them will end up with an irritated reply or an answer for no apparent reason. Any slight actions might get them upset, too.
- Disconnect – The child completely shuts off contact with you. They don’t talk, don’t respond, won’t meet your eye, and be aloof and uninterested in anything at all.
How to Determine How Sensitive Your Child is
There are certain techniques and to determine how emotionally sensitive your child might be. The answers to the Yes and No queries below, help determine where your child’s sensitivity may lie.
1. Emotional Sensitivity to Self
- Can your child express in clear words what he is actually feeling?
- If your child is watching a movie or reading a book that’s sad or scary, does his reaction ever feel like it is unnecessarily dramatic?
- When things don’t happen the way your child wants, does he cry excessively and have trouble calming down?
- If you or any other person speaks to your child firmly or criticises them for doing something wrong, does he get upset and disconnect from everyone?
2. Emotional Sensitivity to Others
When someone is upset with the family or in any other situation, is your child able to tell the difference and recognise it?
- If your child spots someone in an extremely emotional situation, be it anger, sadness, or pain, does he let you know that he can feel what the other person is feeling?
- In case your child interacts with someone who is upset, is he able to be understanding or sympathetic towards them?
If most of your answers are a strong YES or NO, it usually indicates that your child is on the very end of an emotional spectrum. This could range from being too sensitive, right down to being totally unaware of any feelings or emotions. With most kids, it’s a balance of both. The aim here is not to disregard what they might be feeling. It is to understand how best to pre-empt a situation and look for the right signs before it goes out of hand.
What is Emotional Disturbance in a Child?
Emotional difficulties in children are something every parent needs to handle since children are growing up and understanding the world around them. But, an emotional disturbance renders a child to process things in a normal way, leading to behaviour that could become troublesome for themselves and others.
An emotional disturbance usually occurs when a child cannot find a proper channel to express their outbursts. These phases usually stay for a bunch of days but could extend to a month or even more than that. In the absence of proper help, a child could stay in an emotionally disturbed state for a long period, leading to a childhood emotional disorder.
10 Ways to Deal With an Emotionally Disturbed Child
Here are 10 ways how you could deal with an emotionally disturbed child.
- Keep a lookout – Prevention is the best medicine. Observe your child for any signs that might show that he has trouble keeping his emotions in control. Making kids aware of their behaviour could help them understand what’s good for them and what isn’t.
- Give them time – A child cannot immediately extricate themselves from a phase of emotional anxiety. They will throw tantrums and have outbursts. Allow them a safe space and time for it. Gradually, they will get tired, and come back to reality and start making sense of things.
- Identify triggers – There might be specific patterns or scenarios that put your child in a state of emotional trouble. Talk to him to figure out what it could have been. Go through his day to recognise what he might not be comfortable telling you.
- Tackle creatively – Making your child aware of his triggers is one thing. But giving him ways to address them and bring peace to his mind is a much better approach. This could range from asking kids to sketch or paint what they’re feeling, tell you a story or to even hug you and cry their heart out if they feel like it.
- Journaling – Scientists and therapists around the world have talked about the mental benefits of keeping a diary or a journal. Inculcating the same in your child right from childhood is a good way of parenting a sensitive child. It gives him a way to express his emotions. Maintain your own journal to keep a track of things as well.
- Distract – Many parents think disciplining a sensitive child is the right way to go. However, it’s best to try and distract him with another activity in order to take his mind off the thing that’s affecting him. This helps him cope with stress independently.
- Reassurance – Children need to feel safe with you and around you. Talk to them after their outburst and let them know that what they’re feeling isn’t wrong. Advise them on how they can better handle it without harming themselves or others.
- Limited options – A multitude of choices can confuse a child and make him want anything and everything. Give him only a handful of options, such as choosing between an ice-cream or chocolate for dessert, instead of asking him what he would like for dessert.
- Limited time – Strategy works wonders. If you know that something might cause your child to throw a tantrum, bring it up at the last minute so that he has less time to react to it and, instead, end up working towards what you want.
- Let it out – Most of the time it is best to let kids be. Let them cry and whine and shout around, as long as they aren’t harming themselves. Once they are done with it, hug them and let them know you understand what they’re feeling.
Treatments Available for Emotional Problems in Children
An emotionally sensitive child needs treatment only if the doctor feels like it, and that too, when certain symptoms of behaviour in the child are observed. There are various forms of treatments such as:
- Therapy – Therapeutic sessions could be for the parent as well as the child. The child learns to keep their emotions in check and to understand what could make him fly off the handle.
- Programmes – Certain programmes and activities help children develop the social and interpersonal skills that further assist them in improving their behaviour.
- Special Schools – Certain children are born that way and require specific attention and education to progress in life and handle themselves. Such educational facilities and hospitals are instrumental in helping both parents and children handle the realities of life and make it better for the future to come.
Understanding the emotional sensitivity of children is a part and parcel of being a parent. Their behaviour is an existing part of their temperament. Never talk to kids negatively for expressing their emotions. All they need is a proper channel and the right way to express them, not shut them out. Every child is unique in their own way and parenting is a process to figure out what’s best for your child. Work together with him and let him know that you love him no matter what. It goes a long way in strengthening your bond.
Also Read: Social and Emotional Development in Kids