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How to help your oversensitive child embrace their sensitivity

By Michal Spiegelman

“It is primarily parenting that decides whether the expression of sensitivity will be an advantage or a source of anxiety.” —Elaine Aron, PhD

If you were a sensitive child, you probably grew up believing that something was wrong with you. Adults around you attached labels to your sensitive behavior that left no room for love. You felt judged and misunderstood. You lacked acceptance. It probably took you many years (and maybe you’re not even there yet) to realize that your ability to experience things so vividly is a beautiful gift both to you and to the world.

I often ask myself whether I would have become a different person if my mom hadn’t punished me for crying (or laughing) too much. I was born with a sharpened sense of awareness and was told throughout my childhood that I was oversensitive and needed to develop thicker skin.

My parents had no idea what a gift my sensitivity was. They did not have the correct information. Considering the circumstances, they did the best they could. They didn’t want me to have to face the world from a place of weakness, and they thought that toughening me up would prepare me better for life. Even as a young adult, I felt oversensitive. I thought that something was wrong with me.

It wasn’t until I found Reiki in 1996 that I connected with my true self and started to see my sensitivity as a gift rather than a curse.

Apparently, I’m not the only oversensitive child who wasn’t treated appropriately.

I was honestly surprised a few weeks ago when I posted only eight words in my Thriving Empath Facebook Group for Women, and, within a few hours, 150 women had responded to my post. Let me share a few of their responses.

I grew up believing that my sensitivity was….

  • Silly
  • A curse
  • Too much!
  • Not ok
  • A flaw and to be hidden
  • Over the top
  • Not normal
  • My fault and the reason why I made so many people angry
  • A weakness, a fault in me
  • Something to be ashamed of
  • Not real…I was told that I imagine things 
  • I was told I was a rebellious child
  • Just too much plus too much trouble
  • A problem that I should iron out. I should get a thicker skin, and when I cried like a child, I was told they were ‘crocodile tears’ and not real sadness
  • Was real but couldn’t be displayed because it would somehow bring shame, embarrassment, and disgrace upon my adopted family
  • Something to be squashed. I was always told to get a hold of myself and suck up my tears
  • Me being dramatic
  • A pain disorder. I didn’t realize much of the pain I felt was actually not my pain

It might be hard to see your sensitivity as a gift when people around you say that you’re overreacting or too childish. As an adult, you have the power to change your perspective and embrace your sensitivity. You no longer need to believe in what other people think or say. You can re-parent yourself, release limiting beliefs, and celebrate your sensitivity.

If you are a parent of a sensitive child, I want to inspire you to help your child embrace their sensitivity and thrive.

Here are 8 ways to help your oversensitive child embrace their sensitivity

  1. Respect your child’s feelings. Acknowledge and validate them.

    If your child is oversensitive, they will have to deal with judgment and criticism from people around them. People have no idea. Oversensitive children can become easily hurt or upset. Create a space for them to express their feelings and to be heard. Practice active listening. Acknowledge what they say (“it sounds like what he said really hurt your feelings”), and validate the way your child feels (“it’s perfectly okay to be sad right now.”)

  2. Help your child identify when they take on other people’s emotions.

    When you notice a sudden or unexplained shift in your child’s mood, explain that they are probably feeling and being affected by somebody else’s emotions. Teach your child to pause and connect with the way they feel. Teach them to ask themselves if their feelings are theirs or belong to others. Being aware that some emotions are theirs and some belong to others is an essential tool for them. My guided meditation, “Honor your Feelings, will teach you a practice of connecting with the heart, which will be very beneficial for your child to learn. 

  3. Help your child bring their intuition and creativity to life.

    When an oversensitive child feels judged and unaccepted by people around them, they suppress their natural gifts, such as being creative and intuitive. Encourage your child to unleash their free-spirited heart. Help them spend time making art. When they share a thought or a “knowing” about something without having evidence that it is true, it might simply be their intuition that is speaking up. Watch your response. Encourage them to use their imagination and wonder. Teach them to trust the inner voice that knows things other people don’t know. In my blog, “How to Develop Your Intuition and Make It Your Compass,” you can learn more about the gift of intuition. 

  4. Teach your child to recharge their emotional batteries.

    Oversensitive children feel vivid. They are easily upset and hurt. It takes them time and energy to recover from emotional overload. They get drained. They may have a day, from time to time, of lacking energy. Allow your intuition to guide you in evaluating when your child needs to replenish themselves. Spend time with your child to create a list of activities that will help them recharge. And when the time is right, remind them to take time to fill up their cup. And…don’t forget to do so yourself as well. Lead by example.

  5. Model self-care. Become your child’s lighthouse.

    Empathic children feel their parents’ emotions vividly. If you are anxious, your child will take on your anxiety. If you are stressed, they will be too. Building a solid practice of self-care will make it easier for you to be your child’s lighthouse. Read my previous blog, “How to Be a Lighthouse in the Midst of the Storm,” and learn ways to become a source of light and support for your child.

  6. Give your child the gift of a daily meditation and Reiki practice.

    Many people who join my Reiki classes are empaths. Sometimes they don’t know they are empaths until we talk about it during the class. Many of them are raising oversensitive kids. It’s very common in my virtual Reiki classes for a mom who is practicing self-Reiki to be surrounded by her children (especially the sensitive ones), hugging and touching her, by the time she opens her eyes at the end of her practice. Developing a Reiki and meditation practice is a gift you can give to yourself and your child. Once you learn Reiki, you acquire a tangible tool that you and your child can use for grounding, centering, and recharging. Give yourself and your child a gift. Come learn Reiki with me.

  7. Help your child clear their energy and the energy in their space. Make it part of your home.

    When your child absorbs energy from others, the negative emotions might stay attached to their aura. If they have a friend over and feel their friend’s pain, the energy might remain stored in the room after the friend leaves. You can help your child clear and purify energy both from their body and space in natural ways. Using salt, crystals, smudge sticks, and essential oils are only a few of the holistic ways to create a supportive environment for you and your child. I present practical ways to clear energy and make a supportive space in my online course, “The Empath’s Empowerment Online Course.

  8. Teach your child how to explain their sensitivity to others.

    People will tell your child to “toughen up.” Friends will make fun of their “weakness.” While it is your job to educate others about your child’s sensitivity, you can also teach your child to speak up for themselves. Spend time talking with your child and coming up with a few sentences to explain their sensitivity. Depending on their age, you can even help them prepare a short “elevator pitch” and practice it so they can better explain themselves when needed.  

No matter your child’s age, there are so many ways to teach them to be proud of their sensitivity and embrace who they are so that they too can share their empathic gifts with the world. Do you have experience parenting a sensitive child? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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1 Comment

  1. Mimi Broihier

    Hi Michal. I appreciate the article so much and related to it. It is something that has determined so much of my childhood relationships with my parents and family. I shared this on FB and one of my sensitive friends mentioned that you use the term “oversensitive” even in the title. That seems to run counter to the point of your post. Might you just want to say “sensitive?”

    Reply

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