I Have a Highly Sensitive Child

This parenting gig has certainly thrown me a few curve balls over the years but as time has passed, I’ve learned to just go with the flow and follow my instinct.

Lately my instinct has been leading me towards something I’d never really through about regarding Elliott. It’s been the observations I’ve made over the past number of months that’s made me wonder and recently realise that Elliott is quite possibly a highly sensitive child.

highly sensitive child
The most recent event happened on Friday while we were watching Shaun the Sheep movie. He absolutely hated the villain in the movie, the creepy guy from the pound, and would get up and leave the room every time he came on, but that’s not what surprised me. It was the moment in the movie where Shaun the Sheep and his flock of friends finally found their owner who had disappeared into the big city only to be rejected by him because he’d lost his memory and didn’t recognise Shaun and his friends. At that very moment in the movie, Elliott sobbed and sobbed, tears rolled down his face, he had felt the emotions so strongly and unlike I’d ever seen him before…and it was only a movie.

I knew that Elliott was sensitive, but this was a new level of sensitive and made me research it a bit further.

I watched a TED talk by Heidi Hass Gable – Gifted, creative and highly sensitive children and to my surprise, things were starting to make sense in terms of Elliott’s personality, the things I’d just passed off as challenges over the past years.

Who knows, I could be completely wrong here, but the coincidence is uncanny.

Gable went on to explain gifted, creative and highly sensitive children in her talk and explained that intelligence is only one dimension. There is also a physiological difference in that they feel things more intensely.

Signs of a highly sensitive child

  1. Intelligence – these children have a drive to learn and ask lots of questions.
  2. Psycho motor – these children need to move all the time. They’re always fiddling.
  3. Creative – these children have a huge imagination. They like to see how things are alike and make connections.
  4. Sensory intensity – seams or tags on their shirt will annoy them, they don’t like things being too loud and will ask for it to be quiet, they are sensitive to smells, they are emotional and feel deeply, they find it hard handling the woes of the world.

highly sensitive child
Elliott is just shy of 4 years old and so I can’t be too sure about the intelligence, psycho motor and creative signs as I have nothing to compare it to. Yes, he asks LOTS of questions, but so do a lot of other 3 year olds. Yes, he likes to move all the time and finds it hard just sitting, but so do many 3 year olds. Yes, he has a wonderful imagination, we can be lying in bed of a morning just listening to him making different voices for his toys, but I would think that many 3 year olds enjoy the same or similar imaginative play.

It’s the sensory intensity that really stands out with Elliott. In her talk, Gable suggests that this is the biggest standout of all the signs of a sensitive and/or gifted child.

Elliott can’t stand scratchy seams or tags on his clothes and asks me to fix them immediately.

Elliott hates loud noise, like REALLY hates it. He will not sit in a movie theatre. He hates being in huge crowds and finds it overwhelming. If music is too loud, he asks for it to be turned down. I quite regularly hear him saying ‘it’s too loud Mummy!’ It sucks for me because I can’t sing really loudly in the car to my favourite song.

Elliott is ALWAYS asking ‘Mummy, what’s that smell’. His sense of smell is extremely sensitive and he picks up things even I can’t smell and really strange smells at that.

Prior to the Shaun the Sheep movie incident, Elliott has always been highly emotional. If Mr. G or I have been sick or hurt, it’s like he feels our pain and it shows in his face and the way he talks. He has a very thin skin. I’ve now considered that the separation anxiety he has previously experienced could have a lot to do with this deep emotional aspect and his connection to me. Who knows.

We have to be really mindful of how we discipline Elliott over the years because even one raised voice can affect him quite deeply. There have been times when he has said things to me with such sincerity I’ve been amazed that someone that young can have such deep feelings.  Without going into any detail I can say that Elliott has the purest and kindest heart which has on many occasions made me gush when I’ve seen how he acts, he’s like a little old soul. His Grammie reckons he’s been here before.

The thing is, if Elliott is in fact a highly sensitive child, I’m nervous about how vulnerable that may make him as he gets older. After the anxiety I have experienced in my life, I do not want him to experience it too.

Michael Grose of Parenting Ideas suggests that parents with highly sensitive children need to be both optimistic and resilient, they need to support the child but not allow the child to take themselves too seriously. I’m really glad that we’re already on the right track with here, we always try to have loads of fun in our house! Michael also goes on to suggest encouraging sensitive children to take risks socially and applaud social achievements, no matter how small.

Ah parenting, it’s most certainly an in depth study all of our own, isn’t it?  This topic has just got me a little fascinated, and as Elliott grows I might see more signs or perhaps not. To me I think it’s important to be aware of the possibility so that I can do what’s best for him instead of ignoring signs and my intuition.

Do you have a highly sensitive and/or gifted child? When did you realise? Has your parenting style changed because of it?

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Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman - a lifestyle and parenting blog.She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a Mum to her 4-year-old son, 2 month old daughter, two chickens, one dog and a fish called Bob and a wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little cottage on the outskirts of Brisbane.

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19 Comments

  1. September 28, 2015 / 7:09 am

    One of my children is like this however more because they are on the autism spectrum and she also has epilepsy. Noise is not great, emotions are always all over the place and hates to see anyone or anything hurting.

  2. September 28, 2015 / 7:25 am

    Wow that’s really interesting!!! And haha yes, I love a good TED talk too! It will be fascinating for you to see Elliott’s personality continue to develop!

  3. September 28, 2015 / 7:35 am

    Some of these sensitivities are sensory based. Some kids who have these sensitivities can be affected to such an extent that it makes it difficult in social situations or participating in daily activities. OTs can diagnose sensory processing disorder in these kids. My kids are definitely emotionally sensitive when it comes to movies! They are fine with books but the visual is too much for them.

  4. September 28, 2015 / 7:54 am

    Hi Eva, what a great set of observations you are making about your son. Each of us has unique qualities which make us who we are which is what you already know…as he is approaching school age in the next 1-2 years it will be interesting to see how he manages some of the challenges associated with school readiness. Denyse

  5. September 28, 2015 / 7:57 am

    The list pretty much describes bub. We’ve been seeing lots of different government nurses, speech therapists etc since she was about 8 months old because I was scared of passing on my anxiety to her and its worked wonders. She has social issues too and hates being in big crowds but we’re slowly working on it. I dare say I may be over thinking it all, but I still think its best to do everything possible rather than ignore it or brush it all off.

  6. September 28, 2015 / 9:04 am

    I have had sensitive children too. We are sensitive grown-ups parenting them as well. I wouldn’t worry too much though. By the time they get to school they pretty much all grow their wings. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to be a rather odd little bunch by nature and can really fixate on the strangest of things and behaviours. Most of it is entirely normal. X

  7. September 28, 2015 / 10:04 am

    It’s interesting isn’t it? I had some sort of delusional idea that because I had boys not girls they wouldn’t be sensitive or shy or any of those things. Wrong. This describes two of my boys exactly. I’m glad that you’re on the right track with Elliot.

    • September 29, 2015 / 9:34 am

      It is very interesting actually. I had wondered about a few things but just passed them off until this particular incident happened. I was inquisitive and had a look into it and it just makes sense.

  8. September 28, 2015 / 10:58 am

    These little ones of ours sure like to keep us on our toes! You are an amazing Mum and Elliott is a very lucky little boy xx

  9. September 28, 2015 / 10:02 pm

    Parenting is always influenced by what the child is like. There are a few things that our parents did that worked with us that we haven’t bothered using with the Tubblet as she’s not that child. We’ve had to find things that work for her. Good luck with finding your way. And thank you for hosting each week. #mummymondays

  10. September 29, 2015 / 5:47 am

    Hi Eva, it’s important as parents to follow our instincts, after all we are the ones who know our children best. We deal with issues of sensitivity to varying degrees in our home, I have found an unwavering patience is the best line of defence, however, we all know that isn’t always possible, but trying my best to see it from their point of view usually works for me. Best of luck with everything xx

  11. September 30, 2015 / 7:25 am

    Great piece Eva I can totally relate as my Miss 6 is a highly sensitive child and would fit into most of the points you have mentioned in your post. We really started to recognise this was she was 3-4 years of age. She certainly wears her heart on her sleeve and entering school this year has been challenging but also very exciting for her. If you’re interested, I found the book ‘Raising Your Spirited Child’ a great read and it offered some good insight into the thoughts and feelings of sensitive children.

  12. October 2, 2015 / 8:24 am

    That certainly presents it’s own challenges but being aware of it must be the first step.

  13. October 2, 2015 / 6:06 pm

    Wow, well that was certainly eye opening! My 4 year old is very much like this too. He cried in a movie the other day when the cow died and he is always telling me not so loud mummy! And he hates thing scratching his skin. Crazy. I’ll know now to keep more of an eye on him as he gets older. THANK YOU.

  14. October 2, 2015 / 7:17 pm

    This parenting gig isn’t easy is it. Good on you for being alert and intune with your kid though to realise that there could be something there that needs a bit of extra attention.

  15. April 3, 2016 / 1:35 pm

    This is a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing. My little girl (6 in June) is super intelligent and always thinking. She needs more sleep than other kids her age and seems to ‘overreact’ to things and I am nodding along to everything in this post. So important. Thanks.