Carol the Coach: Sensitive Kids Need to Process Feelings

Some kids are just born sensitive. You know the type … the child who cries at the drop of a hat, or worries about his or her friends, or is afraid to bother you with his or her problems. Children like this often times have difficulty processing the world. They're not able to watch news segments because they are truly bothered by the current state of affairs. They read an article and they will empathize with the characters with such intensity that they can actually be bothered by what the character is going through.

This type of child requires that you help him process things. You will likely have to anticipate what is going to bother your child. And you have to watch for all the cues that says that your child is being affected negatively by his environment. As a parent it is your job to help your child to process what is going on inside of him. This means you have to use a lot of reflective listening and share with your child what you believe you see in either body language or non-verbal's. You might find yourself saying “Johnny, you look sad that Susie's parents are getting a divorce.” Johnny will hopefully be able to identify his feelings and validate your assumptions about his feelings. He may clarify by telling you "no he's not sad he feels lonely for Susie because she will not get to see both parents at the same time anymore.

When you're dealing with a very sensitive child you may even have to “play the conversation forward” and make an assumption that Johnny may also apply his concerns for Susie onto his own life. This would look like "Johnny do you ever worry that mom and dad might get a divorce?" In many situations Johnny will confirm his concerns because he is not only empathizing with his friend but he has generalized his concerns to his own life. Very sensitive children often times feel extra anxiety. If you believe your child feels an undue amount of anxiety, it is important to acknowledge the feelings and then reassure your child that he can feel very safe and secure in knowing that mom and dad are doing just fine.

You have to be able to project how your child feels and what your child thinks. This can be very difficult to do in such a busy world when you're stretched in so many different ways but it requires that you stay focused on being able to read your child's expressions, posture, and questions. If you can apply this formula to your very sensitive child it will be easier to react appropriately, project the inevitable, and reassure as needed.

Having a very sensitive child requires that you tune in to his or her energy. You focus on the non-verbal’s and you enlist your child in identifying his feelings. This will allow your child to externalize his concerns and anxieties. Then as needed you get your child to express his concerns Ask some inquiring questions that focus on your child's life and then reassure him that his concerns and worries are not necessary because his life is different than his friend Susie.

As you begin to show him the pattern of projecting his fears onto his own life he will begin to interrupt those patterns and reassure himself. Anxious children need a lot of reassurance and you are the key to making that happen!

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