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Are you familiar with the concept of “highly sensitive children”? As the name suggests, these children have a heightened sense of everything around them and may be prone to more meltdowns, a brain that never turns off, and perfectionism. Does this remind you of someone you know and love?
If this person just so happens to be your grandchild, there are many ways that you can support these intelligent and empathetic individuals, including:
1. Practice patience
It’s good to be patient with kids, but you will want to be even more vigilant and cautious when it comes to highly sensitive children. Sensitive children can often take longer to adjust to new situations or to process their emotions, so patience is one of the greatest gifts you can offer them. Whether they’re taking their time to warm up to a new activity or experiencing a strong emotional reaction, always be patient and understanding.
2. Avoid overstimulation
Depending on the situation, this is easier said than done, but if you can, try to keep things as calm and collected for your grand as possible. Highly sensitive children can quickly become overwhelmed by too much noise, light, or activity, so be mindful of this when planning outings or events.
3. Engage in calming activities
As you already know, overstimulation isn’t ideal, but calmness is! Find quiet, calming activities you can do with your grandchild. This could be something creative like painting or relaxing, like reading a book together. Doing something laid back like this can help your grandchild feel calm and connected to you.
4. Provide a safe space
Highly sensitive children are often deeply affected by their environments, so consider creating a calm, quiet space in your home where they can retreat when they need to recharge. Ideas for this mini-escape at Grandma’s include a cozy corner with soft blankets and pillows or a tranquil outdoor space like a garden.
5. Validate their feelings
Your highly sensitive grandchild may experience emotions more intensely than others, so it’s essential to listen attentively when they express their feelings, validating their emotions rather than brushing them off. Grandmas have a special place in their grandkids’ lives, so who better to remind them that it’s okay to feel deeply and that their feelings are valued and understood?
6. Teach them that their sensitivity can be their superpower
While being highly sensitive may come with a negative connotation, it is a gift, as highly-sensitive children are more in tune with the feelings of others and generally more caring and empathetic. Remind them of this and what a unique and good person they are!
7. Advocate for their needs
Grandma’s number one concern is the well-being of her grandchild, so who better than you to advocate for their needs? Be prepared to explain their sensitivity to others and stand up for their needs, whether asking others to respect their need for quiet time or speaking up if they are being unfairly criticized or pressured.
8. Show unconditional love
This one is a no-brainer for you, so keep doing what you’re doing and loving your grandbaby! Your grandchild’s sensitivity may make them more prone to self-doubt and worry, so let them know you love and appreciate them for who they are, sensitivity and all.
Before I go, I do have a book to recommend: The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. If you have (or think you have) a highly sensitive grandchild, I cannot recommend this book and Dr. Aron’s insights enough. In the meantime, I hope my tips help you support your sensitive grandchild and meet them where they are.