In the book "The Highly Sensitive Child," best-selling author Elaine Aron, Ph.D., defines a sensitive child as one who has "a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything." Raising such a child can be rewarding, as sensitive children are often creative, innovative and intellectually gifted and many times, they grow up to become high achievers, says Maureen Healy, author of "Growing Happy Kids." But while the benefits of sensitive children abound, there are challenges that can overwhelm both child and parent. Sensitive children may become easily overwhelmed or fearful in many situations, and they may react in ways that can make them easy targets for bullies. They may also be prone to isolation from other children and may struggle to interact positively in social situations. Follow these tips to help your sensitive child learn to stand up for himself.
1 Teach your child that his sensitivity is a gift, not a curse. Avoid becoming frustrated with him if he does not stand up for himself with his peers. Accept that he is likely to withdraw from certain social situations and may become upset or stressed when faced with less sensitive personality types. The more understanding you are of his sensitivity, the happier, stronger and more secure he will likely feel. Be aware that you cannot make your child less sensitive, but you can equip him with the tools he needs to avoid becoming overwhelmed in social situations.
2 Tell your child that he doesn't have to deal with intimidating people on his own. Knowing that he has people watching out for him will give him the confidence to take action. Tell him to let you or his teacher know if he feels he is being bullied. Make an appointment with his teacher to discuss the situation and find out what the school's anti-bullying strategy is. Make sure your child knows that he needs to tell you if a teacher or adult is mistreating him so that you can take the necessary steps to deal with it. He should feel safe to tell you, not fearful that you may be disappointed in him if he perceives himself as being weak.
3 Teach your child simple breathing exercises he can use to stay calm when he is faced with someone who intimidates him, Healy suggests in her book. Advise him to walk away from the other child and find a quiet place. Yoga Bugs recommends 'Bumblebee Breath' for its relaxing effects. Teach your child to close his eyes and take a deep breath, then hum as he breathes out, keeping his face and lips soft. He should repeat this at least five times.
4 Take your child to self-defense classes to boost his confidence, suggests Dr. Ted Zeff, author of "The Strong, Sensitive Boy." As well as helping him stand up for himself, this will give him a way to relieve stress and focus his energy on something positive, like his strengths and abilities.
5 Encourage your child to make friends with other sensitive children. Similar children are naturally drawn to each other, Healy explains. Take the time to identify peers with sensitive dispositions, and connect with their parents to set up play dates. If your child has a group of loyal friends who will support him at school and in social situations with peers, he is more likely to have the confidence to stand up for himself. The old adage "safety in numbers" rings true here.
- Create a calm home environment for your sensitive child. Whatever is going on at school, make sure he knows that he will always feel safe and comfortable at home. Healy suggests creating a corner or a den in the home with your child's favorite toys, activities or gadgets.
- Boost your child's confidence to help him deal with bullies by giving him unconditional love and support. Involve other family members, as studies have shown that sensitive children who have loving, supportive grandparents and other adults in their lives have more positive childhoods than do those who rely simply on their parents.
- The Highly Sensitive Person: Is Your Child Highly Sensitive?
- The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them; Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.
- Growing Happy Kids; Maureen Healy
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