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A mental health expert is sharing her reasons why being sensitive or raising a sensitive child isn't a bad thing, but rather an asset.
"I think that sensitivity is something that is misunderstood quite a bit. Have you ever heard someone say, “Stop being so sensitive” or “You’re being overly dramatic!” High sensitivity is in fact an incredible quality," says Terry Warburton, the Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope Counselling in Winnipeg.
There are specific traits that sensitive people have that can be overlooked.
"Highly sensitive people are often very intelligent and have a rich and complex inner life. They are aware of subtleties in their environment. They sometimes have to withdraw to a quiet place to get away from stimulation and probably need to avoid violent shows and movies and become quite stirred up when there is a lot going on."
Warburton says if people's children resemble these traits, they may be blessed with a sensitive child. She has experience in this field herself.
"A few years ago, I remember walking with my youngest daughter to school one spring day when there had been rain the night before. As we walked down the lane, she took in a big breath and said, “I LOVE the smell of mud!” This is the same girl who when she was three or four, would go flying from the family dinner table to her room. Something had upset her and I had no idea what."
This experience was a sign to Warburton that she had a sensitive child. As a sensitive daughter, there were also other traits she displayed.
"She is also the one who can read the emotions of others and is the first one to show warmth, empathy, and caring to someone that she senses is hurting. That is my beautiful and amazing highly sensitive daughter," says Warburton.
Psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron has written several books on the topic of sensitivity and has found in her research that sensitivity is normal and is present in 15-20 per cent of the population.
"The brains of those who are highly sensitive actually work differently than other brains, so yes, there are real differences in those who are highly sensitive. Highly sensitive people are often very alert, noticing many small details of their surroundings, experiencing their feelings in a more intense way. There is a strong genetic component, so if you consider yourself highly sensitive, your children probably are as well."
It's been said that highly sensitive children are also referred to as 'orchid children'.
"Orchids are beautiful flowers, but they are very particular about the conditions that they need in order to grow and thrive. The same is true with orchid children. For some of these kids, the taste and texture of foods can be too intense. Don’t take this personally and make adjustments without blaming. These children are easily wounded and they need us to understand them. We need to work very hard at not being the source of their wounding. Due to their sensitivity, we need to be particularly mindful of our tone of voice and facial expressions. These children need their caretakers to be strong and to understand them."
While it can be a hard road to walk, parenting a sensitive child, it comes with a high reward as well, according to Warburton.
"Sometimes parents can feel judged by others because their children respond differently to their world. Tantrums and other emotional expressions can be very intense, taking on a life of their own. Sometimes these children are labelled as inhibited or fearful. They can be shy or outgoing, and usually more cautious. When we understand sensitivity, we realize that we need to shield these children from situations and environments that might be too overwhelming and stimulating for them. When the environment is safe and nurturing, sensitive children grow, thrive and blossom. Then they can share their gifts of creativity, insight and intuition with the world!"