Thursday, December 20, 2012

My SUPER Super Sensitive Kid

Do you have a super sensitive child?
I do.

There is nothing wrong with a super sensitive child. There is no diagnosis or syndrome or spectrum of diagnoses with a super-sensitive person. It is simply an inborn trait, and one that describes my child.

My son John, in fact, is a delightfully-funny, highly-inquisitive, terrifically-imaginative, freakishly wise, outside-of-the-box thinking, active and  bright, genuinely-intuitive, super-sensitive kid. He will cry if some one in the house yells. He will get upset with the slightest raise of volume in my voice. He will remove himself from any situation where he thinks one person is trying to dominate another person in any way in a movie. He will experience some distress if he has to make too many decisions. He will sit nearer to me if he thinks I am upset. He will run from the room if the background music on your movie or TV show sounds too sad. He will not watch a TV show or film where one person is unkind to another person. He will keep a sharp eye on anyone who is angry, hurt, lonely, or anything else but "fine". He reads subtle changes in moods from meters away and can tell who is upset in 3.6 seconds.  He reads distress in any living thing.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, this super-sensitivity trait does not suggest that a person is shy or timid. In fact, John is quite social and friendly. Mostly comfortable in most social situations. An absolute delight.

While reading around cyberspace for this blog post, I ran across a website called The Highly Sensitive Person Book, by a woman, Dr. Elaine Aron, wanting to sell her book. Well, I'm not buying the book, but I am copying/pasting this quote from her website:

Unfortunately, the trait has been somewhat misunderstood in our culture, so that most psychologists and parents tend to see only one aspect of some sensitive children and call this trait shyness, inhibitedness, fearfulness, fussiness, or "hyper" sensitivity. If one could see inside the mind of a sensitive child, however, one would learn the whole story of what is going on--creativity, intuition, surprising wisdom, empathy for others... 

John and I often discuss the difficulties of being hyper-empathic:  feeling overwhelmed with the knowledge and sense of the feelings of others, the propensity to think of the needs of others first, being swamped with awareness of the needs of others, having your own feelings not given what feels like enough attention, the tendency to not ask for ways to get his own needs met, the fact that few others are as empathic and may miss your own need, the risk of some people who prey on the emotions of others, larger-than-necessary behaviors when feeling sad or disappointed or angry, feeling stressed out with "timed" activities or when under-the-gun, the possibility of struggling with depression or anxiety as an adult, or feeling self-conscious and labeled "sensitive". 

But even better, John John has learned to feel proud of his highly-empathic side, to trust that side of him.

As a parent, my job is to help him figure out how to get through the struggles, but even more, to have pride in his unique abilities. It is my honor to be his parent. I find that, as always, he and I are walking our way through this together. 

P.S.  I wouldn't change a thing...except to hope the world doesn't gobble him up.

If you like this post you might try this one:
Would My Son Be Ruined in School?


  1. Is this a little the sign of the times or is it our homeschooled children that haven't had to struggle with bullying and have had their mums (and dads) show them about compassion and love.

    My boys are both like this. Jay I think more so. At 14 he is looking to get a part time job and going to TAFE and probably get a girlfriend. I wonder if they will let people walk all over them or if they will know when people are taking advantage. Jay would do anything for anyone, more so if they are upset in any way.

    I love that my boys are sensitive, caring and loving and they will make beautiful men. We have done well helping raise these young men to live life to their potential.

    I love your blog Karen.

    Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family.
    Cathy xxx

    1. I'm not sure, Cathy. Maybe it's the homeschooling, but I think it's the parenting that our children are getting that has really made the difference. For example, I am also a very sensitive person and in MY family I always heard (and STILL hear) people saying with a frown, "Kay, you are SO sensitive...!" Like there was something wrong with me or something...
      I like to think that I have changed that dynamic for my own child. <3

      And, Cathy, I'm so happy to have you here!

  2. I have two very sensitive sons, and they are super sensitive to the moods of the family. It's almost a psychic ability, if you believe in those things. If they see my eyebrows move into a frown, they are right there by my side to comfort me. When my older son's girlfriend ended their relationship, he was hurt beyond belief. And my younger son has this uncanny intuition about other people that is quite amazing. He notices the smallest of details, if they are embarrassed, if they have been hurt by another classmate. Both defend the underdog, so they have an entourage of "geeky" adoring friends, along with the repsect of the "popular" crowd. So I know what you mean by having a sensitive kid. It's wonderful, but it's terrifying because eventually these sensitive kids will have to make it in a very brutal world - without me and their dad to protect them - Kendra

  3. My son is extremely sensitive as well. Also, most of my daughters male homeschool friends fit this bill. One in particular blows my mind.... and he's outgoing to boot.

  4. What a beautiful post. It struck me while reading this that much of this describes me... or used to describe me. I can remember, as a child, feeling a rush of unexplained feelings after watching someone--especially strangers--for just a few minutes. I often did much more observing than most other kids, taking in the feelings of others around me. I didn't understand it. Over the years I'd was told that I was "spooky" because I gave others the feeling that I "could see into their souls," and that I "take things too personally" and "am too sensitive". As a kid, I didn't understand these statements, other than they were disapproving of me. I heard these things enough and they sort of blunted my innate ability. For the sake of emotional survival, I was forced to stifle my sensitivity, my extra-connectedness to the world. It still seeps through the cracks of my consciousness on occasion, still sometimes seeming "spooky" to some; others in my life have come to wish they could have such experiences, too.

    This post reminded me of all this, of these memories that I think I had largely suppressed. Now, as an adult, I strive to unlearn this suppression of my natural sensitivity, and to create a gentler, more understanding, and more accepting environment for my sensitive child.

    Thank you for this post. It's helped me remember a part of myself.

  5. Fantastic post! One of the reasons I can't teach in schools anymore is because I can't handle watching the sensitive kids (boys in particular) trying to cope with the zoo. My son is super-sensitive too (he has a few other labels as well!) and the best thing I ever did for him was homeschool him.


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