Let’s start this article today with an anecdote. This story is all about a girl back in primary school. For the sake of privacy, let’s call her Carrie.
Carrie was always labeled as the ‘sensitive’ child. She was called this since she always gets emotional when she was teased and name-called. And every child knows that if you cry, you lose.
Thankfully, this story ends on a good note. Carrie is now in college and appears to be in a healthy relationship.
But it’s hard not to think back and remember just how harsh a lot of classmates were to Carrie. Everybody, even the parents, knew her as the ‘sensitive child.’ But is being sensitive and in touch with one’s emotions such a bad thing?
Sensitive Children Deserve Better
When you hear the phrase ‘the sensitive child,’ what image comes into your mind? You might think these kids are the ones who get easily offended by a joke and cry over spilled milk. But sensitivity is more than being very emotional and easy to cry.
Sensitive children share different traits that go beyond being emotional. As the label suggests, sensitive children use their senses more than others. Sensitive children are keener on their surroundings and are more likely to process information thoroughly.
Sensitive children are also more empathetic and can relate to others easier. Their sensitive nature allows them to read any room in a snap. They’re also more likely to share the highs and lows that other people experience.
Some drawbacks of raising a sensitive child include frequent tantrums and overstimulation. While not every kid experience this, the more hypersensitive a child is, the more susceptible they are to their environment. This can affect their social skills and their ability to cope.
Many people see children who are highly sensitive as ‘weak’ and ‘inferior.’ This is why phrases like ‘toughen up’ or ‘have thicker skin’ are thrown at children at such a young age.
There is nothing wrong with wanting tough and independent children. We are living in a harsh world where not everybody is kind and respectful. And opening up your child to the world’s realities can be beneficial.
But not every child can fit this mold. Forcing sensitive children to toughen up and follow the crowd will only push them to hide their true potential. Their sensitivity should never be considered as a flaw, rather a unique part of their nature and personality.
For such a long time, sensitivity was seen as a negative trait that needs correcting. But that perception was challenged by Dr. W. Thomas Boyce, a pediatrician from the University of California. In his inspiring findings, Instead of challenging who the children are, we should be challenging what environment we put the children in.
Raising an Orchid Child
Dr. Boyce, author of The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Sensitive People Struggle and How All Can Thrive, likened two groups of children to flowers. Based on stress levels, one group is called the dandelion children. These kids can handle most pressure and easily adapt to either a low or high-stress environment.
Whereas the orchid children are kids that are comparable to orchids. Placing them in a high-stress environment can cause them a tremendous amount of anxiety and distress. But if you place them in a low-stress, well-maintained, and caring environment, you’ll see them grow and prosper as a healthy individual.
Like orchids, sensitive children require care, attention, and patience from their parents and guardians. Orchid children, when placed in the ideal environment, can outdo all their dandelion counterparts. And when you minimize stress, you minimize the risk of your child developing mental health problems, addictions, and misdemeanors.
Interestingly, around 1 out of 5 children are more likely to be sensitive and easily affected by their surroundings. So there is a chance your kid is an orchid child.
But being sensitive is not black and white. Rather, it is a spectrum of traits, and your child can have one or more sensitive characteristics.
But do we know where these children had gotten these traits? The answer is not as straightforward since many factors can affect your child. A mixture of nature and nurture is the best explanation Dr. Boyce can give.
So what does this mean if you have an orchid child? Do you need a complete lifestyle overhaul to accommodate your child?
Not necessarily. Raising an orchid child is similar to raising a dandelion child, but with a few steps and changes. In this overwhelming world, comfort and stability can help your child cope and grow healthily.
Here are 10 highly sensitive child parenting strategies. These tips can help you shape your orchid child to be the best person they can be.
10 Strategies for Parents of Sensitive Children
1 Accept and Validate your Child’s Sensitivity
You are your child’s number one source of comfort and validation. You are the one capable of wiping away their feelings of inadequacy and wimpiness. So accepting and validating your kid’s sensitive nature is a step in the right direction.
You want your child to understand and experience their emotions, not hide them. Making them feel heard and understood can boost their self-esteem and confidence. This can bring them to a path of self-discovery and healthy coping.
2 Understand their Point of View
A lot of times, orchid children are misunderstood by their friends, classmates, and teachers. What might not be a big deal for others might mean the entire world to them. Your kid might also feel the need to have an outburst when something does not go in their favor.
It can feel overwhelming, but empathizing allows you to grasp your child’s emotions and understand their point of view. And once you know what had triggered them, the easier it is to support them.
Sensitivity comes in different shades of gray. Emotions might easily trigger your child, or they might feel overwhelmed by the physical world. So seeing things through their perspective can help you understand what they truly need.
3 Comfort your Child
A sensitive child can absorb emotions like a sponge. So if they’re placed in an unwitting setting, they can get emotional very quickly.
Instead of getting irritated and scolding them, be a source of comfort and console them. Allow your child to express their feelings freely with no judgment or shame. Your kid needs more time to recharge, so let them have time to rest.
During comfort times, you also have the chance to connect and bond with your kid. This is helpful since it allows you to grow closer to them and understand them more. This is a good time to let them communicate their thoughts, feelings, and fears more openly.
4 Positive Reinforcement Should be the Norm
Positive reinforcement is an effective disciplining strategy. Associating good behavior with praises and rewards will encourage consistent good behavior.
Your words can greatly impact your child’s perception and behavior. Choose your words wisely and incorporate a reward system. This can teach your kid discipline without targeting their confidence.
5 Provide Structure and Routine
Orchid children prefer to have structure and routine. Surprises are best avoided unless you want an upset tot. Keeping up with a predictable schedule can make your child feel secure and prepared.
You can make things easier for them by creating a daily routine that both of you can follow. Sleeping, eating, and playing at an almost fixed time allows your child to adjust appropriately without worrying about what to do next.
6 Give Them Time to Breathe
Overstimulation is common for children who are more sensitive than others. They tend to have a harder time coping with stimulants that are around them.
Overstimulation might look like a tantrum to outsiders. But unlike the latter, a sensory overload is something you can’t undo with a bribe.
Take your child out of a stressful situation and give them ample time to catch their breath. Let them calm down and feel comfortable enough so they can explain what had just happened. Once you know their triggers, you and your child can avoid or limit them.
7 Set Healthy Boundaries
It can be tempting to be lenient for your sensitive child just to avoid conflict. But as parents, you still need to teach them how to be responsible. And giving in every time they demand something does not benefit anyone.
Establish boundaries that both you and your child can follow. Rules and consequences are still important in everyday life. Being gentle but firm can instill values and limits into your kid.
8 DON’T Shield Them from the World
Orchid children are very cautious of the world, and it gives you the urge to protect them 24/7. But coddling them won’t help them in the long run. Just think: What will happen once they become adults and you’re no longer there to protect them?
Caring for sensitive kids requires a balance of giving them equal love and independence. You want to nurture them in a healthy and accepting environment. But you also want to let them know the harsh realities of the world.
We don’t live in a perfect society, and it’s a sad thought to think. But you have to let your child know the truth so they have a better time coping with their surroundings.
9 Slow and Steady to Keep Them Happy
An orchid child values learning things slowly and thoroughly. You might feel like you are behind other parents. But going by your child’s pace can do wonders for their development.
Just take your time in raising and teaching your child. Child-rearing is not a race, and it should never be. Your child will reach their goals someday. You just need to be patient.
10 Teach Them Mindful Exercises
Lastly, you want to teach them mindful exercises for when they are stressed. Breathing techniques or counting to 10 are some strategies that can help them control their feelings.
As they grow older, your child will feel more magnified emotions every day. So giving your kids control over them can reduce tantrums and meltdowns. Mindful exercises can also help them handle pressure at school, work, and social events.
A Message to Orchid Childen and Parents
Before concluding this piece, here’s a message for any orchid child and parents.
For orchid children, life can be tough. And there will be times where they wish they were born as someone else.
But orchid children are placed into this world for a reason. We need humanitarians and empaths that can balance this otherwise cruel and cold place. And sensitive kids can be the unique answer to a lot of our modern problems.
As much as we need hard logic and facts, we also need compassion and understanding. When placed in the right environment, orchid children can prosper and grow as responsible, model citizens of their community. And their sensitive nature will no longer be a flaw but a boon.
Don’t hide your sensitive child from this world. Instead, let them spread their wings and be who they are. You’ll soon see the true worth of an orchid child in action.
Sensitive children require plenty of care and attention from their parents and environment. Like orchids, they need the right conditions to grow healthily and beautifully.
Orchid children are cautious, careful, and considerate. They can appear shy and withdrawn from other children. There is also a big chance that they’ll grow up to be introverted and quiet.
People often misunderstand orchid children and perceive them as weak and overemotional. But sensitive kids are strong in their own distinctive ways. And as parents, you have the ability to bring out their special talents.
You can help your sensitive child by accepting them wholeheartedly and being gentle with your disciplinary tactics. But you also want to let them grow and experience the world around them. The journey with a sensitive child can be slow, but you can find just how meaningful it is to raise them.
Orchid children can be as successful as their dandelion peers. With love, care, and support, they can bloom into a healthy member of society.