3 Steps to Supporting Your Sensitive Child Through Their Big Emotions:

April 18, 2017


When a Sensitive child is not supported in processing their emotions and in making sense of all the relational tension that goes on at school, they have a tendency to worry. When this worry is not verbalized and processed, it turns to anxiety and usually presents itself as unreasonable and unwarranted behaviour.  Before resorting to discipline, think about what may be causing your child to worry. Follow these 3 steps to support your child through big emotions:



1: Create an environment where your child feels safe to express their ideas, feelings and events of the day. To do this you must respond to all statements from your child with comfortable body language and a curious expression. Comfortable and curious.


2: Validate your child’s feelings by describing how you think it must have felt during the event and after the event, and offer opportunities for your child to express how they feel now.


3: Problem solve together by thinking of possible solutions to create different outcomes for next time.


Here is a great example of a conversation between a Mum and her 6-year-old Sensitive daughter:


Child: ‘Today Julie grabbed my hand and made me run away behind the tree when the teacher said to line up!’


Parent: ‘Oh really? So, Julie grabbed your hand and you both ran away behind the tree even though the teacher had said to line up?’ Then, pause to create space for more details.


Child: ‘Yeah, I didn’t want to but Julie made me!’


Parent: Still with comfortable body language and a curious expression. ‘Oh you didn’t want to?’


Child: ‘The teacher came and got us and said we had to wait until last and told us off, and Julie was laughing.'


Parent: ‘Sounds like the teacher wasn’t happy.’


Child: ‘She wasn’t happy with me and Julie.’


Parent: 'Hmmm, did you like running away with Julie?'


Child: ‘Ummm, well I did, kind of, it was fun at the beginning. But I don’t like being told off, and all the other kids looked at me, and I was trying really hard not to cry.'


Parent: ‘That must have been horrible.' Validating how it must have felt.


Child: ‘Yeah I felt bad on the inside and usually I am the first one in line and the teacher smiles at me.'


Parent: ‘You are very good at following instructions. Sounds like you made a mistake today. That’s OK. Everybody makes mistakes, even I do!'


Child: Snuggles into her Mum arms.


Parent: ‘Maybe you and I could think of some things together, that you could say next time when Julie wants you to do something that you know is not right? Do you have any ideas?'


Child: ‘I don’t know. Once Julie said she wouldn’t be my friend if I didn’t play with her.'


Child: Begins to cry loudly.


Parent: Sits with her daughter, comfortable with the wailing noise, rubbing her back until all the big feelings pass.


Keep repeating the process, remaining comfortable and curious. Create space for them to share until you have received all the information. Validate how it must have felt for them and then problem solve together.


This Parent continues to have conversations with her daughter about Julie, the teacher, and anything else that she needs to figure out, because she knows nothing is so bad that she can't share it with her Mum.


Additional notes:


1: Create an environment

Make it easy and safe for your child to express their thoughts, feelings and events of the day. Many parents drill their children for information as soon as they see them after school, while walking home or in the car. ‘How was your day?' is such a broad statement it’s no wonder the response is no more than a shrug and a mere ‘good’.  Try playing some quite music during the journey home or walking in silence, giving them the space and freedom to start processing the events of their day.


2: Validate your child’s feelings

Sometimes, all children need is to know that someone else knows how they feel. It’s that easy. Feelings are very real, totally normal and, good or bad, should be accepted. Resist the urge to say ‘you’re fine', ‘it’s no big deal’, ‘harden up’ or ‘get over it’.  Describing how a child might be feeling on the inside not only helps them to feel understood, but it gives them the vocabulary they need to understand and express their feelings appropriately.  


3: Problem solve together

Problem solving fosters Emotional Intelligence. You can use statements such as ‘I wonder what would happen……. 'I’m thinking of an idea that…..' or 'what do you think you could say.......' or  ‘I wonder if there’s a way…….'


Photo Credit: www.childdevelopmentinfo.com



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