Highly Sensitive Children: 3 Tips for Their Teachers

Do you have a highly sensitive child in school?

Posted Jan 18, 2013

On Tuesday, I hosted my monthly teleconference about highly sensitive children (HSC), and adults participated from around the country. Of course, questions arose around many topics including how to handle an HSC’s daily nightmares, stubbornness, school readiness, shaky self-confidence and one that resonated with so many on the call: How do I get my child’s teacher to understand him as a highly sensitive child? So many moms, dads, and others raising these kids perked up to say, YES, tell us how.

Teaching the Teachers

What happens is as a parent you become the teacher. You need to gently guide your child’s teacher to gain insight (or at the very least, tolerance) into your child’s highly sensitive nature and what that means in the classroom (share my post, The Highly Sensitive Child). Because our goal is that your children’s teacher can see their greatness and learn how to help them manage their deeply emotional, higher than average intelligences and stubborn nature for greater success at school and beyond.

Some specific tips that teachers can use with highly sensitive children include:

  • Partnering – Highly sensitive children are known to dislike top-down authority that gives them orders and no choices. But if you approach these children differently and ask them for their thoughts, how they think an activity went or what could be improved they’ll do much better. One mom, Margaret, said: “My daughter’s teacher began asking her how things went after activities and took the time to help her.” She went on to say after the teacher began partnering with her daughter things were much, much smoother at school
  • Give Choices – We all want choices. Highly sensitive children need choices though. They need to know that they have a voice and a choice in things at school. Without choices they get upset and frustrated. Along with having a high level of intelligence, and sensitivity they are also quick to respond so they might act out if they feel enough frustration by the lack of choices. Teachers who give choices to HSC’s will experience more success with them.

  • Check-in – Like partnering, teachers need to check-in with highly sensitive children because they have a tendency to dramatize things or perceive things differently. One parent on our call said, “In the beginning of the school year the class was told the difference between telling and tattling on students. But all my son understood was not to tell anything to anyone and that was wrong.” So if a teacher develops a positive, authentic and trusting relationship with their HSC student – it helps that he or she also check in with the HSC periodically to make sure they are all on the same page.

Advocating for your HSC

All children are different, however highly sensitive children share similar themes: Sensitivity to Lights, Sounds, Big Groups, Noises and Criticism. Since these children are highly sensitive they are also prone to feeling sad faster, getting anxious quicker and developing tummy aches because they feel so deeply. Being able to advocate on behalf of your highly sensitive children is essential to their healthy development especially if they aren’t in a school that immediately “gets” them. Sharing what you know about HSC and tips specific to your children is part of becoming a great parent – it may not always be easy but it is well worth the effort.

By Maureen Healy

Maureen Healy is a popular author, speaker and coach in the field of emotional health specializing in highly sensitive children. Her last book, Growing Happy Kids, brought eastern wisdom to western parents seeking to nurture true happiness in their children. More info: www.highlysensitivekids.com or www.twitter.com/mdhealy