Back to School with Highly Sensitive Kids

Do you think highly sensitive kids can thrive at school?

Posted Aug 31, 2014

Going back to school can be exciting and scary simultaneously. Of course, if you’re a highly sensitive child that means something totally different (Past PT Blog). You are more sensitive to sounds, more likely to feel the pressure to make new friends, and oftentimes more anxious about meeting up with the same troublemakers (i.e. bullies) from last year. So what as an informed and intelligent adult can you do to lessen your children’s fears? Of course, this is the million dollar question, which has different answers for every child. What I can do is give you some tips today, and get you on your way.

Three Tips for Today

In my mentoring program for sensitive kids, Jackson, age nine is starting a new school and is apprehensive of going. He’s excited for the after-school activities but feels super nervous about whether he’ll like it or not. His mom, Jennifer, found this new school after Jackson was bullied and his prior school fumbled the handling of it.

Working with Jackson, we did a few things and three of them I’ll share here:

  • Role Playing – I am huge fan of role playing. It sounds silly but when you’re in elementary school everything is new, and getting the jitters out of doing something for the first time can prove extremely helpful. With Jackson, I pretended to be someone in his class and he came up to me (virtually via Skype) and introduced himself and asked me to play. This little success also helps build his confidence.
  • Tell Stories – Hearing real-life stories helps highly sensitive kids laugh about the common foibles of living, and gain strength from the common learning experiences. I told Jackson about how my mom sent me to a new school for 2nd grade because my other school didn’t teach me how to read correctly (or in a way that worked for me). He was surprised since I am an author today, and I explained how life is like an experiment and the more experiments the better (as Emerson is noted for saying). I also told him how I met my BFF there, and he loved that idea.
  • Teach Calming Tips – Of course, we all relieve stress in different ways such as regular exercise or meditation. Kids need tools to relieve upsets that can occur in their school whether it’s bright lights in the classroom, loud noises in music class or the stress of having a learning difference. One common way to relieve stress for children is doing breathing exercises such as the one I taught Jackson, and explained in my book, Growing Happy Kids, called the Hot Soup Breath. You take air in your nose, and out your mouth like you’re cooling hot soup. Five (5) of these breaths usually helps children feel a bit better and possibly avert a meltdown.

School Success

Highly sensitive boys and girls most certainly can enjoy the school experience. They need the right “school match” so they feel safe, comfortable and able to be themselves as well as someone who can give them suggestions on how to handle the stressors related to everyday life and being highly sensitive. Above are three beginning suggestions and of course, there are more but hopefully this gets you pointed in the right direction.

Maureen Healy is an award-winning author, speaker and professional working with highly sensitive children globally. Her book, Growing Happy Kids, won the 2014 Nautilus Book Award, and this year she was on AOL’s, web series “The Fatherhood Project” with Hank Azaria. To find out more, you can go to: or @mdhealy