HSP stands for a Highly Sensitive Person. Your child may be this person. An HSP is one who experiences physical, mental, and emotional happenings much more acutely than ordinary children. Such children have a highly sensitive nervous system. They are frightened by new experiences — sights, sounds, people, even foods.
The stimulation is over-arousal for them; the world is too dangerous. They sense things too much, more than they like or more than feels good. Sometimes, their life feels like it is more than they can handle.
In her books — “The Highly Sensitive Person,” “The Highly Sensitive Child,” and “The Highly Sensitive Parent” — Elaine Aron explains how parents can help their overly sensitive child. These children need understanding and more time to process situations. They need more time to rest and need to be encouraged to try new things. Things like riding a bike, making new friends, or even trying new foods becomes a frightening adventure for an HSP. HSPs need help to get out and try new things in their own way.
Their sensitivity may be a genetic trait, but it is not a sickness or disorder. Sometimes HSP children are misdiagnosed as ADD.
What signs should you look for in order to help your HSP? There may be digestive problems, muscle tension, constant fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. They may exhibit a weakened immune system, carrying home any germs they contact at school.
Use water to take their stress away. They should drink water, one glass every hour. If you are near water, the walks beside the water, looking at it, listening to it will also help. Even encouraging your child to take a shower or bath sometimes helps.
Getting enough sleep helps. Even resting with their eyes closed so they do not need to sense people and noises around them. If they are showing signs of being out of balance or overworked, parents should plan some fun time to relax.
HSPs are strongly affected by music, but the music should be soothing so as not to overstimulate or over arouse your child.
Eating is a total sensory experience (Alisha at www.yourkidstable.com). Children need to look at, smell, and taste a food to eat it. They need to process all these sensations and, if their brain is already on overload because of the texture or smell, the child is just not capable of making themselves eat it.
The boundaries you set for your HSPs need to be flexible. Parents need to keep out stimulation when their child has had all they can take. Maybe sending them to their room is not such a bad idea. It gives them time to calm down and gives them needed quiet. They do not handle confrontation well.
If you must make your child wait, tell them nicely. Don’t get angry or force them to wait longer. HSPs need a regular schedule and calm routine. They crave attention, tight hugs and gentle smiles.
I had an HSP. I wish I had known.
Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org