Today’s world can be overwhelming even for adults and it is even more so for highly sensitive children who make up 20 percent of the population. With their blessings can come many challenges because they are so sensitive; to the rest of the world they appear overwhelmed and often misunderstood.

The misunderstandings and challenges can begin at a young age. Know that children do not need to go to preschool to be successful in elementary school. It is okay for a child to need an extra year or so at home. The library, parks and playgroups can provide great opportunities for socializing at levels and in quantity that the individual child can accept.

When the decision is made to send a highly sensitive child to school, look for one that has small groups in each room with nurturing teachers. Rooms should be clean, organized and free of clutter to avoid overwhelming highly sensitive children. It should provide many opportunities for children to play and create. Including natural sunlight, items from nature and low loud background noise would be beneficial.  Many sensitive children thrive in Waldorf schools or small, private schools, as well as homeschooling settings. Allow the child time to observe before choosing to join in the group. Educate the child’s teachers on ways they can best support the child. Explain that transitions can be difficult, and that highly sensitive children will do better when they know what to expect. Let the child be when they walk away from the group to look at a book or stare out the window at the clouds. Highly sensitive children may require many breaks throughout their day.

Back at home, provide a peaceful space to return to after being in busy places like school, the mall or a birthday party. These situations feel overwhelming and require some down time with relaxing activities, such as coloring mandalas, looking at books, manipulating play dough, reflecting in a journal or creating with things from nature. Balance the child’s schedule; avoid running from one activity to the next. Create a balance between structured activities and unstructured activities, active and quiet time, time with others and time alone.

It’s important to know that there is nothing wrong with our sensitive children. They may appear different than a majority of children, but that is simply their collection of personality traits. Seek to nurture gifts of compassion, empathy and intuition, while building self-esteem. Listen and love the children for who they are. It is critical for us to understand this about these children, and to explain it to them do they can better understand themselves with less judgment for being atypical.

These children respond sensitively to their surroundings, what they put on them and what they put in them. Self-care is important to their physical and emotional health. Ways to support sensitive children include encouraging the child to eat clean; going outdoors; getting sleep; and participating in gentle movement like yoga, walking, swimming and biking. Because they are extra empathic, sensitive children can fatigue easily when they are around many people or in busy environments. Provide relaxing activities to help lower their adrenaline as they are often in a state of fight-or-flight. Avoid stimulants and bring in calming foods because adrenaline from stress can become toxic; it is the number one food for viruses.

Helping our highly sensitive children to understand themselves and handle situations they encounter will set them up for a happy, healthy and successful life.

Kelly Grich, a Trumbull-based holistic health coach and relaxation instructor of children’s enrichment classes, provides support for parenting highly sensitive children. Connect at