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Parenting a sensitive child

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

Last week my son was in hospital as an inpatient and my husband brought my daughter to visit.

My son wanted a drink but as he needs a straw to be able to drink my daughter cane with me to the small kitchen in the ward so we could find one.

In our haste, and in my stress, I failed to read a sign on the kitchen door which read ‘no children allowed in this kitchen’.

Of course just at that moment a nurse walked past, saw us and told my daughter to get out the kitchen pointing to the sign.

My daughter burst into tears and for the rest of her brother’s hospital stay she shook with fear and hid her head in her hands every time a nurse came near.

My daughter is an extremely sensitive child and has been really affected by that small incident.

She’s not alone. It is estimated that between 15 and 20% of children have such a sensitive nature as my child.

They are often seen as anxious, fussy, emotional, bossy or shy.

They can be labelled as ‘attention seeking’ or ‘lazy’ or even ‘immature’ and schools can sometimes even refer the child for counselling or therapy because their nature is deemed to be seen as a detriment and a weakness.

I am not ashamed of my highly sensitive child but parenting a sensitive child is challenging.

My daughter can be happy and content one second then have tears running down her cheek the next.

Anything from seeing a child or animal hurt on something she is watching, to having something not work that she’s trying to do, to having someone just look at her!

Someone speaking to her in a tone that implies she’s done something wrong, or looking at her angrily, or not letting her finish what she’s saying, all make her cry and become distressed very quickly.

Parenting a highly sensitive child is like walking a tight rope as anything can cause an emotional outburst and then everything falls apart.

But on the other side my daughter can show such huge kindness and empathy because she feels so deeply about everything.

In winter she feels so sad that birds can’t get worms that she begs me to buy bird food for them and will happily stand silently watching a little Robin eat some as a tear silently runs down her cheeks out of delight and happiness.

Christmas has her wanting to pack shoeboxes for strangers in abundance because she can’t bear the thought that one child might miss out.

She takes 30 sharp pencils to school in her bag every day so she knows every child in her class can have a pencil should they need one.

She epitomises kindness and love.

Discipline, however, is a huge challenge.

She says sorry a million times for the smallest of slip ups and want to make amends for ten years or more for spilling a baked bean! Raising my voice has her instantly crying and even correcting her brother upsets her.

She thinks everything is her fault.

She wants to make everyone happy.

She feels injustice and unfairness very deeply.

She would do anything to stop anyone else’s pain.

She’s a perfectionist.

She worries about everything and once cried because a teddy fell on the floor and she was afraid she had hurt it!

She’s tender hearted, kind to a fault, generous, loving, caring, gentle and shy.

Her heart is precious, tender and easily hurt.

Parenting a sensitive child isn’t for the faint hearted and our children are often so misunderstood and wrongly labelled.

It takes extra patience, extra love, extra courage and extra strength, but with it comes extra pride, extra beauty and extra delight.

Children who are extra sensitive like my daughter are very special, though sometimes I wish I could cover her with a sticker (attacked with bubble wrap as pins, glue and tape would hurt her delicate skin too much of course) that simple reads ‘handle with care’

Maybe then others would realise that I’m not being overprotective and she’s not just spoiled, she is in fact tender, deep hearted, extra caring, super aware of others feelings and very sensitive.

Maybe then others would be more sensitive and understanding to her like she is to them.



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