My Child Is Neither Shy Nor An Introvert – He is a Highly Sensitive Child!

“He is so shy"; “An introvert child"; “Not social"; “Mummas boy"; “Clingy child" these were the phrases I was eventually accustomed to hearing regarding my now 7 year old Junior Einstein.

Ever since my son was born, he was a little different. He used to get startled very easily, was a very light sleeper, super sensitive to pain and refused to go to any one apart from a few known people. When I would share these traits with anyone, they would shrug off saying he's a shy child or blame it on the nuclear set up we were in.

However as he grew his traits became more defined. He was the last child to settle in playgroup (rather he didn't settle all his term). He used to cry and howl at birthday parties or any social event (exposure to loud music and lot of new faces at one go). Even after a long exciting and stimulating day he would find it difficult to sleep. His behaviour at times used to leave me perplexed.

Fortunately I was doing my Early Childhood Care and Education Diploma then and used to do an extensive research on various topics on Parenting and Early Childhood. That's when I came across this term 'Sensitive Child'. When I delved further on the topic and correlated the findings with my sons behaviour, I figured out he is a Highly Sensitive Child! Unfortunately, there is very little awareness and empathy for these type of people and kids. It is ironical that the E.C.C.ED. Course which I have done also had no mention of this term too!


What are the typical traits of a Highly Sensitive Child (HSC)?

I did mention most common traits above. However, I would like to highlight a few others too.

1. Slow warm up kids - When you put them in a new set up or a social event they will not adapt instantly. They will take their time to analyse the environment around them and the relatively new people.

2. They would NOT talk to a stranger and it is quite likely for them to take a while to open up with distant relatives / friends who are not on their regular visit list. However, mind you these kids are not introvert!

3. They have very strong senses. A cooker whistle or a pungent smell can really disturb them. When they hurt themselves or are scolded they will cry more because they feel greater pain than other individuals.

4. They are very particular about everything and are perfectionists. If they have left a particular toy in their room in a way they will be very upset if one has changed the set up without seeking their permission.

5. They need cooling time outs. Exposure to an over stimulated environment (a birthday party, a long day at school, an evening at the mall) charge them and they take a while to adapt to the routine once they are back.


Approach towards a Highly Sensitive Child.

If your child, is a HSC there is no reason to worry/ be upset about it. Personally I feel blessed to have a HSC! The unfortunate part is there is very little awareness about this term in our society. That's the reason, parents and caregivers of a HSC need to be more aware, alert and conscious about their child's behaviour and handle the same with immense patience and sensibility.

1. Understanding the term 'Sensitivity'. One needs to be sensitive to their needs and behaviour. At times they may appear to be too demanding but on second thoughts, all one needs to do is maintain a rational approach and empathy towards them.


2. Don't push them – help them acclimatise to any new environment / set up. As I mentioned, a HSC may often act very difficult when put in a new environment (new school / social event). The primary reason being, they are sensitive to things around them and are very cautious. I would like to explain this with a personal experience.

Whenever we used to go to a birthday party my son refused to mingle with the crowd. He used to cover his ears to the blasting Bollywood numbers, would seem to be lost in the crowd and cling on to me. Rather than pushing him to be in the crowd I used to make him sit with me. Would discuss the setup, the props, show him some kids who are his friends - help him gauge the situation / environment. Once he would be comfortable and realise it's a known territory he would slowly mingle in the crowd and in no time I would see him participating in the games and activities.


3. Give them cooling off time. Regular events like the visit to a mall, or a regular day at school can really drain them off mentally. The reason is they are super sensitive to the things and people around them. This sensitivity stimulates them and takes a lot of them. The only way to handle this is give them their cooling off time.

When my son comes back from school he unwinds himself in his room in the toy corner. He needs his free play time with his LEGO's and other toys which help him reboot his system! I have never pushed him into any after school activity as he couldn't handle the rush! Weekends are the time we engage him in a sport and an after school program. A little practical and sensitive approach is all that's needed.


4. Prior notice and a logical explanation a must! The key to make a HSC do a particular task or attend a particular event without any resistance is to provide a solid logical reasoning to them. Once a logical explanation is provided, they will cooperate beautifully well without any tantrums.

When my son was 3 year, I used to trick him while taking him to his paediatrician for his vaccinations and he used to ask me, ' will I get an injection?' and I used to diplomatically say may be / maybe not! He used to feel cheated and cry, more out of the fact he was deceived rather than the pain! When I started explaining him and giving him a reason behind a vaccination and the need for the same he would co operate beautifully!


5. Patience, understanding and awareness. Parents of a HSC need to be very patient towards their child. At times due to our busy schedules and fast paced lifestyle, we may tend to be impatient when dealing with our 'gifted' child. We may expect them to do things the way we would want them to and how normal kids their age would. However, we as parents need to reiterate the fact that 'Our child is different!'

Recently my son refused to enter our car which smelt due to moisture and water logging due to the heavy downpour. Yes the stench was a little strong, but we found it manageable. However, he just didn't budge. We were getting late so coaxed him to enter the car and he threw a fit and started howling! That's when my husband reminded me, 'He's a HSC, his senses are far stronger than ours!' Am glad my husband and me are well versed with his traits and that really helps us raising our child!


Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child in this social environment where people aren't even aware of the term can be a challenging task. This article is my attempt to create awareness about the term. Feel free to reach out to me for any queries regarding raising your child, and I shall be happy to help.


Happy parenting!

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Comments (8)

I can so relate to what u mentioned. My 4 yrs old daughter is exactly what u mentioned. Some more tips to managr her. M v worrried

Shruti Kapadia, am glad this article has helped you understand your daughter and her specific trait. Regarding her strong sense of smell feel blessed rather than treat is as an area of concern. My son too behaves the way you mentioned. There are different ways to handle this particular problem. Firstly since you are aware that your child is averse to strong smells, avoid such restaurants ( am sure there are a plethora of other restaurants to choose from). Before you decide a dinning venue call them and ask them are they decently ventilated. Secondly, I understand that she can't tolerate others odour and how embarrassing it can get as a parent if she spells it out! What you could do is spray some lovely perfume on her tshirt or carry a hanky with some nice fragrance sprayed on it. Tell her to breathe in to the hanky when she can't tolerate the yucky smell :) Each day is a new learning experience for parents of a HSC. We need to keep trying various ways and use unconventional approaches to address their specific problems. Do let me know if these tips help. Feel free to connect at Happy parenting :)

Hi dhara
I so much relate to ur article as now i can say my son is sensitive and to an introvert child .He also has strong sense of smell n behaves as mentioned by u .... Thnks for sharing n would love to hear more on this.....

Hi Dhara ...i dnt know if I am very early but i have already observed few traits in my son who is 9 months. Y I am writing this is my daughter who is 8 yrs was calm n did nt throw a fit when someone carried her or spoke to her.she used to be playful n happy. I am finding very strange as I never came across all these with my daughter. So nw dat he understands certain kind of emotions can I make him overcome this sensitivity slowly n gently ... TIA :)

Thank U Dhara reading ur article makes me feel as if some one is talking about my 3.5 yr old son exactly him thanks the article helped me understand him better as at times it was frustrating why he clings to me so much

Thank you for this write up. I had read about HSC in one of the issues of a magazine and that's when I realised that my little one is a sensitive child. He takes very long to adjust to a new environment and doesn't like to mingle with relatives he doesn't meet frequently. It has been 1.5 months since he has joined a new school, but he still isn't happy to go and misses his play school (he took a long time to adjust there too). Thanks for the reassurance. Just need lots of patience :)

May be he will change

This is very helpful as my 2.5 year old son is having same traits. Thanks for sharing

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