I am certain that I was a highly sensitive child and now my own daughter, IJ, seems to be displaying exactly the same behaviour. Added to this is the fact that IJ has a summer birthday and so is one of the youngest in her class. On several occasions she has come home from school upset at something that has been discussed in class, yet none of her friends seem to be experiencing the same level of distress.
Last term, the local transport police visited the school and showed her year group a video on railway safety. The basic message was that railway lines can be dangerous so children need to take care at stations, ensure they are with an adult at all times and never play on the lines. IJ came home from school distraught and this level of distress continued for a full week. She experienced nightmares most days. In the end I spoke to her class teacher because she had become scared of going to school. She was so anxious that she would be shown a video like that again. It was six months before she very reluctantly boarded a train again. The video was pitched appropriately at her age group and no other member of her year group reacted in such a dramatic way.
As she is clearly a sensitive child, I carefully monitor what she watches on television as far as possible. Many programmes aimed at her age group scare her and she tends to feel most comfortable watching programmes aimed at younger children, preferring Cbeebies to CBBC.
The same applies to books. Recently we read Three Little Pigs – a book aimed at pre-school children, and she ended up having a nightmare about the wolf. She reacted the same way to Little Red Riding Hood.
So I need to be careful as to the sort of material she is exposed to. Recently her teacher suggested the class watched Newsround. I understood his reasons but after watching just one programme I decided that it was too much for IJ to cope with.
She is just emotionally younger than many of her peers at the moment but there is plenty of time to catch up. I regularly ask her how she is feeling and if there is anything she is worried about, and we talk about the happy and the sad things that have happened in our day. That way I know how she is feeling and whether anything is particularly bothering her. Then we talk about it. So far it seems to be working.
Internet resources on highly sensitive children that I have found useful include:
Do you have a child who seems to be highly sensitive? What strategies do you use to help support them?