For the Grown-Ups
The Gift of Sensitivity

The Gift of Sensitivity

I think a lot about "sensitivity." I'm what you call an HSP. That's a Highly Sensitive Person. As an adult, that means that I shy away from big box stores and crowded events (unless they are outdoors). I can get overstimulated by too much sound and light. (I bring earplugs and blue blocking glasses to movie theaters.) I actually LOVE exciting events like concerts and festivals — but I know I have to bring hats, sunglasses, and water, I'll need an exit strategy, and I'll need extra time to wind down.

I believe all children are sensitive — but some more so than others. 

And what does "highly sensitive" look like?  

Sensitivity can come in a variety of forms, from children who can't stand tags in their clothes to children who withdraw in stimulating environments. There are questionnaires you can fill out to discern if your child fits "the profile" — but then there's also just observing and noting, "Wow, my child doesn't seem quite so comfy in many of the 'normal' situations of life."   Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Child, suggests that 20% or more of the population has this "inborn trait" — but that the world is generally wired for those non-sensitives. This can make the task of parenting a sensitive child — or being a sensitive adult — challenging!

My boys are highly sensitive as well. Here's what I can say about them:

When they were younger, they both thrived on a regular routine, much fewer extra-curricular activities, and much less screen media than many of their peers. (In fact, our older son had none until third grade, and it was very limited for both until after sixth.) When in school, they did best in small classrooms with less stimulating environments. They took time to adjust to new situations and ideas — and big changes went best with LOTS of advance preparation.

I can also say their sensitivities are incredible gifts. My oldest has a musical talent and an "ear" that astounds me. My younger notices everything and can tell when something isn't quite right with someone, even when their words say something different.

I'm glad we've gone to lengths to care for them and support their temperament — the "payoff" is huge. It pleases me to no end to see how they can now advocate for themselves about what works for them and what doesn't, knowing and understanding their own temperaments as they do. 

My sensitivity is a gift, too. I can understand and attune to people very easily, and sense the subtle shifts in the physical and emotional environment. I can offer people deep understanding and compassion, and often know what needs to be done or offered in any given situation to make it better, or to resolve conflict.

There are over 80 stories on the site, including one entire story series -Libby & Dish - that in some way support or address the experience of being a "sensitive." We know firsthand how tricky — and how rewarding — it can be.

About the Author

Lisabeth Sewell

Doer of Many Wonderful and Odd Things (including CEO)

Lisabeth Sewell has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO.

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