Does your child startle easily? Prefers quiet play instead of large, noisy crowds? Is incredibly intuitive in perceiving the distress of others? Fusses about scratchy clothing or notices even the faintest odour? If you are nodding along to these questions, then your child may be highly sensitive.

“A Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) is born with a highly tuned nervous system, making them highly aware of their environment and quick to react. They are quick to notice subtle changes in their surroundings and the emotions of others,” explains Leila Boukarim, author of “All too much for Oliver”.

Create an Encouraging and Supportive Environment

Drawing from her own experience, the mother of two elaborates how children of this nature perceive and cope with their surroundings. “HSC absorb external input like a sponge and hence need to process a lot more information than most people, which leads to bigger emotions. They will often retreat and need time alone to unwind, and will have meltdowns if they aren’t given that time and space.”

How can a parent approach this situation? To foster healthy emotional development and build confidence, Leila recommends that parents adopt a supportive parenting style, by letting your child take the lead and offering plenty of encouragement during the attempt.

“Remind them you've got their backs, no matter what. And if it doesn't work then, it might give your child the confidence to take a leap on another occasion,” she says.

Acknowledging that parenting HSC can take its toll, Leila urges parents to read books on the topic to help them better understand their child’s unique needs, manage their own expectations and more importantly, provide their child with the right support.

Be Honest and Empowering

On how parents can explain Covid-19 and its implications to a HSC, Leila shares, “It’s difficult to know what a post-Covid world holds for any of us. However, like with all hardships, open and honest conversations with our kids might be the best way to prepare them for what is to come.”

As these conversations may increase their desire to help make the situation better for the people they love, Leila opines that offering ways in which they can help is a good way to empower them.

“They can write letters of hope to their neighbours, leave happy chalk doodles on the pavement, send a cheerful video message to a family member or friend, or even take part in charity work,” she adds.

Let Your Child Decide

In today’s context, having to wear an uncomfortable mask for prolonged periods of time can be daunting for a HSC, and especially so for a worried parent who is trying to impose that rule. Leila’s pro tip on choosing the right mask and sanitiser? – let your child decide. Selecting the right products “must depend on trial and error” and parents should “involve your child in the choosing process.”

“Also, try and make it fun. Superheroes often wear masks! You could also try decorating your hand sanitiser bottle with your child, and giving it a brand new name!” she quips.