Raising Sensitive Boys by Maureen Healy
Does your son cry often? Or pull out all the tags from his shirts? Is he a picky eater? Does he prefer quiet play? Has he ever been labeled as “shy” or “overly sensitive” by someone close to him? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be raising a highly sensitive boy and that’s a great thing. I promise.
The Scoop on Sensitivity
Sensitive boys have a heightened awareness as to their feelings, and perception of the world around them. For example, your little boy may just know exactly when you need a hug or kind word. He senses it. So one of the great gifts these children give is their intuition, keen perception, and often compassion. Sam, a four year-old client of mine, looked at me one day and said “Maureen, I love you. You make me happy.” This wouldn’t be so amazing except he was brought to me for biting one of his preschool peers (ouch!). Sam was merely learning how to deal with his intense emotions and sometimes, as we all know, they come out “wrong.” It’s part of growing up.
Over the years, I have noticed more and more children being born with a higher than average sensitivity to their feelings, surroundings, and senses (smells, tastes, lighting, tough, sound). It may be your son can smell your daughter’s poop from downstairs, or he is strongly opposed to seeing violence. Jackson, age seven, cried when he first saw the movie, The Lion King, because it scared him.
Sensitivity can also be challenging to parent especially if you don’t fully understand it (perhaps you would consider yourself “less sensitive”). I have even built a thriving business helping adults nurture their children’s sensitivity as a strength and get their kids to places (schools, day cares) that support who they are, and see their sensitivity as an asset versus challenge. Let me share one example that highlights the difference between a “less sensitive” and sensitive boy:
Johnny, your first son, fell off the swings in the backyard. He had done this many times before and it wasn’t a surprise. He scraped his knee a bit but nothing major, and decided to just keep playing. Jacob, your second son, fell off the swings moments later. He scraped his knee a bit too and immediately began crying.
Jacob is the highly sensitive boy and as you read – he needs more assistance in learning how to navigate his deep emotions, and develop his ability to succeed.
Helping them Succeed
Sensitive boys are incredibly perceptive, gifted intellectually in one area (at least) and display high levels of compassion. Some of the challenges of raising highly sensitive boys include helping them how to deal with their intense emotions even the “stinky” ones like anger, frustration, jealousy and sadness. With that said, I am sharing three tips to get you “on the same page” with your sensitive boy. They are:
Tip One: Accept him. This sounds so simple but many parents that I have worked with have trouble embracing their boy as being sensitive. They want him not to cry, or feel deeply when watching movies or playing with friends. Being sensitive is a gift. Your son’s sensitivity has the power to be one of his greatest strengths and by accepting him as having this heightened awareness – you acknowledge who he is, and have the opportunity to celebrate him (even if it means a little more work by you!).
Tip Two: Build His Confidence. Sensitive boys need to learn how to feel good about themselves (no matter what) and through building their outer skills, they can develop a beginning level of confidence. In my new book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, I explain how to nurture a child’s deepest sense of confidence and also briefly discuss the highly sensitive children.
Tip Three: Advocate for Him. Sensitive boys need us to stand behind them. Sometimes school teachers don’t appreciate a child that may appear like more work, and often don’t see their innate strengths like compassion. For example, Matt one of my seven-year old clients was picked on at school for having big glasses. One day a “friend” of Matt’s took his glasses, stepped on them and his mother had to pick him up because he couldn’t see without them. As if this wasn’t bad enough then the teacher asked Matt, “Are you a cry baby?” and this was completely out of line. When Matt’s mom heard this she immediately spoke up for her son, and he was never asked this again (Thank you, Mom).
Maureen Healy is practicing children’s emotional health and parenting coach working with adults (and kids) everywhere via Skype. Her last book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness (HCI Books), is available wherever books are sold. More information about Maureen: www.growinghappykids.com and www.twitter.com/mdhealy