I’ve always been a highly sensitive person (HSP), I just didn’t know it. I thought I was “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “too dramatic.” But that’s only because that’s what I’ve been told my entire life — even by my parents.
For the last few years, I’ve worked to change my self-perception. I’ve worked to see sensitivity and emotion as the strengths they really are and not a detriment or flaw like a lot of people see them, including loved ones.
But I’m not doing it just for myself. I’m doing it for my children. And, as a highly sensitive parent, there are some important truths I want them to learn.
Self-Acceptance Is the Greatest Gift a Parent Can Give
Being sensitive or emotional isn’t a weakness. It’s one of my biggest strengths. It means I’m highly empathetic. Tell me your story, and I will feel it right along with you. It means I have a huge heart underneath the sometimes cold exterior that I use to protect my emotional self. And, many times, it also means I cry. A lot. (And not just for sad things. I cry when I’m happy, angry, frustrated, tired, or when something touches my soul.)
Yes, it can be exhausting, but I wouldn’t change who I am for anything. Self-acceptance is a powerful thing, and I worked too hard and too long to learn that lesson.
When it comes to my twin toddlers, I don’t want them to have to fight against themselves most of their lives because of the labels others put on them. Instead, I want to show them the beauty of sensitivity. I want them to know they’re allowed to feel, and to feel deeply, and it’s okay that this makes them different.
Like all parents, I want to give my children a head start in life. But as a highly sensitive parent, I want that head start to include self-acceptance and self-love.
5 Truths I Teach My Kids as a Highly Sensitive Parent
As my daughters grow, here are the HSP-friendly truths I model in my home:
1. Home is an emotionally safe place.
The world is harsh, and sometimes it likes to put sensitive people to the grindstone, whittling them down until they feel empty. But my home doesn’t have to be that way.
When my daughters are home, they are accepted and loved. They will also be understood. If the moment they walk in that door they need to burst into tears and be by themselves for a while, that’s what they should do. No judgement here; I’ve done it too.
My home is a place where my children are allowed to be emotional, sensitive, and feeling. It is a place where they know that being sensitive is a strength. They don’t need to hide their emotions.
2. Learning to cope is an art — and that’s okay.
I still struggle with coping with my emotional sensitivity. It wasn’t something I was taught while growing up, and finding coping mechanisms as an adult is tricky. But as a parent, I want to help my children learn how to process big emotions.
And here’s the rule: while they’re allowed to feel that emotion, there are right and wrong ways to react. My hope is that if they learn these things early on, they’ll become much more stable adults than I am. And I hope it will save them from the unnecessary pain of feeling out of control and wild and chaotic.
3. Time alone is a beautiful thing.
As highly sensitive people, we all need to reset sometimes, and, for me, that means being by myself in a quiet environment. The world can be overwhelming. It’s noisy, it’s bright, and it’s crowded. And all of those things can put HSPs on edge — sometimes, over the edge.
I’ve already seen the importance of this with my toddler daughters. There is a point most days where they are spiraling — diving head first into an out-of-control meltdown — which makes me start to spiral, too. When this happens, we put them in their cribs, give them snacks, books, and toys, and let them reset for an hour or two. They can nap if they need it, but they usually don’t. The beautiful part of this is that they are in their own little worlds for a while.
When they’re ready to rejoin the world, they talk, babble, and laugh with each other. When I take them out of their cribs following their afternoon reset, they are happy and calm.
We all need our own space. We all need time to ourselves. Children are no different.
4. You don’t have to be emotionally open to everyone.
Not everyone will appreciate the positive traits of an HSP, and that’s fine. Some will use it to their advantage, and others will see an opening to poke and prod. No matter what I do as a parent, my children will experience this. It’s just the way the world works.
But through my own experiences, I will teach my children from the very beginning that they don’t have to be vulnerable and open with everyone. It’s okay to save the best parts of themselves for those they trust and those who won’t manipulate their emotions to get what they want.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no.
I struggle less with this one than I used to, but I still have a long way to go. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Because HSPs are hyper-aware of the emotions of others, we never want to be the cause of negative feelings. So, we say yes. A lot.
It requires strength to say no, but I want my daughters to know from the beginning that they can… and should. If a friend wants them to do something they don’t want to do, they can say no. It doesn’t make them a bad friend or a bad person.
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But perhaps the most important skill to develop is learning when to say no and when to get out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to grow. It’s a balance, and it’s one I try to model for them firsthand by pushing my own boundaries as well as enforcing them.
It’s not easy being an HSP in a world that says sensitivity is a weakness. I can’t change the world for my daughters, but I can teach them that they are strong, beautiful, empathetic, and worthy human beings. Emotion shows depth; it shows an open heart; it shows beauty and strength — and the world could use a lot more of that.