Loud, bold, boisterous – these are the terms society tends to place on our little boys. Our carefree little boys love nothing more than loud guns, fast cars and pushing the boundaries in every way. But what about sensitive boys?
There is so much more to our little boys than just loud guns and fast cars. Many parents have the joy of raising a little boy who experiences the world in a brighter light than others – who feels everything deeply – pain, love, sadness, joy.
A little boy who is sensitive to smells and sounds and scratchy clothing. A little boy who is aware of everything around him – the dangers, the heartbreak, and the happiness, expresses empathy and compassion that may come across as ‘weak’ to the outsider.
To the parents with a little boy who has these beautiful qualities, you may have heard the term ‘highly sensitive.’ A sensitive child is a lovely thing, but in a society where our culture expects boys to be ‘tough’, being highly sensitive can also be quite challenging.
It’s up to us to help our little boys navigate these complex and heightened emotions in the best way we can.
Here are some tips to do so:
1. Help them handle their emotions
Highly sensitive boys may have a harder time navigating their emotions than most. Sensitive boys feel all emotions more deeply and this can result in angry outbursts, emotional meltdowns, deep hurt, even over things that appear minor or insignificant to us. To us, we may easily be able to shake it off, to move forward, but or our little boys, they can’t do this so easily.
And that’s okay. The last thing our little boys need is to be told to “brush it off” or “toughen up” or to feel like their emotions are not validated or that they’re overreacting. There is nothing weird or wrong with having such deep emotions.
- Try suggesting a time-in, which gives your child a chance to work through their feelings in a calming, soothing space.
- Provide them with activities to help them regulate. Distractions, in a sense. Fidget toys seem to work well.
- Some children respond to doodling or journaling while others may benefit from a special teddy to squeeze. I’ve heard good things about a calming weighted blanket as well.
2. Sensitive boys need to find their voice
Another thing you may notice about sensitive boys is that he has trouble speaking up. Sensitive children are often people pleasers and go above and beyond to make everyone around them feel comfortable. This may mean they are overstretched, overwhelmed, or simply stuck in a position where they are not comfortable because they are so empathic to the needs of those around them. Bless, right?
- Help your little one understand that it’s okay to say no.
- Recite different scripts to say to his peers when he wants to get out of a situation and practice at home.
- Most importantly, help him understand that it’s not his job to please everyone.
3. Create them a safe space
A calming home environment is key. This is your child’s haven and having a space to go to where he can debrief after a long day. We all need this and odds are, your home is already your child’s safe zone.
- Make time for family time to help build this connection. Light-hearted conversation, mealtime together, board game nights – that sort of thing. These little traditions and routines are very important for all children.
- Avoid conflict. Easier said than done but try to stay on top of any sibling rivalries and fights as this can heighten a child’s anxiety immensely. Name-calling and teasing – these are often part of the whole ‘sibling thing’ but these can deeply hurt a sensitive child.
- The same goes for you and your partner. Sensitive children can pick up on tensions between parents so make it a habit to keep heated debates away from the home. Again, easier said than done.
- Sensitive children may also benefit from their own little areas, free of loud noises, bright lights, etc. Consider setting up a special nook or corner filled with things your son likes. Comfy pillows, books or puzzles, some headphones so he can block out noise and listen to something he likes.
4. Be there, no matter what
But you know what sensitive boys need most of all? You. You are the most important part of his safe space.
You are the person he will go to when something doesn’t feel right, to help him validate his instincts and understand that it’s okay to move forward.
You are his voice of reason when he doubts his own voice. You will help him find this voice and his confidence to speak up for himself.
He may receive messages from friends, even teachers and coaches that he needs to ‘toughen up’. You will be the one to remind him that he doesn’t need to ‘toughen up’. He is already tougher than most boys out there.
He may be told by society that he’s too old for cuddles or kisses from mum but he’s not. You will be the one he turns to for a cuddle, or a hug when he’s feeling lost. Maintain this physical connection for as long as he needs.
He may feel worthless or weird or simply overwhelmed. You will be the one he comes to. To kick, to scream, to cry, to collapse into a ball of self-loathing and fear. You will be the one to build him back up.
You will be the one to act as his mirror to reflect out all the beautiful, unique traits that he may have trouble seeing. To show him the good inside, his value, his strengths.
To believe in him and to help him realise that his unique way to perceive the world is not a burden, but a gift.