Children with High Emotional Sensitivity: Understanding the Role of Temperament

High Sensitivity Temperament

Children with High Emotional Sensitivity: Understanding the Role of Temperament

Every child is unique, and one of the things that makes them unique is their temperament. Temperament is the combination of characteristics that make up a person’s emotional reactivity, intensity of expression, and overall mood. It’s important to understand your child’s temperament and how it affects their behavior, so that you can provide them with the best possible care and guidance.

A child’s temperament is their natural disposition or personality and is determined by a combination of their genes and the environment they grow up in. Some children are more sensitive, react quickly, and have a low threshold for frustration. Other children are more easygoing, less reactive, and able to handle more stress. It is important to learn about your child’s temperament and to use the right parenting techniques for that particular child.

Children with High Emotional Sensitivity

Children with high emotional sensitivity are deeply affected by their surroundings and can be easily overwhelmed, leading some parents to mistakenly believe that their child is “too sensitive” or “fussy.” If you’re a parent of a highly sensitive child, it’s important to understand the impact that temperament has on behavior and development.  

Do you have a highly sensitive child? If you’re not sure, here are some signs that may indicate that your child is highly sensitive.

  1. They are easily overwhelmed by sights, sounds, smells, or touch.
  2. They startle easily and are easily frightened.
  3. They have a strong emotional reaction to events or experiences.
  4. They need time alone to recharge after social interaction.
  5. They are especially affected by negative emotions or energy in their environment.
  6. They have a rich and complex inner life.


In the early 1990s, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., conducted groundbreaking research on a personality trait that she dubbed “high sensitivity.” Dr. Aron’s research showed that about 20% of the population has an innate sensitivity that makes them more aware of their surroundings and emotions than others.  As highlighted, high sensitivity is a trait that interacts with personality and is not a disorder, but rather a signifier of the way in which one’s brain responds to external stimulation and emotional cues.

Helping a Highly Sensitive Child

It can be tough to parent a highly sensitive child because their temperament can often lead them to feeling overwhelmed in a world that’s often too loud and too fast for them. But with a little understanding and some extra care, you can help your highly sensitive child thrive.  

If you have a highly sensitive child, it’s important to understand and embrace their personality traits and consider the strengths that come with having this way of experiencing the world.  On the one hand, these children can be more emotional and require more attention and support than other children. On the other hand, they are often extraordinarily creative, intelligent, and compassionate individuals who can bring great happiness to their families.  

You can help your children manage their emotions by providing emotional support and positive reinforcement as they develop and grow.  Be patient with their behaviors and acknowledge your own emotional urges or responses as valid.  When we slow down ourselves, we also model healthy coping by taking a moment to breathe and be patient in the moment.  

Remember to also be flexible in your encounters with your child.  It is important to consider your boundaries as a parent as well as consider what you are willing or not willing to compromise on ahead of time.  Validate your child’s feelings before addressing the maladaptive behavior and remember to praise them for any positive behaviors, such as calming down using deep breaths or taking a break appropriately.

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