A seven-year-old boy sits in my office, fighting back tears. “Move on,” he mutters, over and over again.
“What are we moving on from?” The question lifts him out of his negative thought cycle, and he begins to talk. He’s upset about his soccer team. They haven’t won a game all season. He hasn’t scored a goal all season. The kids are mad and yelling at each other and he feels overwhelmed with emotion. He feels different because the other boys don’t seem to care as much. Their feelings aren’t hurt. They don’t fall apart at the end of each game. They “move on” with ease.
He tells me that his parents are helping him learn to move on. He knows he’s sensitive. His parents tell him that being too sensitive makes him a target. The other kids will tease him, they say. He has to learn to toughen up.
Some kids are more sensitive than others. Some kids seem to roll with the ups and downs of childhood without a problem while others experience overwhelming emotions at times. The good news is that both of those things are perfectly normal.
You don’t need to “toughen up” your sensitive boy to face a cruel and angry world. In fact, you shouldn’t do that at all. The sensitive boys of the world are often the ones who stand up for others, act as leaders within their peer groups, and teach others to care for the feelings of those around them. Sensitive boys are kind, generous, and in touch with their emotions. Sensitive boys provide a much-needed balance to our culture of “boys will be boys.”
Here are more reasons to celebrate your sensitive boy:
He has empathy for others. Sensitivity and empathy tend to go hand-in-hand, and your sensitive boy has the ability to understand how others feel. This makes him a great friend to his peers, as he can provide emotional support when necessary. He’s also likely to act as a helper when the going gets tough. Though sensitive boys can become overwhelmed with emotion, their high empathy levels empower them to stand up for others and think about the world around them.
He’s resilient. Many people mistakenly believe that frequent tears and other displays of emotion are the sign of a child who lacks resilience, but part of learning to bounce back from setbacks is emotion regulation. Letting their feelings out helps sensitive boys work through their emotional shifts. When boys learn to work through their big feelings, they are better able to tap into problem-solving skills.
He’s perceptive. Sensitive kids tend to pick up on things that others don’t. Being aware and observant means that sensitive boys learn how to read the room and make any necessary adjustments. If a birthday party is loud and overwhelming, for example, your sensitive boy will likely find another friend who appears overwhelmed and hang out with that friend to block out the overwhelming parts of the party.
He’s good at self-care. In a world that runs on stress and overscheduling, sensitive boys know when to slow down and find balance. He might ask to take a break or play alone when overwhelmed or exhausted, and he likely knows what helps him feel calm when the outside world feels like too much.
He knows how to cope with boredom. There’s a correlation between sensitivity and creativity, and your sensitive boy most likely knows a thing or two about filling up his days with fun things. The mistake we make is that we assume creativity involves crafts, visual arts, or music, but creativity comes in many forms. Play involves tons of creativity, and sensitive kids can have active imaginations that lead to interesting play themes.
While it’s natural for parents to worry about how a sensitive boy will cope in the face of adversity or peer pressure, the truth is that sensitive kids are in tune with their own needs and feelings and the needs and feelings of others. This makes them empathic listeners, great helpers, and role models among their peers. Go ahead and celebrate your son’s kind heart and sensitive nature, and watch him thrive as he grows.