Dr. Thomas Boyce is an emeritus professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Back in 2005, he and Bruce J. Ellis of the University of Arizona published a paper where they likened children to two very different flowers. Most kids tend to be like dandelions: they’re able to thrive almost anywhere, and they’re good at coping with stress and adversities. But a minority of kids are more sensitive to different circumstances, even biologically. Like orchids, they need particular environments and conditions to bloom where they are planted.
Sensitivity is often seen as a weakness in our culture. We want our children to be tough, independent, and assertive. Social norms of masculinity make sensitivity particularly taboo among boys. Highly sensitive boys are more likely to suffer bullying and rejection.
Parents of orchid children face a particular set of challenges. There’s a high risk of becoming hyper-vigilant about every experience of their children. At the same time, it’s crucial to honor their needs. To walk that fine line, parents should accept that things may be a little different with a highly sensitive child and that that’s ok. What follows is a list of signs that your child may be an orchid and a few tips on how to be a good parent for them.
My Child Seems To Read My Mind
Orchid children are particularly attuned to other people’s emotions. Studies have shown that they have higher levels of activity in mirror neurons, which are linked with empathy. This makes them highly responsive to social and emotional cues. And that is actually great when they are in a nurturing environment. It’s not our place to “toughen them up.” Instead, try telling your orchid child that they are picking others’ emotions. If they are showing distress, teach them to take a few breaths and to visualize a reassuring scene.
My Child Doesn’t Enjoy Big Surprises
Orchid children tend to like routine. A predictable structure in their days allows them to fend off the anxieties about what to expect. Setting up a predictable routine can help your child better manage the stress of a loud, chaotic world.
My Child Learns Better From A Gentle Correction
By being so sensitive to the social context, orchid children are hard to discipline. I’m not saying that you can’t: in fact, you must. But even a little yelling or time outs can get under their skin far more than other kids. You’ll need to find the right words for each situation to avoid your child spiraling into a world of self-loathing.
My Child Complains (A Lot) About Scratchy Clothing
Physical stressors will annoy your orchid child. It’s not a tantrum they are throwing. Brain scans show that they are hard-wired to react to some factors. These may be scratchy clothing, socks, or labels against their skin. It’s not much use fighting them over something they don’t have much control over.
My Child Performs Best When Strangers Aren’t Present
Clearly, the emotional openness of orchid children means that they can feel overwhelmed at parties or social gatherings. Some of them are actually enjoying the current pandemic, which is giving them some breathing space. However, while you should not throw them amongst hundreds of kids they don’t know, you should also avoid being over-protective. Helicopter parents are notoriously harmful to their children since kids need to know that their parents are confident that they can do well on their own.
Orchid children have a genetic predisposition they can’t control. But with your help, they can bloom and put their natural gifts to great use.