Parenting The Highly Sensitive "Orchid" ChildMay 18, 2021
“I have many different varieties of orchids in my own household. From the very rare and exotic 100% highly-sensitive orchid child to children who are more dandelion-like, but have a few high sensitivities in certain areas of their life.”
This week on the 3D Parent Podcast, I am going to talk about a topic that is very near and dear to my heart which is parenting the highly sensitive child. Known in the field of Psychology as orchid children, they compose 15 - 20% of the entire child population.
Throughout the episode, I will share with you examples as I attempt to illustrate a little bit more about what they look like and how to parent these orchid children in the most effective way possible.
I hope that you will find the tips in this episode most helpful as you continue your parenting journey.
Things You Will Learn
[01:05] First I’d like to define orchid children and what sets them apart from their dandelion peers. Before doing so, I emphasized that this is a topic that’s very near and dear to my own heart. As a parent of four children, I happen to have different varieties of orchids in my own household. So what are they exactly? Compared to their dandelion counterparts who are more easygoing, orchid children are more impacted by their senses, emotions, and the environment that they thrive in.
[02:08] So, I’d say without exaggeration that a good 75% of the clients I work with, in my parent-coach practice have children that fit this category and for good reason. Dandelion children are pretty easy-going and resilient. Most common parenting practices, ones that I discourage, like timeouts and rewards and punishments, will work on them just fine. They tend to grow up, survive and thrive regardless of the parenting techniques that you apply. Then, there are children that do not respond to the “normal” parenting practices. Here, I will provide some more descriptions of what orchid children are like, aside from being more sensitive and sometimes, awkward.
[05:22] Here, I present a cute little anecdote about their high-sensitivity towards textures. It features my first-born child who is very much an orchid child and took place when she was 3-years old. As a family, it is our common practice to talk about something that bothered each of us within the family and discuss it as a group. It is something that we were just trying out at the time and our daughter was able to explain, in her most adorable way, what’s bothering her. It perfectly demonstrated her being a highly-sensitive child that doesn’t sense discomfort the way a dandelion child does. I’d also share what we, as parents, did about it, in response to what she shared.
[07:56] Another common attribute of orchid children is discussed here. A lot of times, we’ll look at our child and can’t help but say, “gosh, she is making such a big deal about something that seems small?” You’re going to learn a bit more about concepts such as emotional intensity, emotional regulation, and controlling one’s emotional reactions. Starting to regulate and control your impulses has something to do with the development of your integrative functioning which is the ability to feel more than one emotion at a time. Here, we go on with differentiating orchid and dandelion children in terms of their ability to control themselves and regulate emotions with a high degree of accuracy and consistency.
[10:46] We’re going to mention another attribute of an orchid child. These children have more sensory receptors in them which effectively explains this particular attribute. We also tackle the genetic component which causes orchid children to be more prone to illness and more heavily impacted by stress, as well as being less inclined to be separated from their primary attachments. We are also introduced to the alpha child concept that exists in combination with orchid children, as they prefer to lead and be in charge and are also easily stirred and very intense as well. If the bomb of emotions is set off, you could end up with a child who senses that she’s in control, should be in control, or need to be in control which could be highly-problematic.
[14:26] So far, we have focused on the challenges that come with the orchid temperament. However, there are a lot of gifts that come with this high sensitivity. We will talk more about each of them here. Knowing them while making sense of your child/children’s temperament can really be the difference in succeeding with parenting them.
[15:38] Moving on with our discussion, we’re going to talk about how do we extend our help as parents if these descriptions fit your child. Maybe the description does not in every way, but in just one or two ways, these tips will still be beneficial for you. You should be able to know the answer to, “what does a child who meets all or a number of these descriptions need?” Here, we’re also going to highlight the importance of establishing a connection with your child and building that deep attachment with her which should enable them to feel those more vulnerable feelings.
[21:54] In the world of Psychology and Child Development, stuffing your feelings down and learning how to numb yourself from feeling those overwhelming emotions can give rise to all kinds of challenges - including depression and anxiety. This is where your support as a parent becomes really crucial. Once you manage to allow your child who’s highly sensitive, to feel safe and supported through the way you manage her, particularly when it comes to discipline, they will learn to manage their emotions, not to shut down their emotional reactions. On your end, this will help you become a more empathetic parent who is less annoyed and triggered by the big emotional responses of your child toward her feelings.
[23:46] In a similar manner, you are encouraged to let other people know about your child and her highly sensitive nature especially if they are going to be caring for your child. These people can be your child’s teachers, sitter, or the one handling her extracurricular activities. By introducing them to the things that your child finds really hard to manage or feel really stressful towards, you will help these people to understand what needs to be done, making things easier for both them and your child.
[25:08] Lastly, I just want to highlight the fact that if you have this type of child who, for example, has to endure situations such as a big dinner parties or environments where there's going to be a lot of people and a lot of commotion, a lot of change and a lack of predictability will be too much for them to handle. These are definitely times that parents of highly sensitive children fully recognize their child as such, and if this is you and you can relate, you are not alone. There are many of us who have had to make certain calls from time to time and do the hard thing, which is to stay back or opt-out of certain activities such as those we mentioned, in order to keep you child safe.
The Orchid and the Dandelion by W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.
Helping Sensitive Children Flourish by Deborah MacNamara
Is Your Child Highly Sensitive?
Quotes From Episode 23
"Sensitivity is not something that just goes away. It's part of who you are. One of your attributes. So if you have this attribute, you just learn to work with it in maturity, age, and experience and find ways to adapt when things really set you off or bother you"
"Children can really grow and thrive and become such exceptional human beings. It takes special loving care, much like how the orchid can bloom and become among the most beautiful of all flowers."
"When you have a child who is actually really hurt but they're so focused on not crying, there's something going on there, when they're not one to "feel" that feeling."
“If your child is in a situation where they are clearly overwhelmed, you need to go ahead and find ways to kind of remove them from the situations that are too much for them to handle.”
Let's work together! I provide 1:1 support for parents motivated to make positive changing in their parenting and gain confidence and increase fulfillment in their role as parents. If this sounds like it might be what you've been looking for, book a free consultation today.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from The 3D Parent.