Kaz Parrott is a mother of 2 boys, a teacher and a passionate advocate for children. She is also the Founder of Raising Connected Kids. She discussed the opportunity to nurture our quiet tweens and teens in The Calm, Connected Tweens and Teens Summit in March. Here's my summary...

Raising a sensitive tween or teen is a privilege and it can be a joy when that sensitivity is recognised and embraced  

Sensitive kids feel, process and respond to experiences more deeply than other kids their age. They’re perceptive, insightful, highly attunded and aware.  They’re usually very empathetic but can also be feisty, passionate and intense.  Their brains are usually very busy, noticing, hearing, feeling everything going on around them;  continually analysing what is going on around them.  They may have sensory sensitivities that could start at a young age but then taper off towards teen years.  Because of their sensitivities they can easily become overwhelmed and respond strongly to triggers.  They may seem more anxious but they are probably just trying to cling to their comfort zones. 

Sensitive kids are prone to perfectionism and perceived rejection. They can feel judged and scrutinised by even the most innocent comments, sometimes misinterpreting.   The expression ‘water of a duck’s back’ does not apply to sensitive children – quite the opposite! 

It can be seen as a negative to be sensitive but with the right tools and encouragement they can thrive!  Their positive traits need to be the focus – empathy, insightfulness, creativity, passion, honesty & compassion.  Their sensitivity is a strength not a weakness.

Sensitive kids are also brave – they show emotions in a world where others (of all ages) don’t. They cry which is a strength – it’s a healthy physical response to stress!  It’s really important to instil in teenage boys that it’s healthy to cry.  

We have done a great job in teaching girls they can be strong but have a long way to go to teach boys they can be sensitive.  We need to normalise it and celebrate it.   It also makes sensitive kids feel more comfortable knowing they are not alone.  The best way to nurture sensitive kids is to let them know there is nothing wrong with them.  Don’t try to change them, to toughen them… honour their needs, normalise emotions and instil resilience. 

As parents, a lot of us have grown up (Gen X) with very little emotional education. It is so important that we connect and validate.  Teens – especially sensitive teens – need to feel heard and understood.  That’s not to say the connection and validation doesn’t come with boundaries – we need to teach them effective ways to respond.

Communication is a key skill as well as self-awareness.  Understanding their triggers, knowing what calms them down… Also essential are self-belief, self-talk, assertiveness and emotional resilience.  All of these skills can be taught.  Teens are at the perfect stage in life to fine tune these areas to make a big difference via a little bit of fine tuning.

Self belief – being ok with who we are – flaws and all!

Self talk – be aware of the words they say to themselves in their heads – we all have negative thoughst from time to time but they need to be challenged.  Is that thought true?  How is it making me feel? What could happen if I change that thought?  Recognise the self talk, be consistent with challenging it and transform into compassion and self acceptance.

 We also need to teach teens the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive communication. Sensitive teens have spent years as passive communicators. While it might feel like a stretch it can also be liberating to stand up for what they believe in / ask for what they want.  

“It’s not our job to toughen up our children to face a cruel and heartless world, it’s our job to raise children who make the world a little less cruel and hard’ LR Knost