Many children under 25 years old (also called Generation Z) are much more sensitive and empathetic than others.
They feel everything! They do not fit into our chaotic, stressed-out world, and they will not adapt. They were not meant to.
They will not fit into a rigid school system. They will not follow your lead down the safe, narrow path you set out for them. They are here to shake things up and make you question everything.
Let Your Child Lead
The cool thing about them is, they will tell you exactly what they need. And it’s usually more of you. More of your time, energy, love, connection. We are the ones who have it wrong—running around with too many obligations, musts, and shoulds. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed, allowing ourselves to be pulled in too many directions. Ignoring our human needs of connection, care, and love.
Your child will push all your buttons. And that’s a good thing! Your child will show you exactly where you need to slow down, attend to the present moment, and feel what’s coming up. At first, you’ll feel frustration, impatience, insecurity, and worry that you are doing it wrong.
Step into Your Child’s World
But, the more you listen to your child and work with them, the easier it gets. Rather than directing, ordering, and feigning some control of the situation, try stepping into your child’s world. Get physically close to your child, see them, touch them, be with them in the problem.
Ask questions: How can I help? What do you need right now? What are you feeling in your body?
Breathe with your child.
These simple actions allow your child to feel connected to you. Most of the time, with any type of behavior, their underlying need is to feel cared for by you—to feel emotionally safe with you. They need you to create a supportive environment so they can be free to feel all their big, overwhelming feelings. And then, eventually, free to be their unique self.
Provide an Emotionally Safe Environment
I’ve had children as young as six years old in my practice who are already hardened to life. Anger is their first response to anything. They have put up a protective barrier against feeling alone, unseen, unheard, and emotionally unsafe. Remember, there is a sweet, sensitive, compassionate child underneath that behavior. I urge you to keep your focus on the child, not the behavior.
It’s your job to foster your child’s uniqueness, not make him conform. We have put too much emphasis on obedience and responsibility. These children are not here to learn to be good soldiers in a broken world.
In my 12 years of counseling children, I have come to believe that these highly sensitive children will show us the truth, wake us up from mediocrity, and lead us into a more kind, compassionate world.