May 27, 2015by admin

In the continuation of this series on learning more about spirited children, sensitivity is often the most misunderstood trait.   On the surface it appears a kid is out-of-control for no reason, when in truth, they are expressing their deep-seated emotions.  Hopefully, if you are in the midst of raising a sensitively spirited child, once you begin to understand where their behaviors originate, it will help you guide them in managing their big emotions.

All children are emotional to a degree.  A spirited child is emotional and then some.  In Mary Kurcinka’s book, Raising Your Spirited Child, she describes them in this way:

“Keenly aware, spirited kids quickly respond to the slightest noises, smells, lights, textures or changes in mood.  They are easily overwhelmed in crowds by the barrage of sensations.  Getting them through a shopping center, long religious service, carnival, or family gathering without losing them to a fit of tears is a major achievement.”

Both of my boys displayed these types of behaviors but in different ways and to different degrees.  My oldest had a hard time with textures and temperature.  He loathed sand and dirt.  When it came to playing in the snow, he would tantrum uncontrollably.  He hated to finger paint and avoided play-doh and clay at all costs.  With extreme patience and repeated exposure to these things, he did eventually come around.  I had to keep a dialogue going with his teachers to let them know where a battle might occur.  As he got older, being able to reason and talk through some of his frustrations was also very helpful.  To this day, during a sporting event, if it rains you can see him freeze up for a moment, but he is able to talk himself through the distraction and will get his focus back on the game.

My youngest displays sensitivity in other ways.  While his behavior and demeanor indicate limited empathy (he is an eight year old boy after all), his comments and behaviors show otherwise.  He does not like to see others being hurt and he especially dislikes if I am upset.  For instance, we watched a family show where a disabled girl finally realized her dream of getting an amazing service dog.  I was tearful throughout and had deep empathy for the girl and her mom.  My youngest got very quiet and when questioned about his sudden shift in mood, his answers became terse and he seemed quite agitated.  However, once I got my emotions in check, he was back to his old self.

Having survived the early years of raising my spirited boys, I thought I would never get through it.  It seemed as soon as I managed one troubling behavior, ten more would emerge in its place.  I was never good at reaching out.  I absolutely could have benefitted from extra help, but I was too embarrassed by the intensity of my children’s behavior.  If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to pick up the phone and contact Riverview Counseling Services at 630/587-3777.  Or, please click on this link,, to connect with the compassionate and understanding Riverview staff and start getting the support you need as soon as possible.

Written By Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent

Kurcinka, M.S.  Raising Your Spirited Child:  A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense-Sensitive-Perceptive-Persistent-Energetic (Revised Edition).  2006  New York, New York. HarpersCollins Publishers Inc.