Nurturing Positive Friendships:

Helping Sensitive Kids Thrive in the Social Jungle

Have you been here:

Michelle walks up to the playground with her kiddo, there are a bunch of kids climbing the ladders, hiding in the tunnel and zooming down the slide. They’re having fun running, chasing, squealing and enjoying themselves. One kid runs up to hers and asks “Wanna play?”

She holds her breath and hopes. But she knows… she’s been here before,

yet she still holds out hope that the next word that comes out of her kiddo’s mouth is an excited YES!

Instead, they look down and then look to her. She’s emphatically nodding like one of those head nodding dogs in a car window.

But the other kid by now has got the message that her kiddo isn’t going to join in; so they have run off and are already halfway across the monkey bars to catch up to the other kids.

And there she stands with her kiddo, longingly watching the group and she’s wishing her timid one could just join in and fearlessly have fun.

Sound familiar?

Does your child stick by your side like a shadow when you’re at the playground or at parties?

Do they have a hard time joining in and by the time they do start playing with the other kids, it’s time to leave?

Have you ever wished they would, “Just go play and hang out with the other kids!?”

When we are parenting a sensitive child, we know these scenarios all too well.

Read on as we give you a better understanding of why friendships are harder for sensitive kids and you’ll gain insights on how you can foster friendships that help them grow in confidence and master the fundamentals of friendships (** Sensitive kiddo edition).

Navigating Friendship

“You’re not my friend anymore.”

To some kids those words are water off a duck’s back. They can shrug it off and move on. But to our sensitive kids, it cuts deep.

Sensitive children are born with their tender hearts on display. From their earliest days, they feel heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, changes, and emotions and can react intensely to the world around them.

Sensitive children have a gift for kindness and empathy. They’re finely tuned into their emotions and to the emotions of those around them, intuitively sensing other’s feelings. While their genuine concern for others is a beautiful quality, being sensitive means that they notice EVERYTHING which can also pose challenges in navigating the complexities of other kids and social interactions.

It’s not that they don’t want to join in with their peers, they just tend to internally analyse their world and worry more than other kids. When they hold themselves back or find social interactions difficult it can make them feel like that they just don’t fit in which can then lead to them feeling like there is something wrong with them.

Sensitive kids can see themselves as flawed or not good enough, which contributes to their struggles.

Finding and keeping friends might be harder for them.

Sometimes, they simply haven’t meet the right friends yet.

Download our FREE Friendship Affirmations for Sensitive Children

Social Challenges

One minute the girls are happily playing, making up their own up gymnastics routine of handstands and cartwheels. Ava suggests they add in a front flip, but the others ignore her and suddenly that’s it… she’s out of the routine. Sitting on her own heartbroken and feeling rejected. Tears well up, she feels all alone and wants to go home.

10 Reasons why Friendship is Harder for Sensitive Kids

Navigating friendships can be challenging for some children. While others seem to effortlessly make friends, say what they want and let things slide off their back, sensitive kids often need more time and support to find their place in social circles.

It’s tough to watch our own child struggle with friendships. When they’re left out or seem to have trouble connecting with others, it hits close to home.

There are various reasons why making friends can be tougher for sensitive kids. But it’s crucial to know: if your child is having a hard time making friends, it doesn’t mean they’re not likeable or good friend material. It just means they might need a bit of extra help developing their social and emotional skills. And as a parent, it’s natural to want to provide that support.

Here’s why it might be harder for your sensitive child to navigate friendships with their peers:

1. Overstimulation is a significant hurdle. Loud noises (and voices), rough play, busy places, or even strong emotions can overwhelm them, making it hard to relax and engage in social situations.

2. Sensitive kids are selective about who they hang out with. They crave deep connections with a few close friends rather than a big group, so it takes time to find those special people who really get them. We teach sensitive kids strategies to make finding the right friends to suit their personality easier in our Connected Kid’s Friendship Workshop. 

3. Our sensitive souls have feelings that run deep, which can be hard for some people (and peers) to understand. Others might perceive them as too soft, too intense or weird because they feel things so strongly.

4. They value genuine connections and authenticity. They shy away from fake or superficial people and seek friends who are genuine and sincere, which can be a tall order to fill at school.

5. Sometimes, social anxiety creeps in and makes it tough for them to put themselves out there. The fear of being judged or rejected can hold them back from making the first move. Some feel anxious or shy, finding it hard to initiate conversations. Others may struggle to keep the conversation going or to find common interests with their peers. An integral part of our programs for kids is developing effective communication skills and assertiveness so our sensitive kids feel confident to speak with peers.

6. Empathy overload. Highly sensitive children care deeply about others, sometimes to the point of taking on their emotions as their own. Handling the complexities of friendship, conflicts and keeping the peace is exhausting for them!

7. Perfectionism is another hurdle they face. They hold themselves—and others—to high standards, which can lead to disappointment or conflict.

8. Setting boundaries isn’t their strong suit. They’re more likely to let people walk all over them than risk rocking the boat. They can find it hard to say no and advocate for themselves.

9.Perceived rejection hits them hard because they’re so sensitive. They take comments personally, misinterpret actions and take other’s words (sometimes innocuous) and feel them deeply as a slight. It’s like a punch to the gut every time someone says or does something perceived as hurtful.

10. They need plenty of downtime to recharge after socializing. So while they love hanging out with friends, they also need lots of alone time to rest and rejuvenate.

But when it comes to friendships, being highly sensitive isn’t a bad thing. Sensitive kids have bucketloads of empathy, can make deep emotional connections, and have a knack for understanding others’ needs.

They bring unique qualities to any friendship and…

They deserve to experience authentic, true friendships!

There are ways parents can support their child in building friendships that suit their unique selves

Seek out like-minded souls who appreciate their sensitivity and value authenticity as much as they do.

Encourage them to take care of themselves by practicing self-care and setting boundaries when needed.

Encourage them to step out of their comfort zones a little at a time, gradually expanding their social circle while still honoring their need for downtime.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being sensitive. In fact, it’s a beautiful part of who your child is, and the right friends will see that and love them for it.

Benefits of Positive Friendships

Positive friendships play a crucial role in the emotional and social development of sensitive children, offering a multitude of benefits that contribute to their overall well-being.

Emotional Support: Positive friendships provide a safe space for sensitive children to express their feelings and emotions without fear of judgment. Having supportive friends who listen and understand can help them navigate challenging situations with confidence.

Increased Self-Esteem: Building positive relationships with peers who appreciate and value their unique qualities can boost sensitive children’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Feeling accepted and valued by friends helps them develop a positive self-image.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Positive friendships can serve as a buffer against stress and anxiety for sensitive children. Knowing they have friends they can rely on during difficult times can alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide comfort and reassurance.

Social Skills Development: Interacting with friends helps sensitive children develop essential social skills, such as communication, assertiveness, and conflict resolution. Positive friendships provide opportunities for them to practice navigating social situations, learn how to set personal boundaries and build healthy relationships.

Increased Happiness and Well-Being: Positive friendships contribute to sensitive children’s overall happiness and well-being. Sharing experiences, laughter, and support with friends fosters feelings of happiness, belonging, and fulfillment.

Improved Coping Skills: Having supportive friends helps sensitive children develop effective coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors and challenges. Friends can offer advice, perspective, and encouragement, helping them develop resilience and adaptability.

Sense of Belonging: Positive friendships provide sensitive children with a sense of belonging and connectedness. Feeling part of a supportive circle of friends helps them feel included and accepted, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Enhanced Emotional Regulation: Positive friendships can help sensitive children learn to regulate their emotions more effectively. Interacting with friends gives sensitive kids the opportunity to develop healthy emotional expression and coping strategies which builds their own emotional regulation skills.

Opportunities for Growth: Positive friendships provide opportunities for sensitive children to learn and grow. Friends can introduce them to new experiences, perspectives, and interests and expand their horizons.

Lifelong Bonds: Positive friendships forged in childhood can last a lifetime, when sensitive children make the right friends to suit their nature. With the right skills sensitive kids will seek genuine connections and friendships that offer companionship, support, and connection. Building strong friendships early in life lays the foundation for enduring relationships into adulthood.

How to Help Sensitive Kids Develop Positive Friendships

Sensitive kids crave the opportunity to connect and play with others, yet they often approach new social situations with caution. Unlike their peers, they may prefer to observe before diving in, and the fast-paced play of others can leave them feeling overwhelmed.

These are simple strategies to support your sensitive child in developing friendships that align with their needs:

1. Recognise and Validate Your Child’s Emotions:
To support your child in nurturing friendships, it’s important to establish a safe and encouraging environment where they feel comfortable to talk about their experiences openly. Let them know that forming and maintaining friendships can feel difficult for some. Assure them that building friendships can be complicated with various emotions and challenges, and that their feelings are valid. Actively listen to their experiences and emotions, and show empathy and understanding even when their experiences may seem small or insignificant. By acknowledging and validating their efforts in building friendships, you can provide encouragement and empower them to navigate friendships with more confidence.

2. Teach Effective Strategies & Techniques:
Support your child in developing practical and healthy strategies to make and maintain friendships. Teach them what positive friendships are and help them to determine what they are looking for in a friend. Not everybody is the right fit for friendship and that is OKAY! Encourage them to reflect on their emotions, emphasizing that a range of feelings is normal. Developing communication skills and teaching assertiveness are crucial for sensitive children, it helps them to advocate for themselves and set boundaries so they aren’t taken advantage of in friendships.

Teach them self compassion and self care such as positive self-talk and nervous system resetting exercises that resonate with them. Collaborate with your child to identify the strategies that work best for them and establish a routine of practicing these techniques regularly to reinforce their techniques in making and keeping friends (and taking care of their needs in friendships).

Register your interest in our upcoming Connected Kids Workshop here.

3. Normalising & Modeling the Experience of Friendship:
To help your child with their friendships, it’s useful to share your own experiences with friendships as a child and in adulthood (in an age-appropriate manner). Discuss how you personally have felt and highlight that the ups and downs in relationships are natural and normal. As children learn by observing their parents, it’s crucial to model healthy ways of interacting with friends. Demonstrate qualities like patience, empathy, and problem-solving skills when faced with challenging situations. By showing your child how to express their feelings and communicate their needs without resorting to aggression or self criticism, you empower them with effective conflict resolution strategies. Remember to praise and reinforce effort when your child makes attempts and progress. This encouragement helps them build confidence and reinforces that they are deserving of positive friendship and they don’t need to change who they are to find the right friends.

Unlocking Success for Sensitive Kids

Friendships is an important part of a child’s social and emotional development, nurturing positive friendships is especially crucial for highly sensitive children. While they may face unique challenges in navigating social interactions, with the right support and guidance, they can make meaningful connections with peers and form friendships that enrich their life.

As parents, you play a crucial role in creating a nurturing environment where your child can develop these meaningful connections. Recognising the unique challenges faced by sensitive kids, such as overstimulation and their preferences for interactions, allows you to tailor your guidance to their individual needs.

You are your child’s number 1 advocate for helping them to succeed in friendships, but most parents feel unsure of how to actually teach social and emotional skills to their child. That is where we offer the solution! We are your partner in cheer-leading for your child to thrive and we have helped hundreds of kids to develop the exact skills to make friendships easy and enjoyable.

At Raising Connected Kids we are committed to building a supportive relationship with your sensitive child so they feel understood, valued and empowered to explore and develop their social & emotional skills at their pace. Our dedicated workshops make navigating friendships easier for children. Our workshop offers an opportunity for your sensitive child to engage in activities with like-minded children which can make a profound difference to their confidence.

Register your interest in our upcoming Connected Kids Workshop (Finding True Friendship- for Sensitive Kids) and you will be the first to know when we open & you’ll also get a sweet bonus!

By prioritizing your child’s emotional well-being and social growth, you contribute to building a foundation of resilience and happiness that will benefit them throughout their lives. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and neither is your child we have resources and communities ready to support you every step of the way. Enrol in our workshop for tailored guidance and assistance.

Contact us to learn more about how we can work together to empower your child in developing the essential skills for positive and fulfilling friendships. Together, we can make a lasting impact on your child’s life and pave the way for a brighter, socially confident future.

Are you ready to nurture your child’s emotional well-being and foster assertive communication skills?

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