Parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person Is Overstimulating: 6 Ways to Cope

Written By

Paige Shiels
July 1, 2021

This article has been reviewed by Nurtured First’s team of child development experts.

Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to noises, lights, and sounds. They are easily affected by other people’s emotions and can get completely overwhelmed by the mess in their house.

Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person

  • Are easily overwhelmed by a lot of lights and sounds.
  • Find themselves affected by other people’s moods.
  • Need time alone after spending time with a group of people.
  • Have a sensitive palate and enjoy fine smells, tastes, and works of art.
  • Notice a big shift in their mood when hungry.
  • Feel easily flustered when too many things are happening at once.
  • Notice themselves impacted deeply by the news.
  • Have a deep want for justice in the world.

Parenthood Can Amplify Your Sensitivity

When you become a parent, you are now adding in all of the new sensory input that comes with having a baby or child: always having the baby on you, possibly breastfeeding, extra sounds, textures, toys, and you may find it hard to care for yourself in the way you did before having a child. 

When you become a parent, your life may feel like it is almost always chaotic; there are always noises, smells, and messes going on. It can be tough to manage your own emotional state as you constantly manage other people’s emotional reactions. It can be extremely challenging to keep your calm in the chaos that is your life. 

As a highly sensitive parent, you may feel:

  • Completely overwhelmed by the mess in your house. 
  • Overstimulated by the constant talking your kids do. 
  • Angry when your baby won’t stop crying. 
  • Like you can’t be touched by anyone else, or you’ll lose it. 
  • Thrown off when your child is out of their normal routine.
  • Anxious because of the lack of predictability in what will come next.

It’s not all hard!

You may also enjoy the incredible gifts that come along with highly sensitive parenting, such as:

  • Feeling connected to other children and families. 
  • Feeling a strong sense of wanting to stand up for others. 
  • Deeply understanding your child’s emotions. 
  • A profound sense of love and protection for your child and other families.

Related Posts: A Survival Guide for the Overwhelmed New Mom

6 Tools to Help You Find Your Calm and Feel Less Overstimulated

Now that we have explored what it means to be a highly sensitive parent, I want to provide you with six practical tools you can start using today to cope when you start to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. 

1. Take a Sensory Break

Taking a sensory break is the first tool I always share with highly sensitive parents. Take time every day, or even every hour if you need to, to just go into the washroom or another quiet room in the house, close the door, turn off the lights and just sit for 30 seconds, two minutes, or however long you need to. This will give you a chance to calm down, and it will give you some time away from the chaos.

2. Try Adding “Slowness” Into Your Routine

It can be challenging to have time alone when you are a parent, but when you do get this time, it can be so refreshing to take just a couple of extra minutes before returning to the chaos. This might look like driving home from work or the grocery store with no music on, driving slowly, just taking your time. I know these moments of alone time can be rare for many parents, so take advantage of them whenever they come around. Instead of scrolling through your phone when the baby is napping, use that time to take some deep breaths and tune into your breathing. 

3. Eat Well, Move Your Body, Focus on Sleep

As a busy parent, I know these three things often go on the back burner as we focus on keeping our kids fed, active and well-rested. But the reality is, if we’re not keeping ourselves healthy, it will be more difficult to keep our kids healthy. Not eating well, not exercising, and not getting enough sleep can make anybody sensitive, so if you are already a highly sensitive person, it is so important to be mindful of these things and do your best to keep yourself healthy. 

4. Taking Batteries Out of Toys is Self-care

It’s so tempting to get colourful toys that light up and play music because we know our children will love them, but these toys can actually be overstimulating for our children and ourselves. Instead, reduce the amount of sensory input in your house by focusing on more calm, open-ended toys that don’t have such loud colours and sounds. Remember, removing batteries from a toy is self-care!

5. Recognize When You Are Taking on Your Child’s Emotions 

It makes a lot of sense to be triggered by your baby crying. If your child is upset and sad, that may make you feel upset and sad. It can help to be really mindful that this can happen, and to remember that your child’s emotions are their emotions, and your emotions are yours. Don’t forget that you are allowed to have separate emotions; you don’t have to take on their pain and crying. I know this sounds like a lot. This is a process; being mindful of it is the first step. Our Parenting Little Kids course teaches you to support your children through these big emotions.

Related Post: Expert Tips for When You Feel Triggered by Your Baby’s Crying 

6. Be Mindful of the Extra Stimuli in the Environment

Sometimes without even realizing it, we have added in so many unnecessary extra stimuli that suddenly, we are becoming overstimulated. For example, we might have the radio on in the kitchen, a movie on in the living room, and the baby playing with a toy that lights up and talks. Try to be mindful of all these extra stimuli and keep them minimal. Even turning off lights that don’t need to be on can help. Keep the volume low if you are watching a movie or listening to music. If you find yourself getting overstimulated by a toy your child is playing with, remove the toy when they are not interested in it or take the batteries out. 

When Times Get Tough

When times get tough, remind yourself of this script: Being a highly sensitive parent can be a superpower, and it can help me understand where my child’s big emotions are coming from and empathize with them. I can use this special trait to support them through their big feelings! 

Being highly sensitive is a personality trait that has been well-researched by Dr. Elaine Aron and other colleagues. For more on highly sensitive people, we recommend reading the book “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Dr. Elaine Aron. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Highly sensitive individuals are often overwhelmed by sensory information, such as lights, sounds, and the emotions of others.
  2. Highly sensitive parenting can entail both challenges and unique gifts, including a deep understanding of children’s emotions.
  3. Parents can mitigate overwhelm and overstimulation by taking regular short breaks alone in a quiet space.
  4. Maintaining personal health, including diet, exercise, and sleep, is essential for highly sensitive parents to manage their sensitivities.
  5. Limiting sensory input in the home, such as loud and colourful toys, can help manage overstimulation.
  6. Mindful separation of personal emotions from children’s emotions can help parents handle feelings of being overwhelmed.
  7. Recognizing high sensitivity as a superpower can lead to a deeper understanding and empathy towards one’s children.

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    Article By

    Paige Shiels
    Paige is an Early Childhood Educator with a passion for supporting children and families. As a Registered Early Childhood Educator with a Bachelor’s degree in Youth and Children’s Studies, Paige has been working with children and families for over 10 years. She has experience in children’s programming, child care centres, and supporting families at early learning centres. At Nurtured First, Paige has been a part of creating resources for parents and supporting families through our online groups and discussions. She loves having the opportunity to help families create deep, meaningful and nurturing relationships with their children. Outside of her professional life, Paige loves spending time with friends and family and travelling to new places.