I have an amazing 7-year-old daughter who is unbelievably empathetic. Which, allows her to be a good friend, wonderful daughter and just a loving soul all around. However, her emotions can also be very intense and along with the empathy a high level of sensitivity. Really she isn't unlike me to be honest.

To demonstrate her sympathy level, I'll reference reading The Hobbit together. As a family we read the story in the last few months. When Gollum loses his ring, Tolkien does a good job of making Gollum pathetic and sad and the reader is meant to feel for him a little, but he is also the bad guy. My daughter burst into tears. Why can't Golum and Bilbo both have the magic ring mom? I know Golum is creepy but that doesn't mean he should have to be so sad! A few minutes later she had taken a deep breath and was talking about how "every good story has to have its story bumps, I know and I know it isn't real, but it is still so sad."

I have always felt that just as every rose has its thorn and every cowboy sings a sad, sad song, (sorry, song reference - had to do it) but seriously, every gift brings its curse. Where the challenge lies for my little one, is helping her keep it all in balance.

She is an excellent reader, (A few months ago, she was tested again and has a 12th grade vocabulary, 8th grade comprehension, and spells like the second grade kid she is). So, choosing literature for her school lessons is a challenge because she isn't emotionally ready for most of the stuff written at a level that would challenge her.

She gets on really well with other kids of all ages including her own, but becomes sincerely hurt at the slightest hint another child doesn't like her. To make matters worse, this last summer, three of my daughter's best friends all moved away and for completely separate reasons we had already changed school programs before we knew this was going to happen (she is partially home-schooled, but we have a coop and she goes to regular classes once/week as well). She is needing to make an entirely new batch of friends at school, her best friend (and only girl her age) in Taekwondo classes is one of the three that moved, and she was moved into a higher belt class as well, and the theater (another social out-let for her) is not currently doing any plays that have parts available for her age. She still has one or two great friends from the former school program we have set play dates with and she is doing well with meeting and making new friends at the new school too, but every little slight by any of the kids at the school sends her to tears (sometimes I think they are only perceived slights too). I think the loss of her friends is making her even more sensitive than she already was.

How do I help her develp that thicker skin and just appreciate the friends she has made, move on and let it go?

  • really interesting question and very valid +1. I have exams next week, but look forward to answering some :)
    – user21179
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 4:05
  • I found this article that very likely is relevant to your dilemma, and has some ideas in it that may be helpful. I'm posting as a comment because any answer I tried to make based off of this would be essentially plagiarism, but take a look at the section titled "The Problem of Asynchrony", and the next few sections subsequent to that one.
    – user420
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


One of the best strategies I have used to deal with this with my own daughter is telling her stories about how things were for me at her age. "Did you know that my best friend moved away when I was in 3rd grade?" This usually distracts her and piques her curiosity. I will then answer her questions about what that was like, how things got better, etc.

I think kids need to know that we have been through similar situations growing up and that we struggled but eventually found a way through. I know that these talks have deepened our bond and I am glad I began this practice when she was younger as it has been very beneficial during her current transition to middle school. Her dad has also adopted this tactic and finds it helpful.

We will usually, not always, spend some time brainstorming some ways that she can help herself adjust or to feel better. We write them down for future reference and she stars the best ones.

I have also had conversations with her about the nature of feelings, how we need to feel them and deal with them without holding on to them for too long or nursing them too much. I think at her age I used an analogy of an injured leg: you can't ignore it and pretend it's ok, nor should you poke at it over and over and make it hurt worse. You have to rest and take care of it until it heals. It will hurt less and less until it doesn't hurt at all anymore. Feelings are the same but it's hard for kids to project into a future time when they will feel better so we have to remind them and give them examples.

I recently read of some research that indicated that the most resilient kids come from families with a strong narrative that tells of family members experiencing good times and also persevering through hard times. We have expanded our talks now to include other family stories that illustrate the ups and downs of life. Now, in 6th grade, she seems so much more self assured and she weathers the storms with far more grace than I did at her age. I will look up the article about that study and post it when I can.

Ok, here is the article that talks about the research into resilience: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html?_r=0

I also wanted to add that if she seems to be dwelling on old hurts I will point that out and ask her if there is something more going on. Sometimes she needs more processing, other times there is some new issue, often she is just tired or hungry or both. She's learning that it's good to take a little internal inventory and that she doesn't have to be at the mercy of her emotions because she has skills to deal with them in a healthy way. It is a process but it took me a long time to figure these things out on my own and I can see that it will be much easier for her because of this work we are doing.

  • Nice article! AND nice answer! of course it is a process and I often do share my own stories with her too. Her dad is working on getting comfortable with such "touchy feely" stuff :-) but I've never thought of it quite the way you present here! Thanks I'll definitely be incorporating this. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 3:14

It sounds like a highly sensitive child. You can read more about it here: http://www.hsperson.com/pages/child.htm and see if the description fits.

  • 2
    Hey thanks, pusle. And welcome to the community! On SE, we try to give a brief description of articles we offer up that summarizes the article and how/why it applies. That way if the link ever stops working, the info is still here too. It also helps so readers that can go looking at separate links because of time, get the jist quickly. I remember seeing this book once and wanting to read it! Then, I couldn't remember the author (or correct title) and had trouble finding it when I went back for it! Thanks so much! I think you are right. I'll uppvote when you can add a summary here. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 13:01
  • Hi, I will add a summary as soon as I get the chance!
    – pusle
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 14:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .