Highly Sensitive Children, Parenting

Even extroverts need alone time

Is your extroverted child melting down after a busy day? Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Extroverted kids love to fill their days with friends, activities and social events but if they’re having meltdowns they may be overdoing it. Especially if they are also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). 

Extroverts only make up 30% of the group of people who are Highly Sensitive according to research by Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Child. And because of this, people often mistakenly believe that only introverts can be Highly Sensitive. They think of HSPs as shy, timid and withdrawn. 

However, HSPs can be far from it! Both myself and my two daughters are friendly, outgoing, bubbly and confident. We are also Highly Sensitive People.

Highly Sensitive People show four aspects

  1. Depth of Processing — they have a tendency to process or reflect deeply
  2. Easily Overstimulated — more so than others of a similar age
  3. Emotional Reactivity and Empathy — feel their own and others’ emotions strongly
  4. Sensitive to Stimuli — Notice small details or changes in sounds, smells, sights etc

Highly Sensitive People have all four of these but can express them differently. Extroverted Highly Sensitive children, for example, might express their tendency to reflect deeply by asking hundreds of questions or passionately talking about their ideas to everyone. 

They might experience overstimulation as overexcitement. Or be pulled between really wanting to socialise (because extroverts get energised by people) and finding the busy environment too much after a while. 

My child is an extrovert so I keep their calendar full of activities

This can be the temptation with extroverted children. My older daughter keeps a very busy schedule. She is always finding new activities she wants to try out. She wants to swim, sing, play piano, be involved in every group dance and duo, every movie making club, every musical! But that’s the key here. Her schedule is full of activities SHE wants to try.

Although they look like typical extroverts, Highly Sensitive Extroverts get overstimulated easily and especially if they are made to do busy activities or social events they haven’t chosen themselves. 

The biggest meltdowns my daughter has are always after busy days where she has had no say in the schedule.  

our excursions in the outer world need to be novel, and chosen by us, based on our individual needs, or else the activity can become just as overstimulating for us as the introvert HSP. And even when we are out, very much enjoying ourselves, we can often return home overstimulated, physically tired, and in need of extra sleep or processing time.

Licensed professional counsellor, Jacquelyn Strickland

Overstimulation in an extroverted child 

It isn’t always obvious when an extroverted child is becoming overstimulated. Sometimes the meltdowns happen suddenly and unexpectedly! 

The more new or different a situation is the more quickly they will become overstimulated. All young children experience this — non-highly sensitive children too. And the younger they are the more easily they are overstimulated. Everything is new and different to a little baby! Processing new information is tiring for your brain. You’ve probably experienced this feeling yourself when you’ve been studying or in a new job. 

With the Highly Sensitive Child’s tendency to process things deeply and notice small details, becoming overstimulated happens much more quickly. 

Your overstimulated Highly Sensitive Child

  • They will have trouble sleeping the night before or after an event. 
  • Vacations or fun days end in tears, grumpy moods, or tantrums.
  • Extreme reactions to pain (even minor bumps and knocks become a big deal). 
  • Strong resistance to changes of any kind. Tears and meltdowns when there is a change. 
  • Surprises (even fun ones) are met with resistance or tears. 
  • Loud noises ‘hurt’. 
  • Every little thing becomes a big deal — even things they usually cope well with.  
  • Time or other pressures cause a meltdown. 
  • Overly emotional. Can’t seem to calm themselves down. 
Learning to enjoy alone time will benefit your child in the future. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Alone Time: love it or hate it, they need it

One of the difference between the introverted HSP and the extroverted one is that while an  introvert enjoys alone time, seeks it out and recharges that way, an extroverted HSP doesn’t necessarily prefer being alone. 

In fact, if you recognise that your crying, grumpy 12 year old is actually overstimulated and needs alone time they might resist your suggestion. Mine usually does. As much as they need it to recover from their busy day, rest and recharge from all that socialising, they often don’t enjoy it.

And too much alone time can leave an extrovert feeling tired, and even a bit low. 

But it’s a balance they need to learn. As Extroverted Highly Sensitive children, it is important that they learn their limits and to recognise when they need alone time to avoid a meltdown. 

Some great alone time activities for extroverted kids:  

  • Listening to an audiobook they love
  • Drawing or colouring 
  • Listening to music
  • Wrapping up in a blanket and reading a book 
  • Sitting in the same room as others but with headphones on
  • Building with Lego
  • Playing with toys
  • Painting
  • Spending time looking at Pinterest 
  • Watching a movie or tv show (although screen-free time is usually better)
  • Go for a walk in nature 
  • Go for a bike ride

If you are wondering if your child may be Highly Sensitive there are some great resources available. Try this test or take a look at the informative articles on Highly Sensitive Refuge.

For other ideas on parenting your Highly Sensitive Child check out my other posts on this topic here.  Have you found other alone time activities helpful? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below! 

If you’d like to support my work feel free to buy me a coffee! Thank you!

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