Orchid & Dandelion Children…
Have you ever wondered if your child is predisposed to sensitivity or resilience? Or have you wondered why you feel more sensitive to the world around you than others?
Dr. Thomas Bryce – professor of paediatrics & psychiatry at the University of California – has spent decades researching children’s responses to stressors in their environment, and believes there are two broad groups – which have been given the descriptive metaphors of dandelion and orchid children.
The idea is that some children are like dandelions – they can thrive anywhere and are pretty hardy. Those described as orchid children are more susceptible to the impact of their environment. It’s the combination of nature & nurture – orchid children are neurologically more predisposed to find the world overwhelming & stressful – but the good news is that how we nurture them can make all the difference.
Orchid children are the sensitive ones amongst us. They can either really thrive or really struggle, depending on their environment. They can be shy, find change tricky, and are sensitive to the impact of the environment around them – this might be noise, busy-ness, or stress. Dandelion children are more naturally resilient, and cope with stress more easily. They form the majority of children, while it’s thought around 1 in 5 children are orchid children.
When parents realise they have a sensitive child, they often want to know how can they can help their child adjust to the world. It’s an important question because whereas dandelion children seem to have a natural resilience to stress, for more sensitive children, the environment and the way they are responded to makes big a difference. Dr. Bryce’s research found that with the right nurture, orchid children can truly thrive.
Here are some tips for supporting a sensitive child…
Accept them for who they are – we can’t change who they are and if we try to “toughen them up” we risk actually damaging their well-being and making them less likely to handle life’s stresses. If we focus on providing an environment that helps them to feel confident in who they naturally are, they can learn to use their sensitivity in a way that works for them, not against them.
Focus on connection & empathy – they thrive on it and need it to feel nurtured and soothed. As with all children, when they experience empathy and nurture, they will learn about compassion for others, and about self-compassion too.
Help them to learn about emotions, how to express themselves & how to self-regulate. This will help them when they are overwhelmed by other people’s emotions or by their own.
Help them to know what their environment can do for them – it will be important for them to understand when a smell or noise has caused them to feel overwhelmed, and for them to know what changes they can make to their environment to help.
Enable them to live in & understand their own window of tolerance. We need to help them feel brave enough to step out of their comfort zone so they can develop their confidence while recognising when a situation or environment is overwhelming and knowing how to manage this.