Is worry helping or hurting your sensitive family?

Highly sensitive children and teens know all about worrying. It comes with deeply processing and subtlety noticing – hallmarks of a highly sensitive brain.

We sensitive ones were designed to think. But where is the line between thinking and worrying? And why do some of us cross the line and get lost on the wrong side of it?

Parents become even bigger worriers when their children worry. It can be a tricky cycle, even a self-fulfilling prophecy. We come by it honestly, along with most animals, even flies and fish!

2 Strategies in Over 100 Species

There are two strategies for how people (and animals) behave in the world (research by Wolf et al, 2009):

Do it right and do it once.

Responsive, reflective, reactive, sensitive


Go for it; if wrong, go for it again.

Nonresponsive, impulsive, low reactivity, non-sensitive

Highly sensitive people (and youth) are the first group.

We are careful and deliberate about actions before we do it.

We can advise the more impulsive dandelions and guide the community or the culture to wise action. AND guess what?

All that crying or worrying… It’s called EMOTIONAL LEADERSHIP.

Sensitive youth are also canaries. When the sensitive child is becoming overtired or overstimulated, it’s likely true that the rest of the children in the family or classroom will soon follow.

More time, more sleep, more nature, more movement, more frequent, healthy meals, all of these things that help sensitive youth thrive are good for all people of all ages, highly sensitive or not

If we think about humans through evolution, we were always on the move, doing meaningful tasks for survival, and exploring. All sensitive kids need is again, what all humans need. 

Awareness, the first of the HSP/HSC five to thrive, makes all the difference for thriving as a sensitive youth. 

They need to know that sensitive brains are simply:

  • More reactive
  • More aware of subtleties
  • More emotionally tuned-in
  • More thoughtful about it all


Embrace that brain. Then our kids can say,  

  • “Ahhhh! No Wonder!”
  • “It’s all good.”
  • “I’m normal.”
  • “I’m supposed to feel this way.”
  • “I’m the canary, knowing the truths for us all.”

One strategy is proposed by Michelle Obama with her question:

“How do we layer our thoughts over our nerves?”

That is the key to managing worry and fear.

“Fear is physiologically potent: It hits like a wave of electricity calling the body to alertness. It often jolts us in new situations as we encounter new people and new feelings. Anxiety, a close cousin to fear, is more diffuse and perhaps even more powerful for its ability to agitate our nerves where there is no immediate threat… when we are afraid of what could be. [As we mature, we learn to ask ourselves these questions]:

  • Am I safe?
  • What’s at risk?
  • Can I afford to make my world a little bigger by embracing something new?”

Michelle Obama, from her new book, The Light We Carry, 2022

Check out our live masterclass on the Are You Highly Sensitive. If you are not a member of AYHS and need to register, click this link.

To register for the live masterclass, Sensitive Youth and Worry, click this link.


Wondering if you are highly sensitive?

Listen to a short talk on it.