If you have an intense child, you probably know it. Call them spirited, emotionally intense, difficult, high needs, or challenging…it doesn’t matter.

You know them and you’re tired. And defeated. And sure you’re doing everything all wrong because those parenting books other parents swear by just don’t work for you.

What is an Intense Child via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

The intense child is more – more emotional, more energetic, more sensitive, more empathetic, more focused, more distracted, more, more, more – than other children.

Characteristics of an Intense Child

If you’re still struggling to determine whether your child is intense or just ill-behaved like everyone seems to think, take a few minutes to look through these characteristics. Do you see your child described? You’re probably dealing with an emotionally intense kiddo that just needs a different parenting approach. Let’s problem solve together.

An intense child is:

Sensitive: Intense kids may be keenly aware of other people’s moods and things like textures, noises, smells, and lights. Parties are challenging. Big stores can be overwhelming and over stimulating. Getting sensitive kids dressed becomes a problem as they notice every tag, seam, and rough spot. Food textures may be a problem – smooth food, rough food, food that touches, food with sauce, food without sauce…the sensitive child struggles with meals.

Emotional: The intense child feels everything deeply. Days are the BEST or the WORST. There is no in-between. Some may be loud and dramatic. Others may be really quiet and introspective. Whether focused inward or outward, their emotions are powerful. Life, though, is lived with exuberance.

Perseverant: The most persistent children, intense kids have a one-track mind when they decide on something. It’s virtually impossible to get them to change their minds. They can be goal-orientated, which, if properly channeled, can be an amazing trait. If left alone, though, intense children can become demanding, and try to bully others into going along with whatever it is they’ve made their minds up about.

Perceptive: It’s hard, sometimes, for an intense child to settle down and find that thing about which to make up their mind. There’s just so much going on around them in the world. Children like this are often misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD because they just can’t seem to focus. The reality, though, is that they are busy focusing on everything – they see, feel, and hear things others are missing.

Uncomfortable with Transition: Changing from one activity to another can cause a lot of angst. And, since transitions happen ALL day EVERY day, how the intense child handles each one can have a major impact on the rest of the family. Young intense children may be clingy or have separation anxiety, while older ones can get angry and frustrated when they need to stop and do something else.

 

What is an Intense Child via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

          
 

An intense child may also be:

Unpredictable: Intense children were often babies that could never settle into a routine. You never knew when they were hungry – or they seemed to need to eat all.the.time. Now, as older children, they are grumpy and unfocused in the morning, and ready to talk your ear off at midnight. Then next week, they may rise at the crack of dawn, and be in bed by six. You just never know what you’re going to get because it varies daily.

Energetic: Many intense children need to run, jump, climb, skip, spin, and just move in any way they possibly can. They might have been super-alert as babies… Rarely sleeping, wanting to see everything that was going on from the beginning. They do everything with gusto from the start – eating, babbling, crawling, running, talking, and then becoming the toddler tornado that made other people’s “terrible twos” stories look like a walk in the park. Now that the intense child is older, things haven’t really changed, and you might find yourself sending him outside to run laps around the cul-de-sac just to give you a minute to catch your breath…

Unable to Adapt to New Situations: Some intense children get upset in unfamiliar situations. They may even have physical reactions to the stress of the event. Raised heart rate, dilated pupils, anxiety… It can be mentally and physically stressful.

Moody: Intense children may be prone to anxiety and moodiness. They may be serious and analytical, and then angry and surly. They can be perfectionistic and get grumpy and cranky for seemingly no reason. Intense kids often have a difficult time finding enjoyment in daily life.

 

What is an Intense Child via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

What Does YOUR Intense Child Look Like?

Do you recognize your child in the descriptions above? Most intense children will possess all of the first five characteristics in some way. The last four, well…they’re bonus characteristics.

Some of you may have kids with none of them or one or two of the traits. If you’re really lucky – like me – your child will enjoy rotating through all four of the bonus characteristics just to keep you in a constant state of unease.

As we develop our game plan for how to handle our child’s intensity during the holidays {and at other times of the year}, grab a fresh spiral notebook and jot down notes about how your child’s intensity presents itself and how that affects your family.

 

Identify Triggers

Now that you’ve identified the traits your child demonstrates, write the known triggers that bring those traits out.

Got an irritable and moody kiddo that gets more, um… vocal about his frustrations whenever his little sister starts humming? Write down humming next to moodiness or anger. Does your child become overly energetic and impulsive at parties and in large groups of people? Write it down.

The more detail you can come up with today, the more you’ll be able to fine-tune your game plan later this week. Take your time with this task. This is going to provide the building blocks of a successful holiday season for you, your child, and your whole family. Take the whole week – one day at a time – or take a few days per task. Just make sure you get all of your intense child’s characteristics, behaviors, and triggers down in that notebook of yours.

We’ll be back to talk about how you can use this information to make sure your whole family – your child, you, your spouse, and all of your other children – are on the same page every time you leave the house.

Did any of these characteristics ring true? How does your child show his or her intensity? Did I miss any characteristics? Share with us in the comments.

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Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.