by Ted Zeff, Ph.D.
Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: May 2013
Did you know that 20 percent of the population has a sensitive nervous system and the trait is equally divided between males and females? Therefore, 20 percent of all males are sensitive, or one out of every five boys has a finely tuned nervous system. A highly sensitive boy (HSB) can be easily overwhelmed by noise and crowds, fearful of new situations and shy away from aggressive interactions. He generally reacts more deeply and exhibits more emotional sensitivity than the non-sensitive boy, which unfortunately could result in being bullied.
How can we prevent our sensitive boys from being bullied?
Develop Confidence in your Son with Support from Mom, Dad and Other Adults
Unconditional love and support from parents and other adults will give your son the confidence he needs to face difficult situations. Studies have shown that boys who had positive, loving relationships with adults other than parents (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) reported having more positive experiences as a child than those who did not have these additional relationships. Fathers (or uncles, grandfathers, or other male role models) need to spend special, positive time with their sons. While a father needs to teach his son how to stand up for himself, he also has to understand, protect, and encourage his sensitive son.
Make School a Safe Place for Your Son
Parents should regularly discuss their son’s progress with his teacher, talk to other parents, and volunteer in the classroom. If your son gets bullied in school, it’s important to let him know effective methods to handle the situation. The most effective solutions to stopping bullying were accessing the support of adults and peers. Less-effective strategies were ignoring the bullying, telling them to stop, and walking away. You could ask the PTA or the principal to arrange for a professional to come to the school to offer an anti-bullying program. If the bullying continues, there may be the possibility of your child attending a progressive private school or home schooling your child.
Help Your Son Obtain Peer Support Through New Friendships
Most boys prefer to socialize in large groups, yet our sensitive boys usually prefer to interact with only one friend or play by themselves. Since they shy away from aggressive, combative interactions, HSBs may have difficulties making friends with other boys. It may be better for your son to have just one friend rather than trying to be accepted by a group of non-HSBs.
Help Your Son Become Physically Fit
When a boy becomes involved in sports, he feels accepted by his peers, which increases his self-esteem. Most boys are involved in some team sports but research indicates that 85 percent of sensitive boys did not participate in team sports and most preferred to participate in individual exercise. Regardless of athletic ability, it’s important for your son to participate in physical exercise since it will help him become healthier, stronger, and more confident.
Increase Your Son’s Self-esteem
Research has shown that the more dissatisfied a boy is with his body, the poorer his self-esteem. Therefore, a sensitive boy who reacts more deeply to teasing about his physical appearance than a non-HSB is at risk for developing low self-esteem. It’s important to help him maintain a preventative health-maintenance program by making sure he eats a healthy diet, take supplements, gets enough sleep, and gets regular exercise. Finally, learning some form of self-defense can really empower a sensitive boy, helping him feel safe and better able to fend off bullies if needed.
Dr. Ted Zeff is the author of The Strong, Sensitive Boy.
For more information please visit www.drtedzeff.com