By watching, listening and praying. . .
You must become students of your children. You must prayerfully listen to the heart, and watch relationships and interactions to discover the way for each child to live life. Look for the design the Lord built into the child by which the child will accomplish those good works the Lord had in mind for him to do from the beginning (Eph. 2:10).
By giving your blessing . . .
You bless your children by giving abundant appropriate touches, by telling them the truth about themselves and their value to you and to God. You bless them by speaking abundant words of love, encouragement, and affirmation, and by giving them word pictures of a positive future. It is not that you do not see weak areas in their lives, but rather that you focus on the good and come alongside to strengthen the weak areas. You do not focus on the weak points and deride them for weaknesses to the neglect of the strong areas. You bless them by providing for physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. A blessed child will be able to trust, risk, and venture in life. A blessed child has strength of character and a sense of identity. He knows who he is. (For an in-depth discussion of parental blessing, see The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent.)
By teaching and modeling . . .
In Bible times, a child learned the parent's craft or business by working alongside. When and where that is still possible, it is best because of the bonding and the modeling that happens between the two. When a parent cannot instruct a child because the child shows an obvious interest in areas outside the parent's expertise, the parent's task is to find someone who can teach them! This models for a child that being "me" does not have to look like the parent--it is okay to be unique. Sometimes the Lord reveals the way of a child in a moment, a flash of insight, an epiphany, or sometimes slowly over time. So study your child.
In addition to helping a child discover her calling in the natural, (such as doctor, teacher, lawyer, merchant, mom, businessperson, etc.), our parental task is also to help a child discover their spiritual giftings, and and teach her how these become heart motivations--prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading, showing mercy. Include a look at the pastorate, music ministry, interccession, or mission work as possible occupations, which allow for the full use of natural gifting as well as spiritual. (See Romans 12:6-8.)
Spiritual gifting should fit with the occupation or profession in the natural. If one precludes the other, the result is frustration, unhappiness, and stress. Regardless of the secular work focus or spiritual focus, those who have a burden bearing or highly sensitive personality will discharge the burden bearing function of their being within the context of those other callings. This appreciation of the uniqueness of a child, and training and equipping the child to be all she can be--that is the parenting task common to all.
By providing boundaries for emotions . . .On his own, a child's emotions can become so big they crowd out logic. The brain literally shuts down the thinking portions of the brain and puts all energies into "fight-flight" responses. Such a child cannot reason. He is flooded, overwhelmed. Trying to talk and reason is a formula for futility! During these times, as much as you would like to use logic and reason with your children rather than be physical with them, the quickest way to diffuse the situation may be to physically remove them from their trouble spot and provide safe boundaries until reason can return. The sequence should be to comfort and calm, then teach.
Provide perspective, corral, harness, and give direction and purpose to the emotion. Give direction in what to do with emotions--bring emotions down below the panic mark, and then bring them to Jesus. After calming and prayer, you can help look with more logic and reason at whatever else may be appropriate. This takes the confusion and tyranny out of emotions. A key to learning is that emotions can inform, but need not be allowed to control. As you provide boundaries, banks, stopping places, and prayer, the child experiences relief and he learns that he can come to you for help. As you help him sort things out he learns in time that he can come to the Lord in the same way. He will come to know that he can gain perspective, direction, and relief with the Lord. Praying releases the burdens so that the child does not carry weight unnecessariy, or be hurt by inappropriate burden bearing. Of course, answered prayers are always great faith builders! : )
Parenting a highly sensitive child, a potential burden bearer, is challenging. It is a blessing because this child takes you to heights and depths you would not choose to explore given the choice. This child challenges just about every aspect of your personality.
If you have raised a highly sensitive child we would love to hear from you—what worked and what didn't?