Parenting ‘Orchid’ Children Versus ‘Dandelion’ Children

Some 15-20% of our kids are categorized as “highly sensitive,” which means that they’re perceptive and easily affected by their environment. While sensitivity is often discussed in a number of different ways, I like the “orchid” versus “dandelion” discussion because it captures something of the symbolic significance of sensitivity.

What Are Orchids And Dandelions?

In The Orchid and the Dandelion, W. Thomas Boyce, MD, talks about “orchid” kids who are fragile, sensitive, and susceptible to what happens around them. He also discusses “dandelion” children who are hardy, healthy, and resilient. Orchid and dandelion kids can both thrive, but orchids may just need more support.

Dandelion kids are just more resilient. These children seem to exude resilience, even though dandelions are often called a weed or a nuisance. We like to think of dandelion kids as having an inner strength that allows them to cope, no matter what happens. As parents, though, it’s easy to think that the kids are ok, and thus don’t need any interventions or support. Every kid needs our unconditional love and support, even when they seem able to thrive in any environment.

If you’re trying to figure out why there are orchid and dandelion children, Boyce explores variant genes and environment. Genetics can be involved in our kids’ susceptibility to antisocial behavior, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression or violent behavior. It appears to be tied to cortisol, which is linked to stress and panic attacks. When our bodies aren’t able to properly regulate cortisol, we may all be more sensitive to environmental stresses.  

Even with those sensitivities, orchid kids have their own strengths. An orchid child may be kind and empathetic, which gives them a greater understanding of others who are facing challenges. They may wear their hearts on their sleeves, but they can also learn to overcome life’s hardships with your love and support.

What Can You Do To Support Your Orchid Child?

Parenting a sensitive child is challenging, but it’s also a learning and growing experience. Your child may react to something as simple as falling off the swings. They could have the perception that people are laughing at them. Simple events and perceptions can leave our kids in a mess of tears and meltdowns. 

If you have a sensitive, orchid child, there are things you can do to help them be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. By focusing on these strategies, your orchid child can cope more easily. 

Focus On The Ordinary

You’ve probably already noticed how your sensitive, orchid child thrives on normalcy. So, they need routine, whether it be chores, meals, or just general schedules. They need to feel in control, trusting that their environment is safe and manageable. 

Recognize Individualization

Your orchid child has their own strengths, but they also face challenges. Our job as parents is to recognize our child’s unique talents but also celebrate their individuality. We value and honor their sensitivity. It’s part of who they are.

Offer Unconditional Love

As parents, we love our orchid kids. So, we need to show that unconditional love to our kids with our time and attention, every day. It takes time and care, but it is possible to better support the life and development of your orchid child with unconditional support. It helps them to better master social situations and interactions.

Protect Your Child

You are familiar with what your orchid child is dealing with. So, you’re best suited to protect your orchid child from the world and encourage your child on ways to better cope with situations and people. It’s not always easy to know how to protect your sensitive child without overdoing it, but it’s important to shield them.

Offer Affirmation

Our sensitive, orchid kids need affirmation and acceptance. We can help our kids to express their creative imagination without fear of criticism. Our kids will often respond to what they feel is a judgment or harsh feedback, in all the wrong ways.

Play And Dream

Sometimes, the best thing to do is simply to play, dream, and imagine other realities. It’s a way to step outside the disappointments and challenges of the day while focusing on what could be and should be. Fun and play can help our kids to cope with the frustrations they face. 

What Else Can You Do? 

Of course, we need to better support our kids with encouragement, love, and helping them rise above the difficulties of every day, but what do you do when you’re not there? We take time off to be there for our kids. We look for jobs and positions that are flexible, so we can better support the (sensitive) needs of our orchid kids.

There’s always more to do, particularly as our kids make their way through the education system. As parents, we learn better ways to advocate for our kids, new ways to explain to our children and their host of teachers, physicians, and other contacts what they need for growth, health, and wellness.


What are your thoughts on your orchid child? We’d love to see your comments below. 

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