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4 things I’ve Learned About Being A Highly Sensitive Introvert Through Raising One

There have been several times that my mom has made the comment how I was just like my daughter when I was younger. What’s funny, is that she is not just so much like me when I was younger, she is so much like me right now. Even though I am an adult now, I am still very similar to my little highly sensitive introvert daughter. I am constantly trying to learn how to help her deal with situations that she has come across in her life so far. In turn I have come to realize that the things that she is learning can also help me. Some of these things might apply to you and/or your child but since no two people are exactly alike there may still be differences. Here are the four things that I've learned about myself through raising my daughter:

1.       Highly Sensitive to Emotions

Since realizing that my 3 yr. old daughter is highly sensitive, I’ve started to realize just how much I am as well. See previous post for info on high sensitivity. There are a lot of introverts who are highly sensitive. I’ve known I was an introvert for a while but I am only recently realized that I am also highly sensitive. hsperson.com has a great quiz for determining the possibility of whether you or your child is a highly sensitive person.

One of the things that I see as a strength of many people with high sensitivity is their ability to understand others’ emotions. They have a greater capacity for having empathy. With a mom who is also a Licensed marriage and family therapist, I’ve had several discussion with her about being in crowds and how I feel anxious at times being in a crowd. We’ve discussed possible reasons for this, one of which is our ability to feel others’ emotions. I never realized this could partly be because of high sensitivity. When I am with a group of people who are feeling mixed emotions, especially emotions that are negative, I start to feel those emotions too. This is something to consider if you or your child is highly sensitive and responding to being around a group of people.

I do want to take a moment to point out that they could also be overwhelmed by all the other types of stimulation that they are experiencing, not just emotions. But it is common for highly sensitive people to pick up on others’ emotions more easily. Highly sensitive people who understand this gift can make a great impact on other people because it allows them to sit with others in their pain and help others to feel understood. However, this strength also has the weakness of overwhelm. In my case, sometimes I just need to be alone so that I can recover from the range of emotions that I have felt throughout the day. If we don’t take time to restore ourselves it can be detrimental to both ourselves and those that we are around.

I think this can especially be seen in parenting. The more heightened the parents’ emotions or stress, the more heightened the kids’ stress and emotions, and the more they respond to those emotions. When you put a highly sensitive kid with a highly sensitive parent and both are stressed, things can spiral out of control quickly. While Lil Bug is quick to comfort me when I’m sad, she is also quick (and I mean quick) to raise her voice when she gets frustrated and it’s the same for me. This is one of my greatest difficulties in raising her because tension between us can escalate really, really quickly.

After Preschool today, Lil Bug was something else. We got home and every little thing that her little sister did, she flipped out about, and I mean flipped out, screaming and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now part of this was also about her need for space to recharge her introvert battery but the other part that caused things to escalate quickly was that she REALLY and DEEPLY felt every emotion she was feeling. And on my end, I wasn’t much better as my patience with her outbursts really ran out quick. But when I realized what was happening, I gave her a hug and held her until we were both able to calm down and discuss what happened while she sat on my lap, cuddled against me.

Knowledge is the most important thing here, because when I understand what is happening then I can make the conscious effort to calm down. Now that I know about mine and my daughter’s highly sensitive tendencies, I am quicker to realize what is going on. I can also understand her better, because I can sense what she is feeling. Likewise if we can teach our highly sensitive kids that their ability to sense emotions is a good thing and teach them how to cope with that ability they can be a positive force for good.
2.       I Need Time to Myself

Another thing that I’ve learned since being a mom to Lil Bug is how much I need time to myself. While I always knew that I was an introvert I never really knew what that meant until I started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. While reading that I realized how essential it was to have some alone time to gain back my energy and essentially be more like my true self. With Lil Bug I’ve noticed that she needs time to herself as well, otherwise she is more prone to being REALLY frustrated and upset. However, when she has time to play by herself, read her books, or play with her blocks, she is a lot more easy going and able to roll with things a little more.

3.       Reluctance to do new things

I used to think that I was willing to try new things, and at times I am, but I have realized, since being a mom, that most of the time when the opportunity to try something new comes, I often  choose to do something I am familiar with instead. A classic example is going to a restaurant. My husband and I 9/10 times choose to go to a restaurant that we have been to before. When I look over the menu, I take my time. I consider all of my options and I find several things that sound good to me but in the end I choose something that I’ve had before. This happens at least 90% of the time. I choose to not take the risk. It’s not that I’m not being courageous. It is more that I consider all my options and then decide if I really want something new. In a way, when an introvert does this, and they choose what they really want, they are being courageous, whether or not it’s familiar. But, this can only be determined with careful consideration.

My Lil Bug is the type of person who will observe, observe, observe, and then maybe she will do something, as long as no one else is around. She will more often choose not to do something unless she is familiar with it. As I was thinking about Lil Bug and how much she observes to the point of familiarity the other day. Then it came to me, I realized that I am the same way. It was like a lightning bulb went off in my head. I learn, learn, learn and then maybe do. I LOVE learning. But, part of the fulfillment in learning is applying. This is why starting this blog was a big step for me. I was acting and not only was I acting but I knew that I still had a lot to learn, so I took a leap of faith, and decided to create my blog and start scheduling posts. I didn’t know where it would go, I didn’t know how to attract people to my blog, and I still don’t know. But, I decided to go for it anyway. I realized that I could learn as I go in some things. I also realized that sometimes we learn best by doing. 

4.       Prefer a Plan

When Lil Bug experiences something new it is best when I tell her what she can expect. Sometimes knowing ahead of time that she will be experiencing something new makes her anxious, but even then I have noticed that she adapts so much better to the idea when she is prepared.

One experience that we had recently was when Lil Bug’s preschool went on a field trip. I started preparing her ahead of time that I would not be joining her on this particular field trip. She was nervous about it, but when I reassured her that everyone from preschool would be there too, she seemed comforted about it. When I dropped her off, she didn’t fight me on it or beg me to stay. She went on her field trip. When I picked her up, she had a huge smile on her face. Later on I showed her the pictures from the field trip that her teacher had taken. She enjoyed looking at them and enjoyed remembering the experience, telling me a little bit about it.

Before I do anything, I like to know what I am getting myself into. I like to have a plan. The same is true when it comes to vacations. My husband is the opposite of me when it comes to vacations. He likes to relax and not worry about having a plan and stressing about doing everything while on vacation. I’ve come to realize that he is right in this case. I shouldn’t be so stressed about sticking to a schedule on vacation, I should relax more. When it is just our little family, it is easier for me to go with the flow. However, when it comes to going on vacation where we are with others, I worry more about what is going to happen and what the plan will be. I am more concerned with making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. And people can be unpredictable at times. There is always a sense of unknown, even with a plan, but when I really don’t know what to expect, my anxiety heightens. If I know what I am getting myself into, then I can prepare myself, at least a little, for what is to come.

It really amazes me just how much we can learn from our kids. Sometimes its something cute and small that may not have much significance in the long run, but at other times our kids can teach us some deep and profound things. I never realized how much I could learn about myself from raising kids. My Lil Bug has already taught me so much and she’s only 3! But, these 4 things are extremely important for me and my relationship with her. Knowing these things helps me to better understand what to do to prepare myself for the unknown future. These things also help me to be a better mom as I come to understand my little girl a bit more. I hope that the similarities that I have with her will also help me understand her on a deeper and more empathic level.

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