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How My Highly Senstive Child Responds To An Event

About a month ago I got a text from my mom. She was letting me know about an event at the local zoo called Frogs and Fairy Tales. It’s where all the kids that day dress up as princesses and other fairy tale characters and they have special treats and exhibits on reptiles. My mom told me that my dad wanted to take my 3 year old daughter to it. He thought it would be something that Lil Bug would enjoy. I talked about it with my husband and we both hesitated in saying yes. The thing with Lil Bug is that anytime that she is in a crowded place she is very much focused on all the people around her. She hardly smiles and has difficulty focusing on us when we talk to her. There’s just so much going on. Now that we have been to the zoo several times she has gotten more used to it. She now looks forward to seeing the animals. This particular event would be packed with even more people than Lil Bug was used too. We knew she would probably enjoy it, but we were concerned that it would be hard for my parents to tell that she was enjoying herself.

So we let my mom know that we were okay with it but that they needed to be aware that Lil Bug might not look like she was enjoying her time because of the stimulation of all the people at the event. My mom responded with, we know, we raised you. To which I had to laugh. Yes, they did know. There are quite a few similarities between my daughter and me.

However as it came closer to the event my dad was hesitant. I encouraged him to still take her though. I knew that she would enjoy her time at the event. I also knew that she would enjoy the special time with just her and Grandpa. I assured him that her enjoyment of the event might not show until after it was over, but she will like it. Later on she would most likely talk about it a lot and play pretend zoo.

In case my dad changed his mind I did offer an alternative of going to the library, dressed up as a princess and reading books together. He decided to go ahead and take her to the event. I am glad he did because she did end up loving it and here is how I could tell:

1.       My dad was still unsure as to how much because it really is hard to tell. She just stares at everything, taking it all in. But, when she got home, she could not stop smiling. She couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

2.       I found out later that she talked to my dad about it on the way home. She also referred to it often in the weeks following the activity.

3.       For the next week or so, whenever she played pretend, she was pretending to go to the zoo. Not just pretending to go to the zoo, but to go to the zoo with Grandpa.

4.       She has told me several times since then that she wants Grandpa to take her to the zoo again. Which is a sure sign that she enjoyed herself.

5.       She got to feed the giraffes (her favorite animal). What is not to like about feeding your favorite animal?

Lil Bug probably would have really enjoyed just getting dressed up and going to the library. She was actually really nervous about going to the zoo with Grandpa at first, but when he came, all fears left her and she quickly said goodbye to me without a problem and with a smile on her face. She stepped outside her comfort zone and ended up having a really good time. And she wants to do it again.

As parents, when we look at our kids we sometimes want to keep them from having to face their fears or keep them from discomfort, but when it comes to something like this where you know that they could have fun if they just take a leap of faith in themselves, they will grow from their experience. Lil Bug isn’t nervous about going to the zoo with Grandpa anymore. She wants to do it again.

But, how do we know if it is something that we should push our children to do? Here are some factors to consider:

1.       Lil Bug was already familiar with the zoo. It wasn’t completely a new experience for her. While I knew that it would be crowded I also knew that the familiarity of both the zoo and being with Grandpa would be enough for her to enjoy it.

2.       Consider who they are going to be with for the activity. In this case she was with her Grandpa. He lives close so she seems him often enough that she is comfortable with him. Being an introvert myself, I know how being with someone that I am comfortable with can help me to be comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.

3.       How is your child the day of the activity? Another important thing for parents to do is to gauge how our child is the day of an event like this. Lil Bug has good days and bad days (don’t we all?). If on this particular day she was withdrawn and completely crying about not wanting to go, I would not have let her go. You know your child. Trust your instincts and look for the clues your child may give about how they feel concerning a particular activity. And remember that it may just be the day. On this particular day, Lil Bug expressed that she was nervous, but she did not cling to me and she smiled and ran out the door when my dad came.

4.       Think about your child. Ask yourself if this is really something they would enjoy, not just something that you think sounds fun to you. In this case, I really did think Lil Bug would enjoy it, because of the personal time with Grandpa, but also because she loves dressing as a princess and she loves giraffes. So, I encouraged my dad when he hesitated. But, not every child would have done well in this situation and may do better going to the library instead. Though Lil Bug was apprehensive before Grandpa came, she was still excited about going. Sometimes our kids just need a gentle nudge to do something that they would really enjoy. But only if it really is something they would enjoy. You know your child and what they like. Go from there.

I hope that these considerations help you as you think about your child and whether or not an activity would be right for them. I would also love to hear from you about how your child responds to activities and events. Is your child quiet, just taking everything in? Or are they more inclined to participate? If they do participate how much time does it take for them to warm up to the idea? 

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