Ideas for blog posts often come from unexpected and surprising sources, and this one is no exception. Last week I took my two eldest sons to their first Dutch football match. It was also my first time at our local eredivise football club and I only realised an hour or so before we were due to leave just how stressed I had been all day about going because it was all new.
I had no idea what to expect. My husband passed on the idea of a football match and planned to stay home with our youngest so I was going alone with my two eldest. Flying solo in a new situation – I had no backup. No native Dutchman with me to navigate if things went wrong. But most of all I just had no pictures in my head of the stadium inside, the kind of people we would be sitting with. We had no fixed seats so I was stressing about whether there would be three seats together. I worried about whether my five year old would be able to sit through a whole match without getting bored. I worried about the kind of bad language my children would get to hear. You name it, I worried about it.
As is very typical for me, I thought too much about the new situation and all the things that could go wrong – and how silly I could end up looking. I found myself stressing about things that hadn’t actually happened, and were unlikely to – instead of going with the flow and seeing how it all was when we got there. Because that is what highly sensitive people commonly do. It’s part of the deep thought processing we are prone to.
Highly sensitive people like to know what they are getting themselves in to. We like to know how things look. We like to know what to expect. New situations are not particularly welcomed with open arms; unknown situations conjure up imagined phantoms.
When I am faced with something new I can worry about anything you care to mention even though the rational side of me knows I shouldn’t. Last week, I didn’t just think, “Yeaaa, we’re going to a football match this evening.” I thought about everything leading up to it, getting there and finding my way to our seating section, during the match, the logistics of toilet breaks with two boys at half time, about being the newbies in the stadium, about making sure my sons ate properly before we left, about whether it would be too noisy for my highly sensitive children, about getting home again.
As it was we had a fabulous time. We walked around the stadium the wrong way and had to walk all the way back again to find the entrance we needed. That was the worst that happened. There was plenty of space when we arrived to have our pick of seats and the boys headed high and behind the goal for a great view over the football pitch. I felt at home within minutes. My sons enjoyed the match, asked lots of questions, and got excited when our team needed an equaliser in the dying minutes. They were even more excited when that equaliser came in spectacular style (the one the goalkeeper scored that went viral the world over). I needn’t have worried. But I did. And when we go next time I’ll find new things to worry about. It’s my cautious nature. It’s my ‘pause before acting’ trait working to full capacity. It’s innate.
But the silver lining of how I felt last week is this: I now have a very fresh image in my head how it feels to walk in my highly sensitive children’s footsteps. My eldest also showed signs of stress the day we went to the football match. And he’ll be worried about many more new experiences in the coming months too – and I only have to cast my mind back to how I felt leading up to going to the football match to know how to help him.
6 Quick Tips to Help You Deal with New Places
- Visit a place before you actually have to be there so you can picture it in your head.
- Take a peek around a new place so you know the lie of the land and work out the directions to where you need to be – it’s one less thing to stress about.
- It helps a highly sensitive child to look at photos of a new place (e.g. a new school – make a photo book with pictures of the school exterior, the classroom, the canteen, the gym, the playground etc before your child has to actually start school).
- Meet new people in an informal manner before you have to do ‘business’ with them. Meeting your child’s new teacher before the start of school is an example. Consulting online photos may be enough so you know what someone looks like before an appointment.
- Give yourself plenty of time to find your way to a new location, and if it makes you feel more comfortable ask someone to accompany you.
- Worry less!