She is not worried with me

14 Jul



“She is Not Worried with Me!”

 The expression of worry by a child isn’t necessarily the same in the various places he/she goes during the day. This discrepancy in how the child is perceived is found in scientific studies comparing  ratings of anxiety between school and home in which  these studies  typically do not find much aggreement. Disagreements between parents can occur, which may be magnified if they are divorced. One parent may take the position that the child is being overly indulged and the other perceives the child as quite sensitive and vulnerable. The difference occurs both ways in regard to home and school. For children with selective mutism , they can be chatterboxes at home and yet say not a word in school . Alternatively, there is the child who complains bitterly about going to school, and yet 10 minutes after being left in the classroom is fully engaged. This is a fairly commonplace observation is the reason parents are typically discouraged from prolonging the goodbyes when leaving a child at school. Likewise, there can be a split between the parents in how they understand the child. While both parents may be fully engaged as parents, for typically practical reasons, they don’t spend the same amount of time with the child. As a result, the child may not share his/her concerns equally with both parents. And of course, a child is more likely to share a worry if he/she will not be judged or made fun of for being worried.

What is to be done when observations are not uniform?  First, is to recognize that this is not unusual when it comes to the expression of anxiety, in fact it is quite common. Some worries are only expressed in certain situations. Observations do not have to be uniform to validate that the child is struggling with anxiety. Second, the answer to what to do can be devilishly simple or complex. It can be as simple as following the teacher’s advice and not prolonging the goodbye at school. But there are plenty of children for whom a more nuanced approach is needed and a greater understanding of what the worries mean is absolutely needed.

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