Two part sentences

14 Jul

Two-part Sentences



In the heat of the moment, the anxious child typically needs “containment statements.” These statements do not provide any magical relief, but do help far more than some less productive things desperate parents might say in moments of frustration. These are two-part sentences in which the first part is empathic toward the child, and the second part reminds her of the reality of the situation. Both parts are needed. If you just remind your child that the fears don’t make sense, you are likely to get back a statement such as, “You just don’t understand,” or “I’m so stupid I might as well be dead.” Even if you don’t hear this type of negative response, you may inadvertently be providing the child with the type of reassurance that actually increases anxiety over the long term.


What not to say


  1. “What?      You are saying makes no sense.
  2.  “Don’t be silly”
  3. “Of      course there are no sharks in the bathtub.”
  4. “That      is just the worry monster”
  5. “No,      you don’t have a bleeding ulcer.”


All of these statements emphasize the facts, but don’t empathize with the feeling. When you don’t acknowledge the feeling, you might get an angry, “But you just don’t understand”. So what we want to do is create two-part sentences that empathize with the feeling, but also remind the child of the facts


What to say


  1. That is a scary thought, but sharks needs lots of water and need to live in the ocean.
  2. I am sorry your stomach doesn’t feel quite right, but I have noticed you often have complaints like this on Sunday night.
  3. I am sorry your stomach doesn’t feel quite right-what else could it be besides an ulcer?
  4. I am sorry your stomach doesn’t feel quite right-what makes you think it is something that serious?


Admittedly, there may be a cumbersome quality to such comments. In general, they tend to work better when they are formulated ahead of time, rather than trying to invent them on the spot. While these statements won’t do anything miraculous, they will provide a respectful acknowledgment of the child’s feeling and a gentle reminder of the facts

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