Wait, wait, don’t tell me

14 Jul

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”


So your child is anxious, perhaps saying some things that are freaking you out a bit, and upon honest reflection you know that you are a little anxious yourself. It has that feeling of the apple not falling far from the tree. We’ll acknowledge this point, but let’s not get into a blame game here, because there is a more important point to be made with regard to how you can help your child. It can be unpleasant to watch your child struggle and equally hard not immediately correct some of the anxious statements and questions that they have. But wait, restrain yourself a bit and give your child the opportunity to do some thinking. Your help may be more to relieve your own anxiety than what your child needs.

So let’s say you and child have seen a program about Lou Gehrig, and he/she plays baseball, and the next day he comes tired after a long day and asks, “Do you think I have Lou Gehrig’s disease?” Now understandably, you might reply “Don’t be ridiculous,” and after a fashion that would be accurate. If your child is not too freaked out at this moment, I would suggest holding back a little and trying to promote your child’s thinking on this topic with some requests for clarification.

“What makes you think you have Lou Gehrig’s disease?”

“Well, I am really tired”

“How long did you play baseball today?”

“I was at baseball camp all day, you know that, and then I play soccer”

“Is there something after the way you feel tired today, after being very active, that is unusual or different? Most kids would feel a little tired after a day like that.”

So the dialog may seem a little artificial, but the point is to try to give your child a chance to do some thinking rather than jumping in right away to solve the problem. In doing so you are helping build some anti-anxiety coping skills. This needs to be done with compassion and genuine curiosity about how the child looks at the situation. Otherwise, your child may feel you are discounting the very significant distress he is feeling.


There is more on this topic in the next letter on two-part sentences.

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