July 3, 2018
Hi there! Today’s post is all about how to figure out what your child is worried about. Yes, kids worry too! In fact, since sometimes they have a hard time expressing what they feel, you really have to pay attention to the subtle clues!
Headaches, stomach aches, sleepless nights, trouble falling asleep….all of these symptoms are common complaints that we see in the office every day. While ruling out a medical cause is of utmost importance, keeping a log on the frequency and timing of these complaints can be insightful to both your children and yourself.
Children are not the best at knowing how to communicate their feelings. Sometimes with changes in the home (no matter if they are positive or negative) come feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. While you may be busy worried about very complicated “adult problems”, your child is watching and trying to make sense of what is going on with their limited knowledge of the situation. Talk to your children about change. Ask them if they have any questions…their questions may surprise you!
Try to notice when your child is complaining of their aches and pains...is it during the school year? on the weekends? in the afternoon? after visiting a family member or friend? Once you’ve taken the time to notice patterns, sit down to talk to your child. It is never too young to initiate conversation and ask questions. Every stage of childhood will bring with it different challenges and concerns. Early childhood is the perfect time to develop and build on your parent-child relationship.
When you speak with your child, try not to focus on the aches and pains. Instead, ask general questions about how they are feeling, how school is going, how their friends are, etc. If there are big changes in the family (illness, divorce, moving, new baby) bring up the topic. Preface the conversation perhaps with “I know there has been a lot going on lately, what do you think about it?” “Is there anything that you are worried about or have been thinking about?”
Regardless of your child’s response, this sends the message to your child that it’s okay to ask questions and it’s okay to feel worried or concerned. Even if your child is not willing to talk when you approach them, they may just walk up to you one day or bring it up perhaps at bedtime when they are ready. Just be ready to listen. When your child starts the conversation, put down your cell phone and give them your full attention.
So the next time your child complains of random aches and pains, instead of just reaching for the bottle of Tylenol, pause and stop to think if this could be a manifestation of something more.…The only thing guaranteed in life is change. The earlier your child learns this lesson, the better their coping skills will be. It is never too early to learn.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
**if your child’s symptoms worsen over time, persist or become more frequent, of course seek medical attention to rule out a potential medical cause