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Ad­vice on par­ent­ing, well-be­ing and nutri­tion MY SON IS WOR­RIED BAD THINGS MIGHT HAP­PEN

Friday - - Contents -

Q My seven-year-old son has re­cently started becoming up­set and wor­ried about bad things go­ing on in the world. He says he thinks bad things will hap­pen to our fam­ily, and re­cently won­dered aloud why ‘Daddy can’t stay at home like me, then we would all be safe to­gether.’ My hus­band trav­els quite a lot. How can I put his mind at rest?

AChil­dren’s imag­i­na­tions are quite lim­it­less; they whizz around all over the place in a blur of cre­ativ­ity and in­trigue. All this ac­tion cul­mi­nates in their own small uni­verse be­ing made up of lay­ers of learn­ing, mys­tery, fun, fan­tasy and fam­ily. It’s lit­tle won­der the way they per­ceive the world and where they fit in to it dif­fers hugely from that of an adult. Con­se­quently, when a child starts to be­come aware of wider is­sues go­ing on in the world, they do not have the depth of un­der­stand­ing yet to con­tex­tu­alise these sto­ries beyond them­selves. So, they are only equipped to slot these con­cerns into their own small ‘life-space’. That can be a big bur­den for a small per­son.

Chil­dren pick up on all sorts of things, but process the in­for­ma­tion they are pre­sented with in an entirely dif­fer­ent fash­ion to how an adult would. They draw on their own lim­ited life ex­pe­ri­ences and will nat­u­rally adapt and com­part­men­talise what they see and hear.

To be­gin with (and this may sound ob­vi­ous) you need to mon­i­tor what in­for­ma­tion he is been ex­posed to – when, where and how. As he gets older he will start to ab­sorb a great deal more of what he’s ex­posed to. It’s also vi­tal that all adults re­mem­ber to try and keep their own con­cerns un­der con­trol around chil­dren.

I’ve found that anx­i­ety has a habit of spread­ing. So, it’s nor­mal that when an adult be­comes afraid and anx­ious, the child picks up that there must be some­thing wrong and in turn it must be some­thing for them to worry about as well.

As the par­ent and choice-maker, strik­ing the ‘cor­rect’ balance be­tween keeping them safe and keeping them in­formed is al­ways tricky and of­ten com­pli­cated. On the one hand, there’s a dan­ger that small inconsequential things to an adult can man­i­fest them­selves as some­thing much big­ger to the young fer­tile imag­i­na­tion. On the other, some­thing vi­tal may be over­looked that they re­ally should be aware of. Nev­er­the­less, the main thing is for you to con­trol in­for­ma­tion.

It’s also im­por­tant to try and al­le­vi­ate his con­cerns about what may or may not hap­pen in the fu­ture – by help­ing your child to ‘live in the mo­ment’. When they spec­u­late about the fu­ture, you can ex­plain that it isn’t ‘real’ be­cause it hasn’t hap­pened. De­scribe how even if things do hap­pen, we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced these things pre­vi­ously and that ev­ery­thing worked out. The key word to fo­cus on is ‘now’, the here and now, you’re safe right now, ev­ery­thing is OK right now. Now is real and now is im­me­di­ate, chil­dren can re­late to now be­cause it’s what they are most fa­mil­iar with.

Use lan­guage they can eas­ily un­der­stand and iden­tify with, for ex­am­ple ‘yes there were some men who be­came very an­gry and wanted to hurt peo­ple, but the nice po­lice stopped them and they are

I’ve found that anx­i­ety has a habit of SPREAD­ING. When an adult be­comes afraid, the child picks up that there must be some­thing WRONG

work­ing very hard to make ev­ery­one safe, so you don’t have to worry’.

Tell him as a fam­ily we care for peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced sad things, but the like­li­hood of any­thing un­to­ward hap­pen­ing to your fam­ily is so re­mote it isn’t worth him think­ing about it.

Fi­nally, one piece of in­for­ma­tion he should know is that Daddy must go to work and needs to be away from time to time, he does this for us and that’s how we can have our nice life. Ex­plain­ing that early will serve as a pos­i­tive foun­da­tion in an uncer­tain world.

RUS­SELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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