Your Child and Their Worries

Your Teen’s Pandemic Routine: Expectation V. Reality (why you and your teen feel exhausted from all this free time!)

A BIG reason why playtime should be a part of your child’s daily routine, even during a crisis

The Highly Sensitive Child, Part Three: Pushing Through an Overwhelming Environment

Now that we have an understanding of how your child experiences the world, we can help support him/her.

1. Plan

Talk to your child about the new experience when you first receive the invitation, and then starting 3 days before the event, discuss it each day. Spend a few minutes talking about what is to come and focus on the facts, along with solutions to possible problems:

“We will go inside and check in at the counter. Then we will get bowling shoes and pick out a ball. There will probably be loud noises and kids running around having fun. We will pack your iPod so you can take a break if it gets too loud or too busy. Let’s go make a playlist to help you stay calm if you need it.” Redirecting the conversation to something she can control in the moment, like making a playlist, will help her feel empowered in solving her own problems.

2. Expose

If you can, try going to the alley in advance just to walk around and expose your child to the environment. The 5-minute experience inside the building can help decrease the amount of stimulation she feels when she walks in for the party. The layout will be one less thing to get used to. You can use this time to pick out a spot that would be good for that music break when she’s not in panic overload.

3. Prepare

Be sure to pack that mp3 player, along with other items to help your child feel secure in this new environment. A few ideas: stress ball, stuffed animal, fidget toy. These items can help your child take a break while staying in the environment, which is the goal.

4. Evaluate

Think to yourself, what is a reasonable expectation for your child as you work to push her out of her comfort zone? That she stays for 30 minutes? Takes at least one break before you leave early? Plays one full round of bowling? If your child regularly refuses new situations, and melts down wanting to leave immediately, staying for the whole party the first time is not a reasonable goal, even with these new tricks up your sleeve. Again, as you are slowly introducing her to the activity, you must also adjust your goals for her.

5. Validate and (gently) Push

You will go to that party. It may be overwhelming for your kid, but you will have a plan. Validate her when she says she doesn’t want to go. Hold the expectation that you will still go, even if it seems like it’s too much.

I know you’re wondering if you can keep this up. It’s overwhelming to think that you will have to do this for your child forever. BREATHE. You won’t have to. Think of these extra steps as an investment.

You are investing in your child’s ability to push beyond anxiety and discomfort.

You are investing in her ability to self-soothe. She will learn to generalize these skills in new experiences in the future.

Most importantly, you are investing in your relationship, as she will feel understood as you acknowledge these experiences really are quite tough for her.

The Highly Sensitive Child, Part Two: Understanding Those Meltdowns

Last week we learned about the highly sensitive child. This week, we will try to understand him/her.

It’s important to note your child is not being dramatic.

Their senses are actually on overload. Some highly sensitive people have likened their experiences to living in a body without skin. New experiences are not inviting, they are scary.  When your child’s worries are inhibiting him/her from participating in an activity, it can be helpful to think of all of the new factors you would experience when you go to a new location. Let’s use bowling at a birthday party for example.

First, you drive up, park, enter the building and look for the counter, say hello to the staff member, order your shoes, pay for the lane, pick a ball, etc. all before you even start to socialize with the other party-goers!

Highly sensitive children struggle to consider creative solutions to their problems.

As a result, they freeze or refuse new situations because it is too overwhelming to them. They struggle to think of what to do when they are uncomfortable in this new place to feel safe and secure. It’s safer to refuse and hope that mom or dad will let them stay home.

Where you or I can tune out the squealing children, bouncing balls rolling down the lanes, arcade games beeping, and music blaring, highly sensitive children struggle to zone in on the fun of the experience. They are trapped by all the noise, crowds of people, and those stiff shoes we have to wear.

Next week I will share how to help your sensitive child through a new experience.

Want to know more about the highly sensitive child, or another parenting topic? Let me know in the comments!

Feelings Uno

UNO is a great game to help parents learn more about the emotions their children/teens experience. Use this variation at your next family game night and see how your children/teens experience their world. Hopefully you will be able to practice your skills in showing them empathy and in validating their feelings with this fun game!

The link below will send you to a page on my website that will allow you to click on the form!


Feelings UNO



How to Turn Your Worrier into a Warrior with Validation

In a previous post I spoke about empathy, and how we can use it to help our children comply with our requests at home. Empathy is important to help children feel understood, and validation helps them recognize their feelings are normal. It’s the next step to building an emotionally intelligent child/teen. Validation is often viewed as interchangeable with empathy with parents, so I want to break it down here.

Why do we need validation?

Validation is especially helpful when children are worried. A common theme among the children and teens I work with is that they’ve developed a pattern of hiding their worries from their parents. Typically, this occurs even when parents acknowledge their feelings, because they then work hard to make it better for their kids by offering solutions to the problem, or telling them not to worry.

This is something we are hardwired to do. Our evolutionary brains are built to take away our child’s booboos. When they are infants, they cry, we pick them up, and do everything we can make them stop, right?

Well, this works great for the first year, maybe two. After that, children interpret a subtle message from our attempts to make it all better. They start to think that it’s not ok to feel worried or sad or other negative feelings. So they mention them less, and the effects of their worries leak out in their behavior with whining, complaining, meltdowns, and tantrums, no matter the age.

What is validation?

Validation is the act of letting your child know their feelings are ok, common, expected, and that’s it. No need for a solution, or to make them happy again.

But Megghan, it hurts my heart to see them upset! Yes, it absolutely does. Emotionally expressive and resilient children need the space to feel their feelings without worrying about whether their parents think they should have those feelings, or if it will get them in trouble, or if they will be dismissed for worrying about a ‘small’ thing.

Easier said than done! Like I said earlier, it’s an automatic response for us to say “don’t worry” or “it won’t hurt” or “you’ll be fine.” It was necessary for early humans to make quick decisions about danger. This often meant deciding for their children what they should/should not do in an uncertain situation. Now that we live in a society where we aren’t being chased by animal predators, we can let our children be in their feelings without needing to whisk them away immediately.

How can I validate my child/teen?

To send this message we can say “you’re really worried about that” (empathy). Then, “It makes sense that you’re wondering what might happen when…” (validation). Or “It’s tough to feel like you don’t know what’s going to happen next” (empathy) and “lots of kids feel worried when they try a new experience” (validation).

Pause and let your child talk about the worry, or draw a picture about how big it is, or for teens, pick a song whose lyrics fit what they’re feeling. Keep the focus on them, as teens especially often feel misunderstood when we offer an example that shows we can relate.

You can offer at the end of your conversation to help them work through a solution, or ask what they think they want to do about it. When we make space for our kids to feel their feelings, and know they are ok to have, we make space for them to find their own solutions to these problems in their own time.

Stay tuned for more on validation and helping worried kids and teens. Want more tips on specific issues? Let me know in the comments!

Mom and son ignoring each other

Tough Sh*t!

I would NEVER talk back to my parents like that!” Sound familiar?

You can experience success with your child if you focus on acknowledging their struggle to comply.

But Megghan, isn’t that coddling? Don’t I look like I’m giving in if I say it’s ok for them to be sad about not getting their way?

As much as you want to say “tough shit” when they whine about your expectation, keep in mind that a hard line like that can breed resentment in your child. If your boss asked you to stay late, but phrased it like this: “I know you want to get home to your family but I need you to stay to resolve this issue before you go.” You’d probably talk less under your breath than if she said “you’re gonna have to stay late; if you don’t like it, get another job.” A few more interactions like that and you’ll be updating your resume.

The same goes for your child. “I know it’s hard to quit playing and clean your room. You wish you didn’t have to do it, but I need you to do that before dinner.” Those first two sentences can go a long way in helping a child feel understood in their disappointment. When children feel understood they are less likely to act out to explain their feelings.

I’m not proposing you change your expectations, completing chores before playing is a reasonable responsibility for a child.

Empathizing with your child’s feelings can help facilitate their movement toward compliance with (less) grumbling. Continue this pattern and you’ll likely see a decrease in their attempts to fight back.

Check back soon for more tips how to use empathy and validation effectively!