Isabella is a sensitive kid, just as I was when I was little, and maybe still am. As a sensitive person in an unpredictable world, she needs a certain amount of routine she can count on. I started a new night time ritual just so she would have a nice transition in to sleep.
It all started when we were building Lego as a family one Saturday afternoon and Isabella turned to us and said,
“I have a secret I have been keeping for awhile, and some of it is bad.”
Did your blood just run cold? Mine did! My mind went to worst case scenarios. The next thing she did was blush and clam up. Would not tell us because we “wouldn’t believe her”.
After a long one on one talk with her about what secrets are and why you should only keep surprises from someone and you should never keep secrets…phew…she confessed. I didn’t believe this was the whole thing she wanted to tell me, at first. I kept talking to her though and she finally convinced me.
Her big “secret” – She had been keeping to herself that after hearing on the news and from family about the freak tornadoes this summer in Saskatchewan, she was worried about a tornado ripping up our house and displacing our family.
She had kept this (very real to her) worry to herself for months. It was making her quiet and tense, but she didn’t think I would listen if she brought it up. I decided to change that.
To create trust, balance, and a safe spot to talk to me, I decided we would talk every night after I tucked her in. I ask her,
“What is something that bothered you about today that you need to talk to me about to feel better?” and after she answers I ask,
“And what is something about today you loved and was your favourite part about today?”
Now if she feels there is something I should know but is nervous to tell me, we talk about it then. I have learned about her fear of tornadoes, bullying at school, her worry that her handwriting will always look “silly”, and what bothers her about our parenting even!
I have since been doing some internet research on sensitive kids and telling them “that concern is silly, it will never happen” or to that effect, is the worst thing you could do. Now they will be harder on themselves, as they are natural perfectionists, and not trust their feelings or instincts about something. Instead they will believe that their concerns are “silly” and that “no one else worries about this stuff, there is something wrong with me”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to discipline Izzy differently than Hunter. We don’t want to raise a brat. We also want Isabella to trust herself and never feel guilty about having highly tuned emotions and empathy. These can be good things when utilized properly. I am doing a lot of reading lately.
So this nightly ritual of asking those two, very simple, questions has helped a lot.
“What has bothered you about today?”
“What did you like about today?”
I am hoping this creates an open flow of dialogue for us, well in to adulthood.