The first time our son said “Mommy can you help me turn off my brain” my heart felt like it weighed 1000lbs. I scooped him up and gave him a huge hug. We chatted for a bit and I introduced a few techniques to teach him how to stop the racing thoughts he was experiencing (more on this later).
Our son has always been a young one that thought things through or over thinks. I have had to have many conversations with him that his friends have just not asked. Saying things like “that will not happen” or “do not worry about that” just does not work.
Here is an example of something he has said:
I am giving him his snuggle before bed and he was about 5 years old. I was going out with a friend that evening. He says “what happens if you do not come home?” and I reply “I will”. Then he says “what if you do not?”. Knowing him I then said, “Your Daddy will take care of you”. You can imagine the next question, “what if something happens to Daddy?”.
Okay, time to pick up my heart off the floor and cancel my night out.
That would have been one solution. Instead, we talked about the plan of who would care for him if something happened to one or both of us. This helped him and he was able to go to sleep. Taking the time to process and not get frustrated was key in this situation.
It does seem like a number of these conversations come up at bedtime. I could be extremely frustrated by bedtime stalling but instead, I choose to see that bedtime is when he lays there and thinks. (This could be a family trait 🙂 )
So what do I do to help him??
Well, I have taught him some strategies to change his thought patterns. How do you do this with a child?
1. Hear what he has to say.
2. Be Empathetic: “that sounds scary”, “wow that is hard”, “that is a yucky thought”.
3. Offer comfort: “would you like a hug”.
4. Get him to think about something funny or guide him to happier thoughts.
5. Turn on a guided meditative story so he has something else to focus on.
6. Check in after a few minutes to let him know I am there
7. Move on
Some additional strategies:
1. Talk Time: Have a time you set aside each day for your child to discuss anything that is bothering them. We do this at supper.
2. Worry Box: your child can write down or draw (or have you write down) their worries and put the papers in a box.
3. Worry Dolls or Rocks: Give your child a small rock or doll to tell their worries too. Then the item gets placed in a safe place (under their pillow or and the dresser). The item takes the worries from the child.
4. Deep Breathing: “smell the flower and blow out the candle”.
5. Guided meditation: There are a number of good apps that can help you teach your child how to meditate or you can lead by example.
If you have a little thinker and would like more support feel free to join Parenting Foundations Membership or book a free 15-minute call to learn how you can work with Brenda from Parenting Foundations.