Christy, contributor of many hacks, needs our help. Read on:
I have an ultra-sensitive type-A 3 year old who’s about to be 4 and a 1 going on 2 year old. We live in a semi-rural community, with a Walmart and a McDonalds, and both the Walmart and McD’s are in the process of breaking ground on a new bigger, better site about a 1/2 mile away from the old one. My nearly 4 year old loves that there is construction going on, but when she asked what they were building and I told her a McDonalds, she grew really *REALLY* concerned about what would happen to the old one. Not picking up on the warning signs from the back seat I told her quite frankly that they were going to close it, which set her off on a 20 minute crying spree about missing the old McDonald’s and what are they going to do with all the food and chairs and tables and boxes, blah blah blah, wah wah wah.
Her reaction was akin to being told that Dora took the long walk in the woods. Now I’m faced with a pre-schooler who reacts as though the world is ending whenever we drive down Main street. This is like dealing with a death in the family, which brings me to my request, because I didn’t see anything in the archive about how to talk to kids about death. Comically, I have to parlay that into the death of McDonald’s, but her emotional response is the same. There has got to be some sort of parent hack about talking to young children about changes like this.
On top of that, the next day we were exposed to the first few scenes of the Peter Pan sequel and I have been trying to truthfully answer questions about bomb raids, WWI/II, pirates and kidnapping without traumatizing her ever since. No, we don’t get out much. Yes, this is my first child. No, I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing.
So how do you hack the sensitive kid?
First, none of us knows what we’re doing.
Second, fear and preschool age seem to go together developmentally.
Third, your daughter is obviously very smart in addition to being sensitive. The "problem" with lots of smarts is that she can intellectually go places she’s not yet ready to go emotionally.
What has helped us: a little bit of info AND a very set routine response each time they head out into imaginary anxiety land. My kids both hate change, so we take pictures of everything we’re worried about. (Thank you camera phone.) We’ve taken pictures of cars we’ve sold, furniture we’ve moved to different rooms, special rocks that "may" get stolen before someone gets home from school, etc. The act of taking the picture and "saving" a bit of the thing in question seems to solve it. (Not the underlying issue, but that momentary crisis.)
We also try to respect the feelings of anxiety but not dwell on them. Acknowledge, sympathize, provide a bit of info, move on. Repeat if necessary. It’s an ongoing process that’s slowly improving as my kids get older.
What say you, Parenthackers?