Last Thursday night at 12:30 a.m., my daughter Jacey showed up
in our bed. She complained of a stomachache, but had
difficulty describing it. Do you feel like you're going
to throw up? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Is it
actual pain? All questions were answered with, I don't
Neither of us slept much that night, and the next day she was
dragging with no appetite. She took baths, we put oils and
warm washcloths on her stomach, and she rested. She
definitely had physical symptoms, but I wondered if the looming
first day of school might be the reason for her discomfort.
In our house we talk a lot about how the mind can affect the
body, Jacey has been hearing this her whole life, but I know from
experience that when you are in distress, it's harder to embrace
this concept. So instead of lecturing her about the
interrelationship between physical and mental health, I just spent
time with her so we could talk.
We talked about music and movies, and we talked about school,
specifically my grade school experiences. I told her about
all of my teachers and how I was always nervous at the beginning of
the school year. She listened intently, asked questions, and
then took a long nap.
The next day was better, but she still seemed heavy and tired.
We continued our talks and I mentioned that I was starting my
new job next week, a teaching job at a university. I told her
that I felt ready and excited, but also nervous and unsure.
She asked how I make myself feel better, so I told her that I
talk about it (and thankfully, her dad is a great listener).
Instead of keeping my fears in my mind where they can grow and
become scary, I talk about them and even ask her dad (or others)
for help if I need it.
That night when I was tucking her in, I could feel her struggle
and discomfort, and right before I turned off the light she sat up
and said, I'm feeling nervous and I am going to miss summer and
I don't want to be away from home everyday for six hours!
It all came out really fast, she was breathing heavy, and she
just stared at me, unsure of what just happened. I nodded and
said, that makes sense to me, and that is completely
I didn't try to talk her out of her feelings, and I didn't list
all the things she had to look forward to. I just listened,
nodded, and let her know that her feelings were OK and
understandable. We talked about how great the summer was and
how great it was to wake up late and hang out at the pool.
We talked about 2nd grade, her teacher, and the
friends in her class. And when I asked what I could do to
help, she already had a plan - she wanted to wear my necklace to
school so she could feel closer to home.
I was confident that she would feel a lot better in the morning,
but I also realize that regardless of why, her body really had been
sick. Maybe it was a stomach bug, or maybe it was entirely
mental, but either way it had become physical, and she needed to be
taken care of on that level.
To tell her she was silly, wrong or that it was all in her head
would have been disrespectful to her experience. I want her
to trust her body and be attuned to its messages, and just as
important, I want her to trust me.
So it felt right to walk both paths - soothe the physical and
discuss the emotional, with the hope that one, or maybe both, would
offer some relief.
And thankfully, she was in good shape yesterday, raring and
ready to go for her first day of 2nd grade. Her
energy was light, she was all smiles, and her outfit choice was
based on two things: it was super comfortable, and it really
showed off my necklace.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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