Well, here we are. The last hurrah of summer break is upon us, and the start of school is looming just around the corner.

My kids are pretty excited to go back to school. I am glad – this means they like it! As for Kenny and I, well…we both work full time so the kids are in camp every week during the summer, so camp or school is six one way, half dozen another – our routine doesn’t change much throughout the year. (Except we tend to let the kids stay up a little later, and then I let them sleep in a bit, which throws Kenny’s morning off a bit – haha.)

I heard a little nugget yesterday that I thought was awesome – and perfectly timed to coincide with the start of school, where – excited or not, I imagine most kids have some level of anxiety around the start of something new (no matter how familiar the school routine may be from prior years).

I got a call from the director of the camp Gavin and Grace are attending this week. She told me that Grace wasn’t feeling well, that her head and stomach hurt. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that Grace had a little bit of a struggle with the social scene last year in Kindergarten for a bit, and that we started seeing her resulting nervousness manifest itself in physical complaints. Most of the time, she’d have a ‘stomachache’ when something went sideways or not how she expected, so I asked the director if something had perhaps not gone as Grace would have wanted it to, or if she faced an otherwise challenging emotional situation. I quickly summarized that sometimes Grace will express her emotions with physical complaints with a few highlights (lowlights?) of when we’ve seen this happen. (I am sure Grace’s stomach actually does hurt when these things happen – but we’re trying to help her see that butterflies or having a pit in your stomach doesn’t mean you are actually sick, but to feel better, you need to talk about the situation with someone you trust, share your feelings and figure out ways to make yourself feel better when those things happen, etc.)

The director seems quite wise and is very kind. She said, “Ah, thank you for telling me that. It’s funny – I’ve learned over the years that many kids do that, so now when kids come to me not feeling well, I feel their foreheads and if they aren’t warm or otherwise blatantly sick, my first question is – Does your heart hurt, or does your (insert body part here) hurt?” She said that Grace told her that her head and stomach actually did hurt, and that she looked pink and quite sweaty, so they think she may have just been hot. (Makes sense. It’s August, 90 degrees and she’s playing sports in a gym without A/C.) She asked Grace what she wanted her to ask mom to do. Grace said, “Nothing! I need to stay to hear who won camper of the day.” Well, that settled that. (Oh, and you know that our girl’s “ailments” jettisoned her to the top of that list, right? She’s got game, this one.)

I really liked that tactic – “Does your heart hurt?”. So simple, but helps kids stop and think and help identify emotions. It also opens the door and with proper guidance on the adult’s side, welcomes a discussion around any challenges the child may be facing. When Grace is having these emotional moments, I sometimes struggle to get to the bottom of what’s going on. “Does your heart hurt?” seems like sweet and caring sentiment with which to start the conversation.

If you think about it, the question is easily plied into other emotions when “ailments” arise – “Does your heart feel unsure?” “Does your heart feel scared?” “Does your heart feel happy?”. Coupled with a quick follow up, “Why?”, “How can I help?”, and you’ve got a nice little supportive mom / child dialogue going on. Hopefully, I don’t have to use it too often. 🙂

Thought I would pass this along in case any of you are facing anxious kids as the school year starts.

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