Your child’s fears are real. Fear of maths. Fear of the Arabic teacher who does not understand that she is new to the city and has not come to grips with the language. Fear of being awkward. Fear of not being able to make friends. Fear of being in front of class. Fear of being ridiculed during PE class by her peers and not being passed the ball even once in the entire one-hour lesson.
Your child might develop headaches and stomach aches on school mornings because she is running all those fears on a loop in her mind. Your mind does exactly what you ask it to do. By playing her fears continuously on a loop, your child wakes up with knots and aches because she has told herself that going to school and facing those lessons is extremely painful and it fills her with fear. Your mind will do anything to move you away from pain and therefore it makes your child develop illness to keep her safe and away from those fears.
There is no point in telling your child ‘its all in your head’. Parents think by telling their child that their fears are all imaginary and inconsequential they will help their child get over it. Your child needs to feel heard and understood.
I was contacted recently by an exasperated parent who moved here a couple of months ago. Her teen daughter falls ill at least once a week and misses school.
For this teen girl her fears are real, I see it when she confides in me and tears roll down her cheek. She misses her old school and friends; she finds it difficult to make new friends and some classes are daunting. It’s not like she does not want to settle in, it’s just children do not have all the problem-solving and emotional management skills we want them to have. A part of growing up is developing these skills through the trials and tribulations of life.
As a coach, I created a safe space by listening to her issues for her to vent out her fears and anxieties — none of which are insurmountable — they just seem to be to her at the present moment because of the cumulative effect of their moving countries — new school, etc. We tackled her fear of feeling lost and lonely in school last week by helping her focus on the parts of the school she enjoys like her art class, chatting to a friend at lunch and the maths teacher who is funny. By helping her focus her attention to the positive parts of her school day versus the moments when she feels anxious has helped her be more ready and positive towards going to school in the mornings.
This week she felt overwhelmed because of her substitute Arabic teacher, who did not understand that she was new to the country and forced her to read a language she was not familiar with causing her to feel embarrassed and small. We discussed ways in which she could seek help for the subject but also her feelings of overwhelm from the class considering it formed less than 2 per cent of her entire week! That brought a smile to her face, a slight change in the largeness of the problem and the amount of time she was spending agonising over it.
Children are not always looking for solutions to their fears and anxieties. Most times they are looking for a more positive perspective to see the overwhelming issue from so that they can manage it better and someone who can listen and understand without any emotional reactions. A tough but doable stance for every parent.
— Sunaina Vohra is a certified Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to www.athenalifecoaching.com or call (+971) 56-1399033.