058: How to Know If Something’s Wrong: A Your Child Explained Episode

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My younger brothers and I – I'm in the upper right with the Dorothy Hamill haircut.
My younger brothers and I – I’m in the upper right with the Dorothy Hamill haircut.

Today I’m exploring inside the mind of a child – a very specific child, me, in fact – to help you figure out how to know if something is wrong. Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/058 for notes to today’s episode!

As a seven-year-old girl (that’s my little brothers and I in that picture to the right), I was sexually abused. Just once – I think of it as kind of a date rape situation – and by someone that I only came into contact with a few times over my childhood, thank goodness! Still, the experience had lasting repercussions; he threatened my life if I ever told and between the actual acts and the life-threatening, I was well into adulthood before I could think of myself as a survivor instead of a victim. (This book, The Courage to Heal, was instrumental in my recovery and I recommend it to you if you’re recovering from childhood sexual trauma.)

I tried to tell my folks, as a young teenager, but for a variety of reasons they just didn’t hear me. In my early 20s we finally all got on the same page – I tell the whole story as it unfolded in today’s’s episode – but even in the years that my parents did not know what had happened to me, they saw that something was wrong based on my behavior.

At age 7, I went from being a relatively carefree little kid to feeling continually anxious and worried. I remember being terrified of getting lost, whether separated from my parents out in the world or, if we were driving somewhere, that we wouldn’t know how to get back home.

Looking into our kids’ minds, kids cannot come out and say what the problem is sometimes, they can’t define it; their behavior gives us clues to what’s going on in their minds. It’s up to us to interpret their behavior, and if we see something unusual to mark it as a red flag. Here are three other examples I discuss in today’s episode:

  • In my first year as a preschool teacher a student of ours, a four-year-old named “Sherry,” acted on the kids at school some of the behaviors she had learned at home; once she had hurt a few kids at school we got the Department of Children and Families involved and eventually Sherry was removed from her home
  • Shane and Jocelyn Sams of the great Flipped Lifestyle podcast (click here to check out their website, flippedlifestyle.com) share in a December 2015 episode about the catalyst for leaving their full-time teaching jobs and creating a worklife balance so that “life always comes before work;” their little boy, away from them every day in child care while they both worked, developed fear of the dark and fear of enclosed spaces… they observed these changes in behavior and were trying to help little Isaac cope with them when they found out that a teacher at child care disciplined Isaac and the other children by shutting them up in a dark closet!
  • We started homeschooling Max because of changes in his behavior; in the early grades but especially first, Max was diagnosed with migraine headaches, lost 20% of his body weight in the first grade, and had other alarming symptoms

In each case above, it was the children’s behavior that led the way. Then the question became – as it did with me as a child – what do we do about this?

Even if we don’t know what the problem is, we can still help our kids (my mom and dad helped me SO much even without knowing that I had been molested.) The most important thing we can do is to take them seriously; we must validate their feelings.

This means saying something like “that sounds scary” instead of “stop talking like that… It can’t be as bad as all that… That’s silly.” Saying things like the latter might help us feel better. But what our kids really need is that we communicate our understanding and our empathy – they need to know that we get that they’re going through something tough and that we will help them.

This idea of taking our kids seriously comes up in the book I’m writing for you guys, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics. In it, there’s a whole chapter on the whys and hows of taking kids seriously. But the subject of today’s show – that is, how to tell when there’s something really wrong – doesn’t come up in the chapter yet as it’s written.

So I’d like to leave you with a question: would it be valuable to you if I brought this in? It’s pretty heavy stuff… But definitely worth thinking about, taking them seriously as a way of noticing red flags and not panicking.

Do you want me to add this aspect of taking kids seriously into that chapter? Please let me know! Find me at weturnedoutokay.com/contact… On instagram @weturnedoutokay… And on twitter @StoneAgeTechie.

You can also get in touch with me by going to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com, where right now you can sign up for me to email you both my fridge-worthy infographic about how to handle any tantrum and to get an alert on the day the book launches (April 3 is our planned launch date) because it will be free for three short days when it first launches in Amazon! You can also hit reply to any of my emails from positivedisciplineninjatactics.com and let me know your thoughts on adding in the subject of today’s show, how to know when there’s something wrong.

Thanks for sticking with me during this heavier-than-usual-subject-matter show! I hope it was helpful to you, and I really appreciate you listening.

Key Links:

This past Tuesday, dad and teacher Bret Turner and I had a fantastic conversation which ranged across many topics including science fiction and incorporating music into the classroom – and the fact that, as a young child myself, I was molested. Bret and I spoke about confronting fears as a parent, and I just know you’re going to love that conversation; listen here or by going to weturnedoutokay.com/057 (but that episode is by no means a prerequisite to today’s.)

Click here to listen to my conversation with Bret Turner, or go to weturnedoutokay.com/057

This book, The Courage to Heal, is one that I would recommend to you if you were sexually abused as a child. It sure helped me get past my experience!

Listen to Shane and Jocelyn’s fantastic podcast, The Flipped Life Podcast, by clicking here or going to flippedlifestyle.com

Answer this question: should I include the subject of today’s show in my forthcoming book Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics? by getting in touch with me:

weturnedoutokay.com/contact

@weturnedoutokay on instagram

@StoneAgeTechie on twitter

Also, share your feelings on that question and get my printable, fridge-worthy infographic about how to handle any tantrum by going to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com