Talk Therapy

“Which would win – samurais or ninjas?”

“What color do you think is most common? In the world?”

“Which do you like better – the Army or the Marines?” 

Tyler is full of questions. And all the questions lead to more questions, which lead to lengthy explanations. He talks at such length that his speech is punctuated with huge heaving inward gasps, because his mouth is just barely keeping up with his brain and he forgets to breathe.

So it did not come as a surprise to me when his teacher notified me that he talks in class. Incessantly. Which is terribly rude, and violates the classroom rules, and is generally mortifying.

I talked to Tyler’s dad about it. He was shocked, stating that he can barely get Tyler to talk when he’s over there. This struck me as odd.

Last night, I talked to Tyler. He said that his dad only wants to talk about certain topics – topics that Tyler doesn’t want to talk about.

“Like what?” I asked.

“My feelings…..” A pause. “He says mean things about you.”

“Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“Yes.”

Any divorced parent will tell you that they spend endless hours worrying if their children are scarred, hurting, sensitive, or otherwise damaged by the divorce. We desperately want to know what’s “really” going on with them. Secretly, we want to know if they’re mad at us, or blame us, or like us better than our ex.

I tend to think that the worst way to ascertain your child’s emotional state is to ask them directly. Most children are simply not capable of articulating complex emotions, and they want to give you the “right” answer. Plus, they get anxious that “A Talk” is coming at any moment. And they clam up.

Just like Tyler.

It’s more difficult, but ultimately better, to watch for other signs. Is the child eating normally? Playing? Struggling at school? Does he/she seem overly anxious or preoccupied with something trivial?

I try to let Tyler talk about whatever he wants to. As long as he’s not interrupting or disrupting, I let him tell me about the Epic! Zombie! War! playing out in his imagination, or about the boy who hurt his feelings because he didn’t pick Tyler for kickball. My hope is that if he feels comfortable telling me about zombies and kickball, he’ll feel comfortable talking about his feelings when he’s old enough to articulate them.  

Two weeks ago, Tyler and I walked home from a cub scout den meeting. It’s about a mile from the church to our house, and he talked non-stop.

He held my hand the whole way home.  

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