Today, when I picked up my 8 year old from school the first words out of her mouth were about the special program they had that day in school called, "What if I'm Home Alone?" I could tell she was anxious about it, so I of course said, "We never leave you alone at home." "But what if there is an emergency?" "We would make other arrangements like we did when your sisters were born. We would never leave you at home alone." Throughout the evening she kept alluding to this program. At bedtime, unbeknownst to me, she had taken the pamphlet from the program upstairs to her room and was reading it in bed. When it was time for me to tell her a story, she started with, "What if I am alone and there is a fire?" I repeated emphatically that we would never leave her alone, etc. She didn't know what she wanted her story about, but she wanted to be in it.
I knew I wanted to be reassuring to her, to give her a feeling of security and to take her mind off these anxious thoughts she was having. So I made up a story about us walking in the woods. I made it up as I went along. I told her it was one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. I set the scene, the sound of the leaves in the trees, the sun her back, etc. I told her we were walking hands and I told her I loved her. Then I said we came to a lake. I said it was Lake Tahoe. Then I had us walk out on the dock, all the time describing the beautiful scene and reassuring her that she is loved. We had a picnic of the most delicious food ever, and then went rowing out on the lake. I described the other people out in the lake having a good time. Then she added that we were fishing, but we didn't use hooks so the fish weren't hurt at all and we returned the fish to the sea. I know she really wants special time without her sisters, so I said I have a surprise for you. I booked a hotel for the weekend and we were going to spend the whole weekend together, just her and me. Then I described it was evening and we went to our room and in our room was the largest bathtub she's ever seen and we took a bath and got into bed and we fell asleep with me holding her.
She definitely felt better when we were done with the story and was in a very different mindset. Do I think I vanquished all her anxiety? No, not at all. But I hope I can plant some pleasant pictures in her mind that she can eventually learn to comfort herself when she starts to have anxious feelings.
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