The Washington Post

Helping a 7-year-old regain confidence: Advice from Marguerite Kelly

(Hadley Hooper/For The Washington Post)

“She is scared of fires, she says, and of sirens, of ‘bad people’ on the street and of burglars who might break into our house. She insists that we keep the light on in the hall at night and open the bedroom doors halfway,” says the parent in a letter to Family Almanac columnist Marguerite Kelly.

“My daughter gets scared in the daytime as well and follows me wherever I go in our two-story house. She often touches me, as if doing so could keep her safe.”

The parent also notes the child’s less-than-rosy upbringing may be connected to her behavior: “Her parents divorced when she was 2; her neighbor’s house caught fire when she was 4, causing us to rush outside with her in the middle of the night; and her cousin, with whom she was quite close, got sick and died when she was 5. She also saw a lot of violent arguing in the home of a family member, but I’ve made sure she will seldom, if ever, be exposed to that behavior again.”

When the parent asked if the child should have therapy, Kelly says it’s not a matter of if, but when.

“You could wait a year or two to see if the bluebird of happiness comes knocking on her door, but it would be quicker and kinder to send her to a therapist now,” Kelly says.

The therapist can be someone who specializes in play therapy art, clinical social work or something else in the mental health profession. “It only matters that she knows how to help your child deal with her fears and that she can connect with her. A therapist who is right for one client may be wrong for another,” says Kelly.

Read the rest of her advice and then let us know how you’ve helped a child with emotional issues.


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