Last week we shot a book trailer for Why Smart Kids Worry. The production team asked me for 100 thoughts that go through the minds of smart kids during the school day. “100!” I said. “That’s a lot!” I thought it might take me a day or two to come up with the sentences but it took all of 10 minutes. All I had to do was recall the many things that kids have said to me over the past few years. In my office, kids come flocking in around 3:00, fresh out of school, their minds spinning from the day. So it wasn’t hard to come up with 100 sentences. I could have easily come up with 200.
That’s because the minds of smart kids don’t stop. They spin and spin with thoughts – one leading to another – and by the end of the school day, they are exhausted. Smart kids have time to think during school because, well, they’re smart. They don’t have to pay attention to every little thing the teacher says, often they already know how to do what she’s explaining anyway. But because they have to sit (and sit quietly) their minds take a little trip, and that trip often leads to anxiety.
Smart kids think about a lot of things and if you look closely at the picture in this post, you will see some of those thoughts:
Will I die?
What happens if I don’t get into college?
Will I fail?
What will I be when I grow up?
Tools like “Change the Channel” can help kids redirect these thoughts and sitting close to the teacher can also help smart kids stay focused. But even the best strategies often can’t keep smart kids from thinking about advanced topics. Their minds just go there. One thing you can do as a parent is acknowledge the feeling below the thought. For example, if your child says, “I’m afraid I’m going to fail,” instead of saying, “What? There’s nothing to worry about! You got all A’s last report card.” Simply say, “I know you’re worried,” or “I’m sorry you’re scared.” What this does is help you connect with your child without creating conflict. When you try to convince your worried child that there’s nothing to worry you discount your child’s feelings because in his/her mind, those worries are very real. I sat with a parent earlier this week who couldn’t believe how much this strategy has helped. She said, “It’s turned everything around. I can’t believe it!”