As a parent receiving phone calls from your child’s school cause feelings of immediate concern.
Yesterday I received a call from the school nurse and later the school counselor about my 11 year old Aidan.
Aidan had come to the nurse’s office complaining about a host of body aches, nausea and claiming he’d even thrown up in the bathroom on the way to the nurse’s office.
He seemed perfectly fine when he left for school that morning, so I thought long and hard about what could’ve brought on all these symptoms.
Then it occurred to me that this is typically what happens to Aidan when he’s internalizing a great deal of stress. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what the source of all the stress was.
It’s a well-known rule in our house that when it’s time for bed all the handheld electronics get turned in. When Cathy went to tuck the boys in and asked if they had left their electronics downstairs Aidan replied, “Yes”, but what Cathy discovered later is that he had in fact snuck his iTouch upstairs and hid under the covers.
Aidan has had an issue with lying for many years and the consequences of this lie would be the loss of the electronics he tried so hard to hide. Cathy was understandably hurt by this lie, as any parent would be, especially because she’s tried so hard to impress upon Aidan the importance and value of telling the truth in relationships.
Aidan had been feeling guilty about this for days, but what we didn’t realize is what he assumed about how Cathy felt about him as a result of the lie.
So when Aidan arrived home from school yesterday I sat him down and asked him to explain to me why he felt that he was under so much stress.
What he and I were finally able to determine together is that he unfortunately believed that Cathy was not simply upset with him about the lie but that she was upset with him in general. He was afraid that she no longer loved him.
I assured him that nothing he could ever do would change Cathy’s love for him but I also understood how important it was for the two of them to be able to talk this out together.
Last evening the three of us sat down together and I helped Aidan explain to Cathy what he had been feeling and what his concerns were. Cathy explained beautifully the difference between being upset with him and being upset with the lie.
I think the greatest lesson for Aidan came when he said he was afraid to tell us the truth because we would be angry with him. I told him that’s possible Aidan, but when you tell us the truth we might only be angry and all you would lose are the electronics. But when you tell us a lie you also lose our trust and that’s much harder to get back than your electronics.
Thanks for being you.
Brian R. King LCSW is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.