When Smart Kids Cry – Part 2
In Part One we met April, my almost ten-year old patient who was working to escape a few of the more difficult activities by claiming boredom. When pushed, April broke into tears, reinforcing the idea that claiming boredom was really an avenue of avoidance for activities or skills that for the moment were beyond her. April’s mom, out of pure love and affection for her child had inadvertently become part of the challenge, by suggesting the goal was within April’s reach when perhaps April felt differently. As April sat in front of me in tears, it quickly became apparent that there were two issues to solve – somewhat simultaneously.
Once April was able to collect herself, I thanked her for her honesty and bravery. Whether you are 9, 29, or 69, admitting fault or failure is never easy, and it takes a brave little girl to admit that a seemingly simple task is beyond her at the moment – especially in front of her parent. We all want to succeed and it takes significant bravery to try and fail. Over the next few moments, April and I discussed frustration, and how the smart kids are the kids that feel it the most. Reason being that the smartest kids know they’re smart, and they know their brains can handle this task or that task, but for some reason just can seem to make it work. In an effort to right the ship for April, I told her:
“The kids who cry are my favorite…because those are the kids that show how much they care. It must be hard to be one of the smartest kids and not be able to show anyone. Sounds like it would be very frustrating and upsetting. Thank you for showing ME how smart you are!”
My goal in making that statement to April was two-fold. First, I wanted her know that I believe she is smart and help her understand that I am on her side, essentially validating her emotional reaction. Secondly, carrying no less importance than the first point, I wanted April to understand that the tears she shed were a good thing and hopefully were opening the door to further vulnerability and risk taking as we work to rebuild her visual and perceptual skills.
After this breakdown, April’s perception of what was to come was paramount to her success. If handled properly, she would continue to work and make progress. If handled poorly, she may shut down, she may start giving up, or she may continue along the path of frustration. In the world at large, but especially in the rehabilitative world, perception is everything. Absolutely, without a doubt, everything.
April’s perception following this session: Now we both know you’re smart. Let’s work together to show the world what you’re capable of!
Our session concluded with a few smiles and April’s favorite activity. Always, always, always end on a positive note when a patient has a breakthrough like the one April just had. She needed to leave feeling good about it all so we can pick up where we left off next week. As April reviewed the contents of our treasure box with our receptionist, I pulled her mom aside.
We needed to talk.