On mistaking a child’s anxiety for tiredness.

My son is sick with worry right now.

Today he and his older sister are getting their tonsils removed.

Over the weekend he was complaining of a sore tummy, acting up and generally misbehaving; I put it down to tiredness.

Yesterday he peeped his head through the door while I was in the bathroom and I sensed he had something to say.

I asked him what was up and he said I would think it was silly, I reassured him I wouldn’t.

In his quiet voice he told me that he was “really really worried about tomorrow”.

My heart ached when he told me and I said that it was okay to be a little scared.

His atrocious behaviour, lack of appetite and rebellious behaviour wasn’t just because he was tired, he was struggling to come to terms with what he was feeling.

Considering he’s no stranger to hospitals and just recently had major kidney surgery, his anxiety is understandable.

He thinks he knows what he’s in for, but what he’s imagining is probably way worse than what will actually happen.

This time there won’t be a blood-filled drain coming out of his back, a tube to help him go to the toilet or a big cord thing hooked up to his arm.

He won’t have a massive scar, days in hospital and people poking and prodding him.


Right now I’m working on taking away the ‘really really’ from his worries.

I showed him my big shoulders and told him he had to let me share his worries so they weren’t so big for him.

Looking into his big blue eyes I told him that it was my job as a mum to worry for him so he doesn’t have to.

I also pretended to be a zombie and suck some worries out of his brain, boys love shit like that!

Today my son, who is just one week shy of his 5th birthday, will be facing scary demons and horrible memories and I hate that.

But I’ll be there until his eyes flutter shut and then when he wakes up confused and sore.

Kids are more complex than we think and sometimes we need to gently prod a little deeper to find out what’s on their minds.

Sure most of the time it’s probably just tiredness that makes a child act out, but it could also be confusion, anxiety or fear.

I’m just grateful my boy was able to open up to me, a small parenting win, but I’ll take it.

 Got any great strategies to help take away a child’s worries?

Have you ever been surprised at how much kids take on board emotionally?

Linking with Jess for IBOT


  1. Hey Emily. Good luck today and best wishes for the kids for a speedy recovery. I am really glad you wrote this post. Yes, I am astounded by how much kids take and how well they do so. Kidney surgery would have been a big deal, no wonder he is stressed. As you know my younger boy has 2 to 3 surgeries per year, and the medical staff are always amazed how chilled out he is before each one. Having said that, he has recovered without incident so far, so nothing like the experience your tiny one had. I will be thinking of you, Kylie x

  2. There’s so much going on “behind the scenes” with kids, isn’t there? You’re a great mum Em. I love the big shoulders thing! I’m thinking of you and your little ones today and hope that surgery is as successful as it is speedy!

  3. We never truly know what is going on inside their brains.
    Poor pets.
    All I really do is keep saying “you are love and you are safe. We can do this together”.
    So wonderful that he can talk to you about it.
    You did a great job mum!

  4. Good luck with the op. No advice, our tiny people are so complex. Best wishes xx

  5. Thinking of you and your beautiful babies today Em. Hope their recoveries are quick (and relatively painless). Wish I could give you a hug in person xx

  6. Oh Em, good luck for today. Hope the kids are fully recovered really soon. Keep sucking those worries out x

  7. I’ll be thinking of you today Em!! All of mine have had their tonsils out at some point but none of them had major kidney surgery. Tell that sweet boy of yours that he will get to eat lots of icecream and jelly after he wakes up. I cannot imagine the anxiety that YOU must be carrying right now with two of your babies about to have surgery. The sooner you’re on the other side the better. Hoping that all goes well for you all today. Big hugs and sending positive quick healing vibes your way! Min xo

  8. I think zombies sucking worries from your brain is the best strategy out there! I definitely can’t top that. Oh your poor love. He’s been through so much already. Thank goodness he was able to open up to you and hopefully relieve a bit of that worry. Good luck today, Em. It will be over before you know it. Wishing them both a speedy recovery xx

  9. he is a very sensitive child em!
    I think your strategies sound great!
    and it is “emotional intelligence” when he can actually verbalize how he is feeling!
    all steps in the right direction!
    all the best for today and he must be allowed to draw his demons! … you get it!
    hope your daughter is ok too!
    love m:)X

  10. Hugs x Poor kid. You’re an awesome Mum. All the best for today and the coming week xx

  11. I hope it goes well and he’s a lucky boy to have a mummy that can suck the worry from his brain 😉

  12. Good luck today Emily – sorry to hear your middle guy is so worried. Hopefully having his big sister in the same boat will help him (and of course his lovely Mum by his side). Icecream in your household. X

  13. Oh the poor darling. So glad he could come to you and eventually find the words to explain how he was feeling. It’s totally understandable. I love that you played a zombie to suck out the worries from his brain. I’m stealing it and putting it in my mum kit.
    Good luck today. Big day for you all. Do you need me to come suck some worry from your brain? xxx

  14. Good luck today, a Zombie mum, you are too cool. All the best for a speedy recovery for your little ones and lots of ice-cream x

  15. Thinking of all of you today and sending big hugs your way !

  16. Good luck today and hope they recover quickly. It’s very hard for these little people to express how they are feeling. My middle child struggles with this a lot and we have A LOT of tantrums and meltdowns because she just can’t tell me what’s going on. You’re doing a great job and it’s great that he could talk you and you could suck his worries away 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing this moment Em! You’re doing more than okay with this parenting gig you know! xo

  18. My daughter recently went on her first school camp and she reacted in a similar way. She was so excited about going but once it got closer she began withdrawing a little and complained of feeling unwell. When the day came she felt so sick she almost didn’t go. I had a talk with her teacher about it and eventually we got her to go, and she was glad for it in the end, but seeing them sick with worry and anxiety isn’t easy 🙁

  19. Aw, bless your big mummy-shoulders and zombie, worry-sucking skills. TWO kids going under general in one day? You may need some extra shoulders available for yourself today! Here, have one of mine! Good luck mumma and kids xxxx

  20. I may have shed a bucket of tears reading this Em. Your poor little mites, and poor you. I wish you all much love and luck for today, and hope that your shoulders don’t need to be too big. May the ice cream bring the children much happiness in the scary time. xxxx

  21. All the best for today! And seriously great work with the worry-sucking zombies. Anxiety in kids is just awful, I know all too well with my own kids. It definitely makes it easier if they are able to open up and talk about their feelings, either to yourself or someone they trust. It can manifest so quickly so it’s great that you have recognised those worries early and can work through them.

  22. I’m going to have to use the ‘zombie sucking the worry out of your brain’ line. That’s brilliant! I think it’s definitely a sign of good parenting when your kids have the skill to express their deepest feelings. Huge pat on the back for that, and for how you managed it. I hope everything goes well.

  23. I’m sure all will go well, and he’ll be back to himself in no time. Take care, thinking of you guys. x

  24. It’s so hard for them to understand things like that, especially when they have some experience.
    I think we’ve had anxiety here before, but I haven’t realised till later. I try to remember that kids show us how they feel more than speak it.

  25. This is exactly what you see in classrooms too Emily! It’s so easy to think that it’s just because they’re tired. It always used to amaze me when the kids would tell you what they were worried about.. sometimes it was just tiny little thing but other times it was huge stuff that they’d seen on the news or something that was happening at home. Poor little muffins!!

  26. I so hope that this time round he comes out with a much less scary memory of hospitals. Poor love, wishing all three of you well. I totally know what you mean about mistaking their feeling for tiredness. I have done the same thing with Josh recently. He’s been a nightmare and it turns out he has started to genuinely realise that Santa isn’t real and is really sad and confused. I feel like the worst mother ever!!

  27. I hope all goes well today sweet! Your little man was brave to admit he was scared and that just shows what a fab relationship you have with him. Will be thinking of you and your kiddos over the coming days as they recover from the procedures. Xx

  28. Oh, lady, may the force be with you. It’s horrible and I think you’re right that there’s no real way to sugar coat it, except maybe with ice cream x

  29. My middle child has always been fearful and full of worry. She would almost hyperventilate if my eldest (3 at the time) was near water because you could guarantee she would end up in it. We’ve done a lot over the years to try and push her through this and it is easing over time but still very much a work in progress.

    I hope all goes well at the hospital today, being anxious and worried is to be expected and it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job.

    Thinking of you.

  30. I love that you zombie sucked his worries out. I have no sage advice but am sending you all my support during this sucky time. x

  31. This post just made me teary. We’re looking at maybe having to have the eye operation for Hayley soon and I’ve been racked with anxiety about it. I guess the only plus side is that shes too young to understand and know that its coming up so at least she won’t spend days worrying about it beforehand. But I also feel horrible that it will be kind of sprung on her Ah this parenting this is so hard emotionally sometimes!

  32. Good luck today, hope everything goes smoothly. You’re right it can be easy to forget that their little minds have their own worries and anxieties they are trying to understand. It’s a big scary world to them x

  33. Having worked with children in violent families, had 3 boys, 2 of whom suffer with anxiety (my 6 yr old had proper anxiety attacks when he was just 2 yrs old) I definitely agree with this. But it is a normal human emotion and we all have these feelings at all ages. I love the way you dealt with it, wonderful! I have had my tonsils out as an adult and my son had them at age 9 and I will say GREAT move getting them out now!! It was not fun as an adult! Hope they are on the other side and happily eating ice cream xx

  34. Oh, Em 🙁 It’s like they say – the time when you least think your child needs your love and attention, it’s when they need it the most.
    It’s a HUGE parenting win that you’ve picked up on his anxiety. I hope it all goes well for both your little ones x

  35. Em, I’m only reading this now! I’m hoping your babies are feeling OK today xx

  36. Poor thing(s). I hope the recovery ice cream is worth it. They may need a follow up ice-cream or two after as well!

  37. Love your new blog set up Emily and your description about you…sculptured words 🙂

    You’ve certainly had a lot on your plate with children having major and other operations. ……love how you showed your big shoulders that can bear a load for your son.

    All the best for you all and one day at a time Emily x

  38. Kids are such little sponges aren’t they. I’m glad that your little guy felt he could talk to you about his worries. It’s such an important thing for kids to feel safe with their feelings.

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