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My 8 year old daughter has always had an issue with permanent loss but recently has begun getting distressed when packaging and clothing tags are thrown away and attempts to rescue them from the bin, even the following morning.

She is a highly intelligent indivdual (the family lawyer) but is utterly irrational and wont be reasoned with at these times. She does display high anxiety about a number of things (balloons, thunder etc) but I am alarmed at the recent development of her reactions to these things. Our family life is steady (marriage has tanked a bit but we are together & friendship is good and always steady in front of kids) there is a little cognitive idiosyncracy in my side of the family but labels and amateur psychology are not used with my daughter.

We did lose the family pet last year but unsure if that is increasing her angst, and a grandfather has Alzheimers which she seems ok about. I know as a dad I need to listen calmly to her but really she is disorganized enough as it is.

I would just really like to try some strategies that have worked for others before I pursue a full on intervention...

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Why might this be happening?

This sounds like something to do with an attachment anxiety. It may have to do with losing a dog or how much time she may have spent in daycare in her first 5 years. It may also be partly her unconscious mind (which I have read is anywhere from 20 to 1000 times more powerful than our conscious mind) reading the emotions, body language, and interactions in your marriage. It is nearly impossible to hide. She might feel a distance or a coldness in the marriage, and that is particularly hard to deal with as a child. She might feel on some level that something is being hidden from her, which is a loss of intimacy in a sense.

Daycare reference

My experience

Children are born irrational and usually will not become rational without some help. Unfortunately schools do not teach young children philosophy, which would help significantly in many areas, so it falls on parents and relatives to do a lot of the work in thinking rationally. Keep in mind, your daughter will be irrational and likely remain that way until she is taught through example and plenty of conversation.

Philosophy for children with references in description

I have a 7 and 9 year old step sister and step brother that were frustratingly irrational when I first met them. As I spent more time with them, I would simply ask them a series of questions about their conclusions or actions in a non-critical way, allowing them to freely answer the questions. The subjects ranged from not flushing the toilet to mathematics to food choices. They became more rational over a period of a few months, but were unfortunately hindered by their irrational parents (one of whom attacked me - I had to remove them from my life to protect myself unfortunately).

From my experience, kids will become more rational with their parents' and peers' examples of rationality. Try asking your daughter questions about the packaging.

  • Why are you taking the packaging from the garbage?
  • What are you feeling when you want to take the packaging from the garbage?
  • Is the packaging going to be useful to us for something that I might not know?
  • If we don't throw out packaging, we will keep packaging in our home?
  • If we keep packaging every week, will there be more and more packaging in our halls and rooms?
  • What might happen if our house fills up with packaging?

Thunder..

  • What is thunder?
  • Where does the lightning want to get to?
  • Are you the ground?
  • If you are not the ground, and the lightning wants to find the ground, it doesn't want you right?
  • How does lightning get to the ground?
  • Are we the tallest things touching the ground nearby? Or is it the house, lamppost, or trees?
  • Can electricity go through rubber?
  • If electricity can't go through rubber, lightning, which is electricity, also cannot go through rubber. If our car is touching the ground with rubber wheels, then the lightning cannot get to the ground through our car.

Keep in mind, it is best to do this in a way that she will not want to run away from. Allow her to make mistakes without criticism, but give her information that she might not have. She will feel if you are talking down to her and may pull away. Do your best to understand that she is a child with a beginning of knowledge and a disorganized mind. She is a long-term investment and will likely not get organized thinking skills in one week.

Also keep in mind, if she asks questions, it is best too answer as many age-appropriate questions that you can honestly. If her questions are deflected, she will not see the point of asking questions, since they get her nowhere in her experience. She will also resent that you ask her questions and expect answers, but you do not answer her questions and do not expect to answer her questions.

I'm glad that you do not use labels, as I find such behavior is used to find the next medication that suppresses certain behaviors. Her behaviors are valid, biological reactions to her environment. Be curious about them!

Good luck with your daughter and enjoy the conversations you will have!

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