ASK A MOM: Gun safety, emotional security, and sensory-friendly underwear
WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Q: The school shooting in Uvalde has left my whole family shaken. I know a lot of our friends and neighbors keep guns in the house, which we never have. Is it appropriate to ask another parent if they own firearms before I send my kids (ages 9, 7, and 3) over for a playdate?—Betsy
A: Yes. It is appropriate. If recent headlines leave you shaken, they leave you shaken. You can ask whatever you want about where you drop off your kids because you’re the parent and you need to feel comfortable, especially when you’re leaving them at a younger age where they don’t have a phone or way to contact you if needed. Your child, your rules.
The immediate answer really is that simple.
The next layer to it, though, is that if you’re going to ask, you must be ready for the answer. If you don’t like the answer, you have to know how you‘ll handle your next step. What are you going to say? Something like, “Oh, thank you for letting me know. I wanted to ask and be aware. Is it in a locked location?” Or, “Thank you for letting me know and being honest. I understand why your family has a firearm, but I’d feel more comfortable having the kids at our house. Could I pick up your child and host them instead?”
Again, be clear: It’s OK to feel shaken. Uvalde was a massacre of young bodies. As I wrote directly on my Instagram and Facebook pages, parents were asked to bring in DNA to help identify what was unidentifiable to the human eye. Sanitizing that horror when talking with our kids makes sense, but we shouldn’t sanitize it from our own selves. Pretending hard truths aren’t hard only make them easier to forget. We should not forget how surviving students heard the sounds of their best friends’ screams, or how one child threw himself on top of other dead children to fool the shooter into thinking he, too, was dead.
Those descriptions aren’t trying to be graphic. They’re just reality.
So whatever you want to ask a family who will have your child in their care is fine. Just be prepared for any answer and respectfully remember how emotional gun discussions are right now on all 360 degrees. People won’t always feel the same as you do.
Q: I’m recently divorced and have primary custody of our three kids. My 13-year-old daughter is a Daddy’s girl and has been acting out. She told our therapist she hates me and wants to live with her dad (the absent, workaholic type who just shows up for the fun stuff). Should I let her move in with him and find out for herself?—Carrie
A: Tough question. I took it to Kristin Daley, a PhD and licensed psychologist in Charlotte.
“Here’s the challenge: We don’t fix hurt by creating more hurt,” she says. “I can totally understand the desire to have the daughter find out how absent her dad actually is, and it makes sense that living with him would give her that full experience. But having her make that move may break her heart more than it has already been hurt by changes in her life. She’d lose out on the stability she might have in your household, and also have her belief in the capability of her father damaged as well.”
Kristin says it’s possible she could view moving in with her father as you, the mother, giving up on her.
“That can be even more hurtful in the long run,” she says. “Kids often attach to specific parents (and demonize the other) for reasons related to their own emotional security. Chances are, she has a higher sense of security with you as evidenced by her acting out behavior. Kids who are really feeling emotionally unsafe often try to disappear.”
Huh. Interesting. Daughter fights with a mother more because she actually has a higher sense of security with the mom?
“Yes,” Daley says. “That could be it. The best response here would be to try to explore your daughter’s acting out, and what perceived wounds she might have in the relationship with you. It sounds like you guys are already in family therapy, which would be a good place to explore these emotions. It is hard for us as parents because we can be doing our absolute best, and our kids can still feel let down. It is important to sit with and validate her complaints, without becoming defensive.”
She recommends a great book on the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships called Untangled by Lisa Damour.
“That might offer some wisdom on navigating challenges,” she says. “I am also hopeful you have your own support system. Parenting through these changes can be particularly lonely and hard. And, I know this isn’t great to hear but it is essential that you don’t translate your sense the dad is absent and a workaholic to your kids. They are 50% his DNA, and they will internalize some of your messages.”
Kristin’s practice is on Mockingbird Lane in Charlotte. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: My 5-year-old daughter has sensory issues and has a hard time tolerating underwear. We’ve tried tons of brands and styles, but the seams drive her crazy. Is this a phase? Or is there something I can do to solve this?—Name withheld
A: Michele Mannering, a PhD and licensed psychologist in Charlotte, replied to this question while at a kid’s birthday party. I only mention this so you guys know the experts being asked for advice have the same juggles we all face. They’re not sitting in a sterile office reading a textbook. They are professionals who talk the talk, while also walking the exact walk.
“We all have that feeling sometimes,” Mannering says. “That our pants are too tight, or the seam on our sock feels weird. Most of the time it’s a fleeting nuisance and we move on. Once dressed, we don’t consciously ‘feel’ what is on our body anymore. For kids with sensory sensitivity issues however, or sensory processing disorder, these feelings can be debilitating. The intensity with which they feel the garment is really strong. It puts them on high alert and can distract them from what else is around them. Sensory issues around clothing can be particularly stressful for parents, especially when we are rushing and late.”
She gave the following tips:
Give Choices. Offer a few different pairs of underwear for your child to wear. Think about their favorite colors, characters, etc. Some companies now sell underwear that is sensory-friendly, taking into account things like fabric, seams, waistband, bunching, etc.
Allow extra time. If you know that one step of getting dressed is going to be challenging, make sure you factor in extra time, even if it means waking up 30 minutes earlier. Not being stressed about the clock will make the whole routine flow better.
Practice. Think about a time when nothing is going on, and practice during those times. On a day off, set a timer for a minute and have your child wear underwear while they are distracted by something else they enjoy. Next time do it for two minutes. Then three. Build on from there.
Visualize the finish line. There is an end in sight. Explain this to your child by telling them they have to wear underwear at school, but can take them off when they get home. Knowing that there is a finite amount of time attached offer some relief.
Persist. Don’t give up. It can be easier to let them skip the underwear. Avoidance will only make it harder next time.
Ask for help. (Which you did here by writing Molly!) If you try all these things and your child still has a hard time, see a pediatric occupational therapist. They specialize in sensory integration.
To learn more about Michele Mannering, you can hit her website here.
And just like that my friends, we’re heading into July. Breathe in summer. Six months from now there’s a good chance we’ll miss how right now feels.