Emotionally-Literate Parenting: The Power of Helping Kids Name Their Fears | 3 Min Read

“Is Bob dead?” asked my 3-year-old, poking the housefly on the windowsill.

“Yes,” said his 5-year-old sister. “But there are always more Bobs. Let’s put this one in the trash and say goodbye.”

Bob, in his multiple incarnations, has lived with us since the summer my daughter turned 2. A fly landed on her face, and she screamed. She continued to scream every time she heard a buzzing noise until I introduced her to “Bob the Fly.” Let’s give the fly a name! And a personality! A favorite color, a favorite food, a reason for visiting our house. It was a desperate parenting hack.

It worked.

When multiple flies visit the house, she tells me Bob has brought along cousins. Sometimes she leaves scraps of food on the table for our guests. Once she caught me with a fly swatter and gave me a stern look. “That won’t hurt Bob, will it? Because Bob would never hurt us.”

So much of my parenting comes down to some version of Bob the Fly: First, you name it. Name the emotion. Name the fear. If we can name it, we can talk about it. Or as Fred Rogers said,…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (https://www.parenthood365.com/)