February 9, 2013

Ask the Expert: Navigating Change. ~ Dr. Michael Finkelstein

Source: kidszine.co.uk via Jennifer on Pinterest

See change as an opportunity, not a problem.


My nine-year old son never had issues sleeping before and suddenly cannot sleep through the night. Although he never has mentioned it to me, I’ve heard him a few times tossing and turning. It wasn’t until his new teacher emailed me about it, noting that when she asked him why he was constantly yawning and not turning in assignments in a timely manner (also not like him), he said that he couldn’t sleep at night.

I want to approach him about this, but do not want to upset him. I don’t see any drastic changes in his life that would constitute for this shift in sleeping patterns and academic performance; his pediatrician hasn’t seen anything unusual from a physical perspective.

What do you suggest I do and more importantly, how do I approach my son about this without making him feel that he has done something wrong?


The first step is to carefully think back to the time this problem first became apparent. Then proceeding delicately, it would be useful to discuss your observation about his sleeping with him directly.

To avoid upsetting him, I would refrain from “pathologizing” the situation, in other words, identifying this as “a problem.”

While troublesome, it is actually something good trying to happen, don’t forget that. Indeed, the fact that you have picked up on this and care so deeply is reason for optimism. With skillful reflection you and your son will learn from this.

But, what is the message?

Again, go back to the time this began. Then consider if there are any other “symptoms.” As a young and growing child all sorts of things can be going on. While they might be subtle for you or the average adult, even small changes can be monumental for a child.

In your own words, I think there is an important clue as well…his “new teacher.” It is quite possible that something is going on at school, including simply the newness of his teacher that is upsetting his balance. Consider that as a place to begin.

There is more you can do along the same lines; does the timing coincide with any important anniversaries, stresses, injuries, ailments, etc…Is your world and the world around your son in harmony (clearly the latter is not)?

Very often the best medicine and the “correction” lies in one or several of these domains, at least in addressing them and sharing and airing concerns. And it is critical then, that before labeling the situation (and certainly well before he is labeled with a “condition” and “medicated”) you explore this on your own—presuming it is mild, which it sounds like at present.

Getting back to the clue about his teacher, my advice would be to ask your son about this new teacher. Who she is, how she holds his classes, what makes her different from his former teacher, and what, if anything, he finds to be challenging about the assignments she is giving him.

Let this open-ended conversation flow to where it has to in order to uncover what might be making your son apprehensive or uncomfortable with this change.

Perhaps if you can focus on that issue, the peripheral issues, things like late assignments and trouble sleeping will take care of themselves.

If you still see your son struggling with assignments or still hear him wrestling in his bed, perhaps you might arrange for all of you to sit down with the teacher; another chance for your son to express himself, but in the safety of your embrace. Quite often what keeps us up at night is something inside that needs to be expressed. I would encourage you to work with your son in that way.

There are even non-verbal, i.e. artistic and physical methods you can use. In the long run this experience will be a teacher for both of you. In particular, it will help him learn to monitor and address his own issues and identify the things that affect his balance, and as importantly, guide him to developing the tools he will need to live with skill.

There will always be changes and shifts that will affect him throughout his life, now it seems like you have a wonderful occasion to help him in a very deep and meaningful way. Again, this isn’t a problem, it is an opportunity. Good luck. I would love to hear how you and your son end up resolving this situation. I’m certain you will.


Michael Finkelstein, M.D., has gained acclaim for his pioneering approach to integrative medicine, since beginning his private practice more than 20 years ago. Board-certified in both internal medicine and holistic medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a graduate of the Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, Dr. Finkelstein is a self-professed “Doctor of Common Sense.” He is a dedicated healer who views health and well-being as a wholly singular unit, one that must be taken seriously and considered with compassion, intention and commitment. Dr. Finkelstein’s concept of “skillful living” applies this holistic approach to overall well-being—the business of living must be developed, like a skill, with mindful, dedicated attention. To read more from Dr. Finkelstein, sign up for his bi-monthly Moon Letter here or for further information visit his website.

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