Here is Clark’s advice for coping with anxiety, accompanied by a few brief explanations for context from his mother.
“You gotta say your affirmations in your mouth and your heart.”
“Another mom on Twitter talked about saying affirmations with their kid before school. We tried it. Sometimes I tell him, ‘Say it like you mean it.’ I guess he translated that.”
“You say, ‘I am brave of this meeting! I am loved! I smell good!’”
“He knows you can be scared of something, so he talks about being brave of things. I love the grammatical construction. I’ve never corrected it because I like it better. I don’t know where the ‘I smell good’ came up, but I like it. I’m going to use it a lot.”
“You gotta walk big. You gotta mean it. Like Dolly on a dinosaur. Because you got it.”
“He really loves Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors.’ When kids are making fun of her in school, she still went in and was brave and talks to those kids. I don’t know where the dinosaur thing came from.”
“Never put a skunk on a bus.”
“I don’t know what it has to do with being nervous.”
“Think about the doughnuts of your day!”
“We used to go to this little record shop. There was a room in the back and a whole section of records for a dollar. I would take him down there with a dollar bill, and he came back with a Burl Ives record from the ’50s. There’s a song on there called ‘The Donut Song.’ It goes, ‘Watch the doughnut, not the hole.’ After we listened to that song a lot, that became our thing. Every night at bed he tells me about the doughnuts of his day.”
“Even if you cry a little, you can think about potato chips!”
“When he’s upset, sometimes I tell him to think about things he’s looking forward to. Potato chips are high on his list.”
“You gotta take a deep breath and you gotta do it again.”
“I’ve been teaching him breath exercises when he gets upset.”
“Even if it’s a yucky day, you can get a hug.”
“There have been so many times when there’s nothing I can do. I tell him, ‘Even if it’s a bad day, when you get home, I’ll hug you.’”
Gwenyth Todebush with her 5-year-old son, Clark.Credit…via Gwenyth Todebush
Ms. Todebush said she had been surprised at the reaction. Some people were concerned that such a young child even needed coping skills for anxiety. She said that Clark is an only child, and he didn’t have cousins or other children around during the pandemic. She added that she’s been working with him on coping skills to make the transition to school easier. His advice on the way to school made her realize how much he’s been paying attention. “He’s doing a lot better overall,” she said.
But most of the thousands of comments posted in response have been positive, she said. They include:
“Who IS this kid, and is he available for Zoom sessions?” one follower asked.
“Chuckling at the insights, but in reality am here for pandemic potato chips little dude,” said one fan.
“Haven’t we all experienced being on a bus with a skunk, metaphorically?” asked another.
An artist who saw the thread even began selling a T-shirt depicting Dolly Parton on a dinosaur, and has promised the proceeds will go to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Ms. Parton hasn’t commented on the post or the T-shirt.