Anxiety. Let's Talk About It. Full Life MA Plainfield Illinois
Posted: September 10, 2019
Anxiety. Let’s talk about it.
I struggle with anxiety. From a young age, I developed an anxiety that had me looking over my shoulder for the next natural disaster, death, mugging, angry argument, zombie.
Some of my anxiety was warranted, since my family moved from a small Central American country, Nicaragua, when I was four years old to Chicago because of a terrible earthquake that decimated the capital city of Managua in 1972. Most important to me, though, was that it completely destroyed my grandmother’s home down to twisted, unrecognizable rubble. I was pretty freaked out.
Some of you may not believe it, but I was SO SHY from the ages of 4 to 11 that I could NOT even say hello to someone I did not know. Anxiety.
Now, my parents had no idea what I was struggling with. I didn’t tell them. They didn’t ask, you know?
So, I’ve had a TON of time thinking on and working through anxiety. Here’s some of what I came up with.
EMPATHY is the most important thing
The first thing to do is make sure your child knows you're on their side. You must first make sure the child feels normal. Deflecting statements don't help. They harm the child's self-worth. Phrases that dismiss the anxiety like "I'll give you something to cry about", "don't worry", or even "relax" don't do anything to help the child work through the anxiety.
Instead, use phrases like, "I feel this way, too.", "You're not alone in this.", or (my personal favorite) “we are in this together."
Letting your child know that what they're feeling is normal is so important. An anxious child is the first to ask the question,
"What is wrong with me?"
It's your job to be aware that something is up, and to make sure they know nothing is wrong with them. Even if they struggle with an anxiety disorder, remind them that an estimated 31.9% of children between the ages of 13-18 experience an anxiety disorder.
Child knows SOMEBODY is on their side. You, the most important person in their lives. Boom.
If there is anything I have learned, it is that some strategies work some of the time. But if you try nothing, nothing works.
So, give these a shot! You have nothing to lose!
Personification is when you assign human qualities to inanimate objects. It helps us understand things better when they have a face. We're really good at reading faces.
Help them understand the fear by giving it a face.
Ask helpful questions before you assume what's going on. Sometimes children don't know how to communicate their feelings. They need to learn.
Ask them to draw the fear. What color is it? What does it look like? Help them come up with a name. Widdle the Worrier is worried? Let's help him calm down.
This technique helps us become aware of our minds as we become aware of our bodies.
Unlike our bodies, our minds are endless amorphous blobs that are hard to understand. It takes a little bit of time to discover what our body parts are, then we learn about the interstitium. We are always learning new things about ourselves.
The mind is harder.
But if you believe we must learn about our bodies, let's include our mind in that, too.
Imagine the thought is a train. Watch the stressful thought ride away.
Put that fear into a rocket and watch it fly into a volcano. (When you come from Nicaragua, volcanos are important.)
Logic through it. What's the worst that can happen? What's the best that can happen? What is the most likely to happen?
Let's write the story again with a different ending. Let's come up with more endings.
Let's go to your happy place.
The key here is that you help them through it. The mind of an anxious child is a dangerous one to be left without a guide. They need you there with them to help them through, but your job is to make sure they feel like they can do it themselves, because they won't always have you.
No, not that kind of grounding. Help bring them back to earth. Give them ways to ground themselves through their physical senses because anxiety takes us out of our bodies and into the unknowable, chaotic future. Bring them back to presence. Bring them back to their bodies.
Use their senses to ground them.
Ask them for help with a physical skill. "Help me push this wall."
Get them a smell buddy. Something with a fragrance (preferably a calming scent, like lavender. Or, my favorite calming essential oil combination, amber sandalwood musk.)
Watch that clock. Let me know when two minutes pass.
Let's do our battle cry: I'm a warrior! I'm unstoppable! Look out, World, here I come!
Anxiety affects everybody. It's your job as the parent to help your child deal with it in a way that helps them grow to be contributing members of society.
But always come back to love and patience. Love and patience will always win.
Never give up on your kids.
Image: ID 115395723 © Noracarol | Dreamstime.com
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