When Kids are AnxiousMay 26, 2020
I talk a lot about stepping back so kids can step up. Moms usually love this concept until it comes to stepping back from kids' emotional struggles. It's one thing to sit on our hands while our kids muddle through learning to tie their shoes; it's a whole other ball of wax when they're up all night worrying about failing a test. Fears and anxieties feel different.
How can we step back from a child who is suffering with worry about themselves, their world, friends, or even simple things like fear of the dark or monsters? It's natural to say, "Don't worry!' when our child says, "I'm scared." We want to show them there's nothing to be afraid of - they are ok, their world is safe, friend drama will pass, the dark is no biggie and there's no monster under the bed.
Unfortunately, to the worrier, "Don't worry," often means something we never intended it to mean (especially to kids). It can mean things like:
I can't handle your fear; I need you to stop.
The thing you're afraid of is so scary, that I don't want to talk about it either.
The things that are big deals to you, don't matter to me.
This can increase kids' fears while decreasing their comfort with talking to us.
Furthermore, our hope of proving that they don't need to worry, is usually impossible. Fear is irrational, which means that rationalizing doesn't work to eradicate it. Plus, some of the things our kids fear, are actually real possibilities! We can't honestly say that none of them will come to pass. Finally, swooping in and handling our kids' fears give the message that they don't have what it takes to deal with the big scary world on their own; it robs them of the chance to learn how to handle big feelings and solve slippery problems.
Fear is irrational, which means that rationalizing doesn't work to eradicate it.
I work with my clients to reframe the objective of conversations about fear with kids. The goal isn’t to make our children unafraid; it’s to be with them as they learn they can handle being afraid. My clients learn a 4-step approach to handling their own anxieties, and to supporting their children through their anxieties too. It's a deep process that involves handling fear in ways that adults rarely do, and that children are almost never taught.
The empowerment and resilience that children find when you meet them in their fears is truly awe-inspiring. Imagine the next time your child is struggling emotionally, being able to show them that you're not afraid to talk about it. Instead of saying, “Don’t worry!” or, “You don’t have to be afraid of that,” you can ask questions and walk them through facing, following, and exploring their fears in a safe space.
For most of us, this type of reaction is not second nature. We need to learn new skills, and (just as important) we need to be able to manage the thoughts and emotions that come up when we see our kids suffer. It's a mom who is calm and centered about herself and her child's journey who can say things like, "What are you afraid of? What would it be like if that happened? What do you think might make that a little less scary? Let’s do some of those things."
This is the incredible value of my work - peaceful, solid, parenting confidence PLUS the skills to know exactly what to do and say even in your most challenging mothering moments. I can't wait to learn about your family's challenges and help you find this place for yourself.
Let's hop on a free discovery call and work on getting you there together.