Who’s been more wobbly this week; you or your kids?
Whether we live or work with them, supporting an anxious child can be very anxiety-inducing for us as an adult, so today I’m sharing a real ‘Yippee!’ moment I had a couple of weeks ago.
I’d been working 1:1 with a mum to give her tools & techniques to support her 12 year old, whose should-be-care-free life was being ruled by worry and anxiety.
The mum shared with me that her daughter had successfully managed one her worst fears yet; the dentist!
The real achievement wasn’t ‘overcoming fear of the dentist’ though. It was that her child managed her anxiety herself… mum hadn’t ‘managed the anxious child’.
So, while many kids re-establish their place in a wobbly world, here are three of the most effective tried & tested techniques that we had worked on together;
We often worry that talking about kids’ anxieties will brings them to the surface, but they’re usually right there anyway, even if we don’t.
But once that anxiety’s bubbled up, it’s almost pointless trying to fix it, because the ‘thinking brain’ is already going offline by then.
In other words, problem-solving becomes 10 x harder.
So help your kids feel prepared!
Support them in making a list of simple ways to re-focus when worry starts to creep in; Reciting the alphabet, counting to 100 (in another language?), looking for everything blue, or spotting all the circles… Anything to keep the mind busy.
Concentrating on something else won’t make the worry completely disappear, but it can prevent a child from being completely hijacked by it.
Hold Space & Boundaries
While none of us want to be overbearing, when a child is at risk of falling apart, the ‘softly-softly’ approach often just doesn’t work.
In those moments, what might feel like ‘being strict’ to you can be just what the child needs, because an overwhelmed adult isn’t going to effectively hold space for an overwhelmed child.
Healthy, firm, non-judgemental boundaries create security… They communicate that you can keep control, even if the child can’t.
From there, you can help them to co-regulate with you, and join you in your space of confident, calm and in control.
Give Space To Fall Apart
Watching a child struggle is hard, and so our instinct is often to say “Don’t cry”.
But who knew that crying releases biochemicals into our bodies which help soothe physical and emotional pain? It kind of makes sense of why we cry to begin with…
So yes, children do need self-regulation skills, because there will always be those moments when holding it together really matters.
BUT it’s also important to give space to ‘let go’; “Don’t cry” is replaced by “Don’t cry, yet“.
Acceptance is the super-power here, and makes the ‘hanging on in there’ easier to bear.
The most powerful thing with all of this is that we teach children to recognise their own role in overcoming their obstacles. We help them to identify themselves as capable, competent human beings with the ability to solve their own problems…
Because if they don’t own that sense of ‘personal power’, they won’t know how to use it next time.