THE POWER OF THE PARENT – ANXIETY SERIES – PART 3
I want you to think of something that you are afraid of.
Something that causes you true anxiety.
Maybe it’s flying…
Or public speaking…
Now I want you to think about how you react if faced with that fear.
How do you respond?
And how do you want to be treated by those around you?
Some common responses when our children are anxious or presenting challenging behaviours are –
- Reassurance – “Oh honey, what happened was so rare and is very unlikely to happen again. I’ll be right there to keep you safe.” In some cases where the anxiety is very mild, this may be enough. But often, outside reassurance doesn’t work.
- Blame and shame – “You’re just being a baby/being silly. You need to toughen up.” Even if you don’t say the words, don’t underestimate the power of your tone and body language. Your child will be quick to register a frustrated tone or roll of the eyes.
- Minimise – “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Yes anxiety can appear very irrational but the feeling is very real and, to them, there is definitely something to be afraid of.
- Threats and punishments – “If you don’t do this I’ll take away that. If you do that again you will get this punishment” These tactics may “work” in the moment but they don’t teach children how to look within or make conscious choices. Kids may comply so that they can avoid penalty, rather than learning how to distinguish for themselves what is right and wrong.
- Bribes and rewards – “If you do this I’ll buy you that/take you there.” Similar to punishments, might work to get the child to comply but relies on extrinsic coercion rather than intrinsic motivation.
- Force – “You don’t have a choice so we’re doing this anyway.” Might involve physically doing something to your child against their will, or being verbally loud and threatening until they are too scared to say no.
- Calm and present – “I’m here. I see you. We will get through this together.” You might offer some coping strategies or just be with your child so they don’t feel alone and know that you are on their side.
Now remember that fear you thought about at the start?
From the above list, what kind of response do you want from those around you when you are anxious or behaving irrationally?
If you’re afraid to swim, do you want to be mocked, yelled at or pushed in the pool against your will? Or would you prefer a more gentle “push”, someone to listen and guide you, so that you can still learn to swim but feel empowered and supported in the process?
Now put your hand up if you are a perfect parent who always remains calm and kind in the heat of the moment!
We all get angry, frustrated and overwhelmed at times. And when our kids are hurting, we hurt too. You’re not always going to be calm. You’re not always going to have the answers and know how to help. That’s ok. But it is our responsibility as parents to make a choice about how we want to treat our kids and work towards being the parents we want to be. And at the same time, model to our kids the kind of behaviour we would love to see in them.
The great news is, all the tools we will be sharing about how to help your child manage their anxiety can be equally helpful for you.
You can learn how to respond to them in the most respectful AND effective way. Where the fear is tackled and worked through and your child’s self-esteem and relationship with you is strengthened rather than diminished.
No. You have more power and can help them more than you might think.
You can stay close, be kind and make a choice not to add to their pain. That in itself is not always easy, but it is so powerful.
Isn’t that how you would want to be treated by another adult if you were having a hard time?
And isn’t that how you would want your child to treat one of their friends?
Thank you for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful week. Please leave your questions and comments below.
At Launchpad, one of our core values is to help children form strong relationships. We understand that how we treat them, is how they learn to treat each other. We want our students to be compassionate and supportive towards each other and so we model this by offering them compassion and support. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved.