Friday, August 15, 2014

Nine Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

I get a little nostalgic every year at back-to-school time. My kids are growing up so fast it seems like just yesterday we were preparing for the first day of kindergarten. Like many twins, my kids' personalities are almost completely opposite. My son barely spared me a wave as he ran off to school for the first time. My daughter was a different story. New situations provoke a lot of anxiety for her and we had to work through some intense emotions in the days leading up to her first day. I wish this article from the Huffington Post had been around back then.  The author, Renee Jain, highlights nine great strategies from her GoZen program to help children (and parents) deal with anxiety.
The first suggestion is one I struggle with, but it is great advice.

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child 
 Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, "Trust me. There's nothing to worry about." Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It's actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won't let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex -- or more logical part of the brain -- gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? 

Try something I call the FEEL method: 
 • Freeze -- pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response. 
• Empathize -- anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it. 
• Evaluate -- once your child is calm, it's time to figure out possible solutions. 
• Let Go - Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry. 

Read all nine suggestions in the complete article here.

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The night before her first day of school, Sarah's daughter exclaimed, "I just want to stay with you every second of my life, goodness sakes, United States of America." Now at 13, her tune has changed.

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