I recently took a webinar Masterclass with Renee Jain of GoZen.com. I want to share with you all some tips I learned over the course of the webinar. The webinar essentially covered tips and tools that us parents can utilize in working with our kiddos with anxiety. First and foremost, know that it is extremely […]
I recently took a webinar Masterclass with Renee Jain of GoZen.com. I want to share with you all some tips I learned over the course of the webinar. The webinar essentially covered tips and tools that us parents can utilize in working with our kiddos with anxiety. First and foremost, know that it is extremely common for children to experience anxiety. Our world sets us up to be anxious, perfectionistic, worry worms. Its no surprise that our little one’s are experiencing anxiety at a young age.
I remember as early as 6th grade worrying about getting into colleges. I remember certain teachers, when I was as young as 11, telling me that I need to focus on my grades to be successful for adulthood. What? How crazy is that? I was 11! This definitely set me up to be a super anxious kid; worrying about grades, tests, and completing homework assignments perfectly.
Stress and anxiety may seem like an evil notion. But I am going to give you a little secret. Worry can actually be a good thing. Studies have shown that stress can actually increase productivity, enhance performance, and be healthy- when interpreted correctly. Stay tuned and I’ll get into this more later on.
I want to share with you 9 tips you can use when working with your anxious child. These tips may seem foreign to you, as some may go completely against want you’re used to doing, but hang in there and give them a try!
- Stop reassuring! – This is probably the main thing that you do to help soothe or calm your child, however it can also be setting them up to fail and grow independently. Simply telling your child, ‘its okay’, ‘you are fine’, is actually dismissing their true concerns. Not only can it be dismissive, it also sets your child up to consistently need those reassuring statements and doesn’t allow for them to learn how to independently comfort themselves.
- Lean Into The Discomfort- Sounds backwards right? But yes, I am telling you to lean Actually allow yourself and your child to feel the discomfort, instead of covering it up with reassuring statements, timeouts, or avoidance. Let your child really experience the emotion. Allow feelings and problems to arise! I sort of made a twist on the acronym ‘FEEL’ from the webinar, which is as follows: F (let them Feel the emotion), E (Empathize with their emotions), E (Educate them on the facts), and L (Let go of your guilt). Remember this acronym- FEEL- when you are handling your child’s anxiety.
- Empathize- I want to elaborate on the letter E in the acronym FEEL. Empathizing is going to be your best friend in dealing with your anxious kiddo. Label their emotion, ‘I see you’re angry.’ Label the reaction, ‘I see you are tightening your fists.’ Really give them permission to feel the emotion and reaction. Simply touch your child and tell them, ‘You are safe’, and then give them some space to experience.
- Use some skills- 1) Fast Food Rule- simply repeat to them what they say to you, ‘I feel really worried I wont pass the test’, ‘I hear you saying you are really worried that you wont pass the test.’ Validate, validate, validate. 2) Deep Breathing- many kids struggle with the effectiveness of this skill. I like to add a twist to deep breathing by using ‘hot chocolate breathing’ (where they imagine them smelling the drink and then blowing on it slowly to cool it down). 3) Just be there.
- Worry Is Good- Worry is really a form of protection. Worry can also really allow us to perform better, enhance productivity, stimulate and challenge us. A study was done where a professor was administering the GRE exam. He told two sets of student’s two different statements before the test. The first set of students he told, ‘Stress is enhancing’ and the second set of students, ‘If you get stressed just focus.’ The first set of students actually performed better than the second set simply because of the positive statement spoke before the exam. Change your child’s view on stress and anxiety. The goal is not to be stress-free. The goal is to stress better! Simply switch the statement around to say, ‘I am experiencing excitement.’
- Verbal Interventions- Help your child to come up with more statements that helps them to turn their anxiety and stress into something positive. Here are a few that I think are extremely effective and helpful: ‘I feel my body preparing me for this challenge’, ‘I have butterflies in my stomach; my body is determined to do well on this test’, ‘A little stress can actually help me do good on this test’, ‘ My palms are sweating- I’m starting to get energy to do well on this test’ and ‘I’m getting excited to rise to the challenge.’
- Power Pose- Google this, it’s a real thing. Simply teaching your child how to stand like bat man, super man, or another super hero, can really set them up for increased self esteem in that moment. Try doing this with them before they are doing something scary for the first time, when they are feeling anxious, or when you notice worry surfacing. Stand tall, place your hands on your hips, legs hip distance apart, and chin up!
- Write Your Worries- Allow for about 10-15 minutes before a test or anxiety provoking experience, for your child to simply write all of their worries down on a piece of paper. This creates space between their worries and themselves as they begin to separate themselves from the anxieties.
- Make a Character- This one is my favorite: Widdle The Worrier. Create a character with your child in which they begin to externalize their anxiety and worries. Name the character, give him a description, draw the character, and have your child give them some advice! Tell stories about Widdle and have your child come up with ways to problem solve. Allow them to play detective with Widdle’s worries. If Widdle is worried about a test, allow your child to come up with ways to challenge those worries, after empathizing with Widdle first, of course J