The world has again been shaken by trauma. Many children will be distressed and confused by what they are seeing, hearing, or experiencing. Our children will be an important part of the healing moving forward but first, we have to bring a sense of safety to their world. The conversations we have with them now are as important for that, as they are for helping them grow into the adults the world is yearning for.
Anything that takes children and teens away from their important adults comes with the potential for anxiety to steal into their world. For even the bravest of hearts, this can cause more distress than it deserves to, especially in relation to school. As intrusive as school anxiety can be, it is not a sign of dysfunction or breakage. It is one of the most human experiences, and it can be managed.
When Anxiety Doesn’t Look Like Anxiety – How to Recognise and Manage Behaviour When Anxiety is the Fuel
When the world feels frightening or fragile, kids and teens might respond in ways that fall a decent way short of adorable. They might yell or hit, try to control you, refuse you, push away, push back, or just push. If their behaviour is fuelled by anxiety, it has nothing to do with ‘bad behaviour’ and everything to do with a brain that is trying to find its way back to safety.
I don’t know that there has ever been a time before when the world has been so completely united against a common enemy. That which has come to isolate us, unites us. At a time when we are having to physically distance ourselves from one another (and we must do this), it is faces and voices that are able to reach through the distance and uncertainty of it all and let our common humanity do its job. For me, this is not just through connecting with the ones I know, but by seeing in the faces and hearing in the words of strangers that more than ever, we are in this together. We are vulnerable together, anxious together, sad together, scared together, and in some sweet moments, hopeful.
When their days come with spikes, our children will turn to us. We won’t always be able to fix the breakages, but we don’t need to. We don’t need to do very much at all. As the important adult in their world, you have a profound capacity to soften the sharp edges and bring their world back to safe enough. Whatever is happening around them, whether it is a natural disaster, a global crisis, or world or family trauma, your words and your presence can heal and strengthen them like nothing else.
The relationship between anxiety and sleep is a complicated one. Sleep strengthens the brain against anxiety, but anxiety at bedtime stops sleep. Anxious thoughts will intrude at bedtime when the world is still, and bodies are still, and when young minds are meant to be still – but – a lack of sleep will make anxiety worse, which will make sleep the next night tougher, which will make anxiety worse.
“What is it with kids today? They don’t seem to have any resilience.”
“Life is tough. They need to harden up!”
Things you’ll never hear me say of course, but what many adults believe. And on the surface it may appear, especially to much older people, that today’s kids are too soft and spoilt to cope with life.