The Things Loving Parents Do That Might Unintentionally Feed Anxiety in Children – And What to Do Instead

The Ways Loving Parents Might Unintentionally Feed Anxiety - And What to Do Instead

Anxiety is persuasive and determined and it’s masterful at organising families, days and lives around itself. If you have a child who struggles with anxiety, take heart – it’s very possible to change anxiety’s heavy hand in your child’s life. With guidance, information and strategies, anxiety can be given the place is deserves, which is somewhere well away from centre stage.

First things first. Anxiety in children – how to stop giving it oxygen.

It’s very likely that if you have an anxious child, you would have tried everything to try to make a difference. There are no right or wrong ways to parent an anxious child, but there are some things that will work well from the outset, some that will be handy in the short-term but messy in the long run, and some that will be a monumental disaster from the beginning. The only common thing about these strategies is that they are all likely to come from a place of deep love (maybe sometimes tinged with desperation – completely understandable) but always motivated by love. 

You will always be the expert on your child, and it’s important to ‘go with your gut’ on what works best. Here are some things to think about that in the short-term might seem to work well, but which might actually be keeping your child’s anxiety plumped up, strong and well-fed.

1. Avoidance

Avoidance can disguise itself in many different ways. Sometimes it will look obvious, such as refusing to try out for extra-curricular activities (‘I’m not really interested in playing soccer/ doing the school play this year’), or going to the library at lunch to avoid the playground. Avoidance can also look less obvious, such as the child who goes over and over his or her homework (to avoid making a mistake), or the who takes ages to make a decision (to avoid making the wrong one).

Avoidance is not your child trying to be difficult or manipulative. It certainly isn’t that. If the behaviour is driven by anxiety, it means your child is being steered by a brain that is warning them of danger. The powerful primal instincts that have kept us safe by directing us away from furry predators, dark alleys or oncoming traffic, are the same instincts that are driving your child to avoid whatever feels threatening for them. Whether the rest of the world thinks the threat is reasonable or rational is irrelevant – it’s reasonable and rational for them and that’s what matters.

When children show overwhelming fear or anxiety, it’s completely understandable that a loving parent would want to protect them from those bad feelings. Sometimes, whether through exhaustion or a lack of options, it can feel as though the only way to soothe their distress is to support their avoidance. This can lead to short-term relief for everyone (which sometimes is desperately needed!) but avoidance has a frustrating way of making things worse in the long run and keeping the anxiety well fed. Here’s how:

•  Avoidance takes away the opportunity to learn that fear is a warning, not a prediction. It gets in the way of kids learning that whatever is worrying them most likely won’t happen at all, and that if it does, they are resilient, strong and resourceful enough to cope. Instead, they learn that the best way to deal with an unfamilliar or difficult situation is to avoid it.

•  When avoidance happens too often, it can become the default way of responding to the world. This is when the world can start to feel like a dangerous place. The risk is that children will start feeling as though they always need to be on the watch for trouble, which can be exhausting for everyone.

•  Avoidance teaches kids to steer themselves away from unpredictable or unfamiliar situations. They become less willing to experiment and explore the world, looking instead for experiences that come with security and comfort. The more they do this, the smaller their world becomes.

Avoidance is a completely understandable, intuitive response but the more something is avoided, the more that avoidance is confirmed as the only way to feel safe. Sometimes avoidance will be a sensible option, and sometimes it will interrupt their reach into the world.

2. Protecting or Overprotecting?

When there is a threat, protective behaviour is part of being a loving and committed parent. It’s what turns parents into superheroes. Protective behaviour might include supporting avoidance, organising the environment to make it feel safer, or changing plans to accommodate the child’s anxiety. Sometimes this is exactly what’s needed, but when it happens too often and too unnecessarily, it can get in the way of children discovering their own courage, strength and resilience. It can also stop them from realising that the world, though unfamiliar at times, isn’t always as scary as it feels.

3. Excessive reassurance.

If your child has had a genuine fright or is about to do something brave, there’s nothing like a cuddle and heartfelt reassurance to soften the hurt and steady the ground beneath them. Even as adults, having someone tell us things will be okay is a comforting, nurturing and a completely lovely thing to hear. Like so many things we humans love though, reassurance can become unhelpful when it becomes excessive. Too much of a good thing can be wonderful, and sometimes it can lead to anxiety.

Excessive reassurance can unintentionally undermine the capacity for children to grow their own confidence and self-support. If you are the one who always provides the scaffold between an anxious though and a brave response, it will be even more difficult for an anxious child to find their own.

4. Modelling: They’re watching and learning everything you do.

Your children will look to you for how to interpret the world and the things that happen in it. It’s how little humans become healthy, competent big ones. They will always learn what they see more surely than what they are told. If you are quick to show anxiety towards the world or the people in it, avoid difficult or unfamiliar situations, or are hesitant to trust your own capacity to cope, they will learn to do the same. 

Anxiety isn’t easy to turn off. Despite your very best intentions, if you naturally have your own tilt towards anxiety, it will be very easy to transmit to your child the message that the world is unsafe. This does NOT means that you are the cause of your child’s anxiety. It definitely doesn’t mean this. Anxiety is a physiological response and is in no way explained by modelling. If your child already tends towards anxiety though, it’s very possible that he or she will pick up on the things you do that support their view of the world as being a dangerous place, and that avoidance is the way to manage that danger.

For a child who has no predisposition towards anxiety, watching you do the things that soften your own anxiety, might not make any difference at all. With an anxious child though, your anxious behaviours will work to firm up theirs. The good news is that with this much influence, they will also be watching and learning from your brave, resilient behaviours.

But if you can influence their anxiety, you can influence their resilience.

If you tend towards anxiety yourself, this will also be one of your most valuable assets in supporting your child with his or her own anxiety. An anxious brain is also a wonderfully sensitive brain, and it will fuel a strong capacity to connect with your child. Your experiences and the wisdom you would have gained from dealing with your own anxiety will be a great source of information and strength for your child. The key is to find the balance between using this insight to fuel brave behaviour, and not anxiety.

Anything you can do to tolerate and manage your own stress and anxiety will be powerful for your child. They watch everything you do and want to be just like you. The power you have to heal them is remarkable. Here are some ways to do that. 

  • Be careful not to pre-empt their anxiety.

    It’s important that kids are encouraged to talk about their feelings, but try to avoid questions that will lead their anxiety. For example, if you know they have something coming up that might trigger their anxiety, watch them and be ready, but avoid asking leading questions such as, ‘Are you worried about what’s going to happen when you get to school?’ As an alternative, give them room to explore their own feelings, ‘How do you feel about school today?’

  • Support them, not their anxiety.

    Anxiety can be a sly little pony when it comes to your support. It can have you believing that you’re supporting your child, when anxiety is actually stealing your comfort and getting in the way of your child’s brave behaviour. Excessive reassurance, changing plans to accommodate the anxiety, or supporting avoidance too often are all intended to support your child, but they can actually make it easier for anxiety to flourish. To avoid this, validate your child’s fears, then gently encourage them towards brave behaviour. This way, they’ll feel the comfort and security of you, without letting anxiety steer them away from the things that can grow them. 

  • You don’t need to get rid of all of their anxiety.

    The goal is not to get rid of all of their anxiety, but to ease it back to a level that feels okay. If your child has been struggling with anxiety for a while, it’s very likely that there will only be two ways he or she experiences it – on or off. For your child, any anxiety will probably be experienced as bad anxiety, and there will be no such thing as ‘a little bit anxious’, or ‘anxious, but in a good way’.

    You might feel tempted to dampen all of your child’s anxiety by overly reassuring your child or with other protective behaviours. The problem with this is that the fears your child has will likely be very valid ones and it will be impossible to get rid of them completely. You can’t promise that your child will have a great time at school, or that he or she will love the new teacher or will never make a mistake in an exam. Your child won’t believe you anyway – way too clever for that – and it also runs the risk of having them feel dismissed, or as though you don’t ‘get it’. The important message is that being scared about something, doesn’t mean that ‘something’ will topple them. Your child might have an awful day at school or make a mistake in the exam – but they will be okay. What they are learning is that your expectations are realistic, and that you have absolute faith in their ability to cope with the tough stuff.

  • Model resilience.

    If we pretend that we always have it together, we are very subtly giving our kids the message that they should never struggle either. Kids will find it easier to learn from your brave behaviour when they know it doesn’t always come easily. Show them that you also worry or feel anxious sometimes AND that you can cope with that. This will have much more sway with them than having them think that you never get phased by anything at all. When it feels appropriate, gently share your own worries with your child, along with how you’re going to cope. 

    Of course, it’s always important to be careful with what or how much you share – you don’t want your stress to become their stress – but generally, if you’re okay, they’ll be okay.

    Try something like … ‘Well this is something new. I’m a little bit nervous because I don’t know anyone there, but when I think about it, the chances of something happening that I can’t deal with are pretty small.’ Show them that you believe in your capacity to cope – that’s the part you want them to learn. ‘I’ve been to plenty of these and I’ve never made a mess of things. Even if I did say something silly, I know I’ll be okay.’

  • Help them find the answers themselves.

    This is a powerful alternative to overly reassuring them that they’re safe. It can be wildly difficult to hold off on reassurance, particularly when all you want to do is scoop them up and protect them from the hard edges of the world. What’s healthier though, is setting them on a course that will empower them to find their own strength and resources to manage their anxiety themselves.

    When they look for reassurance, gently direct them to find the answers themselves. If, for example, your child asks, ‘What if you’re not there to pick me up on time?’ Rather than reassuring them excessively that you will be there (which might not make much of a dent in their anxiety anyway) try, ‘Let’s talk about that. How many times have I been late before?’ ‘What’s happened before when I’ve been late?’ ‘What do you think might happen if I’m not there right on time?’ The idea is to start steering them towards easing their own anxious minds, and gently uncovering their own resilience and capacity to cope. When you start to see a shift, let them know. ‘I love the way you are starting to think about this by yourself.’

  • Explain your anxiety and get them talking about theirs.

    Talking about your own stress and anxiety in an empowered, honest, open way will give your children permission to talk about and claim their own. The more they are able to own it, the more they will have the power to change it.

    For example, if your morning didn’t quite go as planned and the looming likelihood of being late to work unleashed a little ‘voice escalation’ in you, try something like, ‘This morning I started to worry about being late to an important meeting. I shouldn’t have yelled at you and I’m really sorry. There are other things that I could have done that would have been better for both of us. I think if we get more organised in the mornings it will be easier for us to get out the door. You can be a wonderful help with that.’

  • Teach them the language.

    The mind and the body are strongly connected and self-talk is the very powerful link between the two. Self-talk influences feelings, which then influence behaviour. If you have an anxious child, their self-talk is likely to be something like, ‘I don’t want to,’ ‘it’s really scary,’ ‘what if something goes wrong?’. 

    A simple way to redirect their self-talk to something more empowering is by a process called ‘reframing’. This involves redefining ‘anxious’ feelings as ‘excited’ ones – but you might have to go first to show them how it’s done. Research has found that a simple shift in the way anxiety is framed is a powerful way to ease anxiety. 

    The reason for this is that anxiety and excitement are very similar. They are both highly alert states, and they have similar physiological processes such as sweating, butterflies and a racy heart. The difference is the focus. Anxiety focuses on the negatives of a situation (‘What if I say something silly?’) whereas excitement focuses on what’s to gain (‘I’m going to have fun when I settle in.’)  Labelling a feeling as ‘anxiety’ shifts the focus to potential threats and sets up thoughts of everything that could go wrong. Relabelling the feeling as ‘excited’ brings to mind more positive, thoughts of what might happen. The focus is shifted towards the opportunities rather than the threats. 

    Modelling this in your own anxious moments will help teach your children the language they can use to support themselves through their own anxiety. For example, rather than, ‘I hate going to these things when I don’t know anybody. I really don’t want to go,’ try, ‘I’m feeling a little anxious about being in a room with so many people I don’t know, but I know I’ll be okay. I’m kind of excited about doing something brave. I’ll enjoy it when I settle in.’

  • Acknowledge any brave behaviour, (but you already knew that).

    With all children, every time you attend to their brave behaviour, rather than their anxious behaviour, you’re helping them to see themselves in a different and stronger light. 

    There will be many things your child might do that won’t seem like a big deal, but which will be a huge deal for them. It’s all relative. Anxious kids are brave kids because they are constantly facing situations that challenge them, and they push through them even with anxiety working hard to drag them back to somewhere smaller and safer. Brave behaviour is whatever is brave for them, and has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else. It’s one of the beautiful things about being human – we don’t all have to do it in the same way.

And finally …

Make the shift towards new ways of responding to them gently. There’s no hurry. Changing the way you do things too suddenly could leave them feeling confused and even more anxious. 

Anxiety is a part of life. Every time we push against our own boundaries and try something new, there’s going to be anxiety in there somewhere. It’s healthy and normal and it lets us know that brave behaviour is needed. For our children to be completely rid of any anxiety, they would have to live well within their comfort zones. As cosy and as wanted as this might be, they also need to grow and push against their boundaries from time to time, so those boundaries don’t tighten around them.

Kids will always look through your lens, and when they see the pictures of themselves that you see, as someone who is compassionate, resilient, strong and brave and able to walk through fearful, anxious times with courage, resilience and strength, this is what they will see in themselves. 

You might also like …

‘Hey Warrior’ is the book I’ve written for children to help them understand anxiety and to find their ‘brave’. It explains why anxiety feels the way it does, and it will teach them how they can ‘be the boss of their brains’ during anxiety, to feel calm. It’s not always enough to tell kids what to do – they need to understand why it works. Hey Warrior does this, giving explanations in a fun, simple, way that helps things make sense in a, ‘Oh so that’s how that works!’ kind of way, alongside gorgeous illustrations.

 

 

23 Comments

kelly l

Hi I thought your article was great. I have a 14 yr old son who has come to me tonight & said he gets times where he feels so timid & shy, He feels like he doesn’t want to exist briefly. This has come as a bit of a shock as he has shown no signs of feeling like this. I’m not sure what to do next???? If theres any suggestions you have i’d be more than happy to hear them

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May

Hi Karen,

I have an 8 year old girl who has always been quiet and having anxiety symptoms but is otherwise happy and coping well in school. Last year, she was selected for her school’s competitive gymnastics team and has 2-3 times of training per week. Her coach is pretty strict and can be rather fierce but she is not abusive.

The past month she has been very anxious about going for trainings to the extent she will be crying and teary in school the entire morning till she goes for gym in the afternoon. When she’s at gym training she is fine and actually seem happy afterwards.

We have tried breathing exercises, challenging her worries etc. But this has been ongoing for the past one month. It’s also causing distress to us parents since it comes round every week. I don’t wish for her to stop the trainings as it would be avoidance. Or should I since otherwise she is happy at school. Or should I just let her cry and continue to manage it. Would it lead to her having depression? Thank you for any advice. It is hard knowing what to do and most people don’t understand what we are going through.

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Caroline

Hi, my 10-year-old daughter always slept alone in her bedroom quite happily until our car was stolen off the drive a year ago (the thieves fished our car keys out through the letter box). Around this time, the Fire Brigade visited her school and homework that night was to work out how to get out of her bedroom if a fire started. Since then, my daughter has been anxious about sleeping in her room. At first we reassured her and stayed with her in her room until she fell asleep but she got increasingly anxious so we started letting her sleep with us: otherwise she was still awake at midnight, worrying about not getting to sleep and struggling next day at school. Unintentionally we have allowed her to ‘avoid’ the situation that makes her anxious and now I don’t know where to start to turn things around. We had a few CBT sessions in the summer holidays and although some of the things she practised (e.g mindfulness) have helped, she still refuses to sleep on her own and no longer wants to go on sleepovers with friends or on school residentials. Her world is shrinking. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Karen Young

Caroline your daughter has had a big scare and her response is understandable. This article will explain how her anxiety around this has developed, and why her response is so strong, as well as some strategies to try https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-kids-and-teens-avoidance-brave-behaviour/ .
Also try the stepladder strategy in this article https://www.heysigmund.com/phobias-and-fears-in-children/. As the article explains, the most important thing is getting her on board with the plan, as well as ensuring that the steps you both develop are very gentle and gradual https://www.heysigmund.com/phobias-and-fears-in-children/. She will be able to get through this, but let her take the time she needs getting there.

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Stacey

Hi. I have an extremely anxious child. I cannot leave him for a minute. We have had to take him out of school as he was so stressed and breaking out in hives. I cannot get him to join anything where he will be left alone. He is 6.

I have been to a psychiatrist but was most unhelpful.

I need help.

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Karen Young

Stacey it sounds as though your son needs some extra outside support to help him through this and to help him learn ways to manage his anxiety. If you weren’t happy with the psychiatrist, I would encourage you to try a different counsellor or therapist until you find one you feel comfortable working with. Counselling is like all other professions – not all counsellors or therapists are going to feel right for all people. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the particular counsellor, just that the combination as client/therapist isn’t quite right. Keep going until you find someone that feels right for your son

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Clare

Do you have any suggestions to help with selective mutism? Our teenage son is also Asperger so the complex combination of anxiety is tricky.

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Karen Young

Selective mutism is manageable, but it often requires professional support. If you can (and perhaps you are already) I would suggest reaching out to a counsellor or therapist who has experience with selective mutism. That way, they can work more directly with your son to find a strategy that fits just right for him.

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Virginia

I have an 8 year old son who is always worried… he worries about everything and everyone.. he cried cause I took too long at the store cause he said he thought I got into an accident. He says he always feels like hes in a dream like he cant tell whether hes alive or dreaming or he says sometimes hes like who are these people are they my parents. And it scares him and he gets super anxious. I dont know what to do… I have struggled with anxiety my whole life and his anxiety is so hard on my I feel so terrible

Reply
Sue Wynne

There is a facebook page for SMIRA which is a charity which offers advice to those with Selective Mutism. My son suffered with this.

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Kathy

Thank you so much for this insightful post. As a mum of 4, one of which suffers from high anxiety I am always looking for ideas on helping him. I see many of my own battles as being ones he faces now- so I think it is a great idea to look at how we can talk them through the anxiety and put it in a different light. Thanks!

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Caroline Hopton

Hello

I would like to buy this book. Is it available in the UK?

Thanks.

Caroline

Reply
Billie

Excellent! I have two sons and both have to deal with being anxious at times as I do too! We are gym rats and that helps a lot ! As the parent I raised hurried children and not enough balance in their lives.I am now 82 so wish I had slowed down myself as it may could have helped them at a early age?

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Sim

Having regrets or even wondering if things would have been different will only make you more anxious.

Your path was meant to be a hurried parent and they chose to come into the life you provided so no dont wish you had done anything different. Life is so much more than most people understand.

Anxiety for me taught me I could beat and fight anything. Having it as a child was the greatest gift fast forward 20 years on. Your children will benefit from such an early lesson in life.

Teaching them about having a voice of compassion is highly beneficial.

Also get them to watch the free show with Widdel and Teal. Widdel is thenegative voice and Teal is the voice of the Distractor, the one who makes us realize we are excited by change not scared by it.

The gym particularly cardio can spike Cortisol which creates anxiety. You are better of shortening your sessions or having long sessions at a slower pace to burn off just enough cortisol (particularly in the morning when it’s at its highest). Alternatively muscle strengthening is beneficial for those with anxiety.

You did well. You did the best you could. No more question marks about what would have come if you slowed down yourself.

You did a great job, the best you could with what you knew back then. If you knew better you would have done better.

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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