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

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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!

Reply
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?

Reply
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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Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’
I love being a parent. I love it with every part of my being and more than I ever thought I could love anything. Honestly though, nothing has brought out my insecurities or vulnerabilities as much. This is so normal. Confusing, and normal. 

However many children we have, and whatever age they are, each child and each new stage will bring something new for us to learn. It will always be this way. Our children will each do life differently, and along the way we will need to adapt and bend ourselves around their path to light their way as best we can. But we won't do this perfectly, because we can't always know what mountains they'll need to climb, or what dragons they'll need to slay. We won't always know what they’ll need, and we won't always be able to give it. We don't need to. But we'll want to. Sometimes we’ll ache because of this and we’ll blame ourselves for not being ‘enough’. Sometimes we won't. This is the vulnerability that comes with parenting. 

We love them so much, and that never changes, but the way we feel about parenting might change a thousand times before breakfast. Parenting is tough. It's worth every second - every second - but it's tough. Great parents can feel everything, and sometimes it can turn from moment to moment - loving, furious, resentful, compassionate, gentle, tough, joyful, selfish, confused and wise - all of it. Great parents can feel all of it.

Because parenting is pure joy, but not always. We are strong, nurturing, selfless, loving, but not always. Parents aren't perfect. Love isn't perfect. And it was meant to be. We’re raising humans - real ones, with feelings, who don't need to be perfect, and wont  need others to be perfect. Humans who can be kind to others, and to themselves first. But they will learn this from us. Parenting is the role which needs us to be our most human, beautifully imperfect, flawed, vulnerable selves. Let's not judge ourselves for our shortcomings and the imperfections, and the necessary human-ness of us.❤️
The behaviour that comes with separation anxiety is the symptom not the problem. To strengthen children against separation anxiety, we have to respond at the source – the felt sense of separation from you.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person, there will be always be anxiety unless there is at least one of 2 things: attachment with another trusted, adult; or a felt sense of you holding on to them, even when you aren’t beside them. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it needs more than an adult being present. Just because there is another adult in the room, doesn’t mean your child will experience a deep sense of safety with that adult. This doesn’t mean the adult isn’t safe - it’s about what the brain perceives, and that brain is looking for a deep, felt sense of safety. This will come from the presence of an adult who, through their strong, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for them, and their joy in doing so. The joy in caretaking is important. It lets the child rest from seeking the adult’s care because there will be a sense that the adult wants it enough for both.

This can be helped along by showing your young one that you trust the adult to love and care for your child and keep him or her safe in your absence: ‘I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.’ This doesn’t mean children will instantly feel the attachment, but the path towards that will be more illuminated.

To help them feel you holding on even when you aren’t with them, let them know you’ll be thinking of them and can’t wait to be with them again. I used to tell my daughter that every 15 seconds, my mind makes sure it knows where she is. Think of this as ‘taking over’ their worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about you or me because I’m taking care of both of us – every 15 seconds.’ This might also look like giving them something of yours to hold on to while you’re gone – a scarf, a note. You will always be their favourite way to safety, but you can’t be everywhere. Another loving adult or the felt presence of you will help them rest.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether to say anything at all. It doesn’t matter if the ‘right’ words aren’t there, because often there no right words. There are also no wrong ones. Often it’s not even about the words. Your presence, your attention, the sound of your voice - they all help to soften the hard edges of the world. Humans have been talking for as long as we’ve had heartbeats and there’s a reason for this. Talking heals. 

It helps to connect the emotional right brain with the logical left. This gives context and shape to feelings and helps them feel contained, which lets those feelings soften. 

You don’t need to fix anything and you don’t need to have all the answers. Even if the words land differently to the way you expected, you can clean it up once it’s out there. What’s important is opening the space for conversation, which opens the way to you. Try, ‘I’m wondering how you’re doing with everything. Would you like to talk?’ 

And let them take the lead. Some days they’ll want to talk about ‘it’ and some days they’ll want to talk about anything but. Whether it’s to distract from the mess of it all or to go deeper into it so they can carve their way through the feeling to the calm on the other side, healing will come. So ask, ‘Do you want to talk about ‘it’ or do you want to talk about something else? Because I’m here for both.’ ♥️
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