Dealing with Anxiety: Using the Strength of an Anxious Mind to Calm Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety: Using the Strength of an Anxious Mind to Calm Anxiety

An anxious mind is a strong, powerful mind, as anyone who has tried to rationalise themselves out of anxiety will tell you. An anxious mind can outrun, outpower and outwit rationality and logic any day of the week. What if you could harness the strength and power of that fiercely protective mind and use it to work for you instead of against you? 

Anxiety exists on a spectrum and we all experience it at some level. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Anxiety is a very normal response from a strong, healthy brain that thinks there might be trouble about, and instantly responds by making us stronger, faster, more powerful, more alert versions of ourselves.

Like any good thing though, too much is too much. When the brain is oversensitive to threat, it puts us on high alert even when there is no need to be. This is when anxiety becomes intrusive and hard to live with. It turns from the gentle security guard who shows up when needed, to the crasher who steals the joy, tells stories about nameless dangerous things, and cozies up beside you so close it’s hard to breathe, think and be.

Why is anxiety so powerful?

Anxiety is there to keep us safe. It is a call to action to fight or flee so we can move through danger. It’s there to keep us out of the way of trouble so the signals it sends have to be strong. The problem is that those signals aren’t always accurate. Anxiety is instinctive and automatic. It’s been practising its moves for thousands of years. That’s the thing about evolution – sometimes it works for us, sometimes it makes us vulnerable to anxiety. 

Anxiety was never meant to get in our way, but rather, to get us out of the way of danger. The part of the brain that drives anxiety thinks it’s doing the right thing. The more we fight it, the harder it will work to convince us that there’s danger and that we need to act. 

So if fighting an anxious mind doesn’t work, what then?

We know that an anxious mind is a strong, powerful mind. What if we could harness the strength and power of that fiercely protective mind and use it to work for us instead of against us? As strong as a mind can be in its experience of anxiety, it can be equally strong in calming it. Anxiety might still show up, but rather than appearing as the wolf at the door and sending your fiercely protective brain into a panic, it can be greeted more in the way of, ‘Oh hey there – I know you. Take a seat over there.’

We know that over time, mindfulness works to build and strengthen a brain against anxiety, but there are aspects of mindfulness that can be used in the midst of anxiety to find calm. With practice, they can be called on at will to turn down the volume on anxious thoughts and feelings, and any other symptoms that anxiety tends to keep company with. 

But go gently …

Changing mindset involves small, repeated steps. Each step builds on the one before it, and this takes time. That’s okay though – there’s no hurry. Remember, your mind has been doing what it’s doing for a while and it will take a while to unlearn its habits.

Those habits have had a good reason for being there. Anxious thoughts and anxious feelings keep us alive. They put us on standby to deal with anything that gets in the way. It’s going to take some convincing to show them that actually, the only thing getting in the way, are them.

Don’t try to do all of these strategies at once. Trying to keep a hold of so many different things will make your mind do the equivalent of throwing its hands in the air and walking away. Instead, choose one at a time and do it for a short while at a time. Small steps, but important ones. If you try to do them all at once, there is the risk of it feeling too hard. When things feel difficult, it is normal to run back to what’s familiar. The way around this is to go gently. Here’s how …

Dealing with Anxiety – Using the power of an anxious mind. 

Anxiety is the power of the mind against the mind. That power is your greatest asset – and it’s an exceptional one. Now to claim it back so you can use it in a way that will build and strengthen you.

  1. Be present. Be where you are, not where your anxiety wants to take you.

    Anxiety works by using a solid collection of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’ to haul even the strongest, bravest mind from a present that feels manageable and calm, to a future that feels uncertain and threatening. Experiment with staying fully present in the moment. Anchor yourself by opening up your senses. What do you see, feel, hear, taste, know? Stay with what is actually happening, rather than what might happen. If this feels uncomfortable, put a time limit on it, let’s say, two minutes to start with. Spend this time fully experiencing the world as it is around you now.

    Every time you do this, you will be strengthening your ability to pull back from the anxious thoughts that steal you away from the safety and security of where you are. Try to get into a regular practice each day, for however long you can – two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes – it doesn’t matter. There’s no right amount, but the longer the better. The main thing is to keep doing it. The brain strengthens and rewires with experience, and this is an experience that is so strengthening and healthy, your brain will love for it. 

    Try: ‘Right now, I’m here and I’m safe. I see the sky. I feel the breeze against my skin. I hear my footsteps’

  2. Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry to change your thoughts and feelings.

    Thoughts and feelings will come, they will stay, and then they will go. No thought or feeling stays forever. Be patient and know that whatever you are feeling, or whatever you are thinking, it will pass.

    Experiment with being fully present, without needing to push away any thoughts or feelings. There is no anxious feeling and no anxious thought that is stronger than you. However big they feel, you will always be stronger and more resilient. Be patient. Be open. Be curious. See what wisdom lies at the end of your anxious thoughts and feelings if you stay with them, rather than fight them. Let them stay for long enough to realise that you have no need for them today. 

     Try: ‘An anxious thought. That’s okay – you’ll leave when you’re ready.’

  3. Be an observer. Watch your thoughts and feelings without engaging with them. 

    Anxiety has a way of drawing you in and making you engage with every anxious thought that comes in thinking distance of you. It’s exhausting! Experiment with standing back and watching your thoughts as an observer, knowing that when they are ready, they will pass. Sometimes we need to engage with thoughts and feelings, and sometimes we need to stand back and wait for them move on. Try imagining your thoughts and feelings as a bubble, and then watch them float by.

    Experiment with letting them be, without needing to change them, understand them, or talk yourself out of them. Imagine them hovering in the air around you, without becoming a part of you. Just let them be, without holding on too tightly. When they are ready to go, let them go. Think of it like this – rather than standing in the middle of a thunderstorm, trying to change the direction of the wind, imagine yourself watching that storm through a window, knowing that it will pass. 

    Try: ‘There’s a thought about what might happen if it rains on the holiday. Look at that. Didn’t know that was there.’

    ‘A feeling about going to the interview. Interesting.’

  4. Trust your anxiety. Know that it won’t hurt you. 

    There are a lot of reasons anxiety feels so awful. Two of the big ones are because it comes with a bunch of ‘unknowns’, and because the physical feelings don’t make sense. A curious, strong, thoughtful mind will try to put these feelings and thoughts in context, because the idea that they are free-floating and not attached to anything feels even worse. You might find yourself wondering if your physical symptoms are a sign of something more serious. You might wonder if that ‘bad feeling’ means something bad is actually going to happen. You might worry about the worry (this is common with anxiety) – what’s driving it, how to you stop it.  that your anxiety isn’t a sign of something bigger. This is hard to do but the more you practice it, the stronger you will be at calming your anxious thoughts and not believing the messages they contact. Anxiety is there as a warning, not a prediction. Feel the security and safety of what that means for you.

    Try: ‘My heart feels as though it is pounding through my chest. This is anxiety. It’s not a symptom of something bigger. I’m safe.’

  5. Trust yourself. You are strong. You are resourceful. You will cope. You always have.

    Trust that whatever happens, you can deal with it – because you can, you absolutely can. This might not feel real for you at first, and that’s okay. Go with it and see what the experience has to give you. This is a learning process and it will take time. Underlying all worry, anxiety and stress is fear that we won’t be able to cope. Fear of failure, for example isn’t fear of the failure but fear that you won’t cope with the failure. Ditto for rejection, making a wrong decision – anything. You will cope. You’ve proven it over and over. See what happens when you move towards trusting that. If it doesn’t feel real, pretend until it does. From the outside it will look the same anyway.

    Try: ‘Whatever happens, I will cope. I always have.’ 

  6. Meet your anxiety where it is, without needing you or it to be different. 

    It’s paradoxical, but sometimes, the more we try to change something the more energy we give it, and the more it stays the same. (Keep telling yourself not to think of pink gorillas. Try really hard not to think of them. Keep telling yourself to stop thinking of pink gorillas. See how that works?) Anxious thoughts take up a lot of precious head space. They draw on our feelings, focus, thoughts and imagination. The more we try to make sense of them and control them, the more they feed into anxiety. Instead, experiment with being with your anxiety as it is, without needing to change it. Acceptance doesn’t make a feeling stronger or more enduring. It stops giving it energy.

    What you focus on is what becomes powerful. The more you focus on something, the more it flourishes and expands.Try to be with your anxiety without pushing against it. Don’t force it to go or to be different than it is. This will let you understand your anxiety more, which will bring it out of the dark and into a space in which you can deal with it.

    This isn’t easy, but it’s powerful. Try it in little bits and work up from there. Start with letting your feelings be as they are for two minutes, or however long feels okay for you. Sit with them, without needing them to be different. Then if you want to, after that you can give them your attention and try to turn them into something else. When you can, let them be as they are again. See how this feels, then when you’re ready, work up to longer.

    Try: ‘I am having a worried thought. My hands are clammy. My mouth is dry. This is anxiety]. And that’s okay.’

  7. Clear your filter.

    Messages and experiences from the past have a way of changing the filter through which we look at the rest of the world. This is the way it works for all of us – anxiety or no anxiety.

    Try to approach experiences and moments as though you are experiencing them for the first time. Even if you have been in many similar situations before, none of them will be exactly like this one. Notice the differences between what is and what has been. With every experience, you are changed somehow – wiser, braver, stronger, more capable, sometimes more anxious, more worried, more fearful. Be open to the new possibilities that can come from this new experience, because that’s what it is – a new experience.

    For example, if you have had a painful breakup, there might be a tendency to hold back from loving wholeheartedly again. New people and new relationships might feel risky. This is completely understandable, and staying away is a move that will keep you safe, but it will close down the possibilities and promise that are waiting for you to find them. Growth happens when we open ourselves up to ‘what is’, rather than letting new experiences be coloured by ‘what has been’. 

    Try: ‘This is a brand new experience. I’m open to discovering what will unfold for me here.’

    ‘This reminds me of all the times I’ve had to meet new people. These people are different. I’m different. This experience is different.’

  8. Surrender. Let go of the need for certainty, even if it’s just for a moment.  

    The future is always uncertain, so anxiety has a pretty easy time of causing a stir. Not everything will go to plan and that’s okay, but the more we try to control things, the more we tend to realise how little control we have. This will feel uncomfortable at first, so start with surrendering to the uncertainty for a small amount of time. Experiment with letting go of needing to control the moment, the future, the past, or the people around you. The more you are able to lean in to your uncertainty and tolerate it, the less power it will have over you.

    Try: ‘I don’t know what will happen if I have to change plans. And that’s okay.’

And finally …

Think of these strategies like drops in a bucket. The first time you try them, you might not notice much. Same with the second time, and the third time. Eventually though, the more you experiment with them and the more you use them, the more capacity you will have to harness the strength of your wild and beautiful mind and make it work more in your favour. You will learn that you will always have what it takes and that anxiety is a feeling that comes and then it will go, just like a bad weather day. You’re a fighter – you’ve been fighting anxiety and winning for a while now. You’re strong, brave and resilient and you have everything you need inside you to deal with anything that might stand in your way. 

159 Comments

Greta J

I really loved your tips to just wait and listen to the storm in your brain without trying to calm it so that you can let it all pass. I have really bad anxiety, and it is affecting my life and my productivity. I will have to try your tips, but I wonder if I should look for counseling to help me work through things.

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Simon G

Hi Karen
Been facing some anxiety in my life and getting to the guts of the source of that and in doing so getting results. How is it going with you.

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Simon

I have been dealing (or trying to) with anxiety from a very very young age. After struggling for so long I noticed in other species and nature by being still the body is able to process what is not necessary in terms of thought processes. This brings me back to a natural sense of myself and that anxiousness dissolves.

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Chezen S

Great article. I tend to think anxiety as a mirage to a thirsty man in the desert. If you believe it, you are likely to run after it, drying you up faster. If you keep calm and take it for what it is…..you might wait until help shows up or find Real water! It is a question of perception I guess

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Lu

I recently moved back in with my partner after two years. I’m pregnant. I’ve been getting anxiety everytime I come home from work. My mind has been drifting. Making up scenarios and preparing myself for disappointment when I get home. I can’t relax. I don’t trust them even tho I have no actual evidence of anything that shows they can’t be trusted. They are loving, supporting and caring. There is great fear that they have feelings for another person, that they will do something that will hurt me, drugs, lie to me, etc. I needed to read this. Thank you. I definitely need to practice letting anxiety be and it will pass. I’ve been dealing with it alone sometimes I let it be known to my partner but they are so great that I don’t want to make them feel any less. I’m definitely going to practice these routines.

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Tshering A

THANK YOU for this wonderful article. It has surely given me hope which is the most precious thing one could ever lose. I’ve been fighting this for a while now and I strongly believe that I can surely overcome my fears. It’s hard to describe what you don’t understand and it’s even harder to be brave when the thing that scares you is you. My advice to all those going through this is never to lose HOPE and know that you are not alone. Do what you have to do with a positive mind, stay strong and I promise you this, you will beat this. The strongest among us are the ones who’ve fought this battle and won on their own to which others are unaware of. Remember, you are strong.

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JrGirl88

I experience anxiety when driving. Driving used to be my favorite thing to do, it calmed me down, it gave me alone time, I could be a star singing along to the radio… it was great! A couple of weeks ago I had a medical issue while in the car with my son. I managed to get him where he needed to go and drove myself to the hospital. The medical issue has since been resolved and I am fine medically. The doctors told me I’m as healthy as a professional athlete. That made me giggle… I’d rather chill on the couch than work out! Ever since that day I’m terrified every time I get in the car with him by myself that I’m going to put him in danger. I know it’s completely irrational and ridiculous but the feeling is still there. I’m excited to try the suggestion in this article and see how it can help me. Thank for publishing it!

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Pamela

This is an amazing way to be comforted full of positivity and hope practice makes perfect they say thanks so much for this reassurance greatly appreciate

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Eileen Mulcahy

This is a very helpful article. It makes sense of anxiety and explains it really well. It is a very good resource for those who struggle with anxiety. Thank you very much for making it simple as this will help lots of people. I, for one, will pass this on to others who will surely benefit from its wisdom. Eileen Mulcahy Ireland

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Udokanma

I was married at a very tender age and was maltreated, abused and unloved. Later became a widow with four children. I lived on a very small income. No help and later became anxious. When I started noticing instabilities in my body. I became afraid of developing High blood pressure and insanity. This lasted for years. But thanks to God that my fears never prevailed. But that anxiety reappeared and I want it to go entirely.

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Ofentse

I only just read this now and it was so connecting because at some point when see you people doing their mundane you think that you’re the only who feels crazy or maybe is not fine, but in reality you’re perfectly it’s just a state of mind and you just to get control over it. I thought I was alone too, and that I won’t be fine because it’s so fast and never ending how it controls your mind. Reading comments and commenting too is really helpful for me, and I hope for others too. It might be on a single mind, I get it but talking to people who know the feeling can help a lot because they can relate. Thank you Karen and all who are part of this.

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cici

I woke up this morning with my usual feelings of anxiety. I have developed small stupid senseless fears all because of anxiety. I LOVE this article! Thank you for sharing, Karen!! It has helped reassure that anxiety is nothing but an uncomfortable feeling. Due to my anxiety i now have a fear of my heart beating fast, specifically when i am done eating a heavy meal or if i am alone in a place. (Stupid right!?) i try meditation and this does help, but it still happens from time to time. I feel trapped in my own mind.. i don’t get panic attacks often, and when j feel one coming i talk myself out of it.. or i try to embrace it… but it is such a scary state of mind to be in. Do you have any suggestions???

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Alina

I’m not the one who wrote the article but I overcame that fear. I just told myself my heart will race and speed up at any given and unknown time in an event or task that makes me downright anxious. If your heart does start to race then don’t let it get to you!! Even out your breathing by taking deep breaths in and out for 5 minutes. Calm yourself with positive thoughts of things you’re excited to do or hobbies you enjoy doing. Most important thing to know: It. Will. Pass. -no matter what or how long, it’ll pass and you WILL be okay. I’m obviously no expert but this helped me. I don’t know if it will work for you but I hope some help will come out of it for you.

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Jonathan A

I’ve been trying to get grip on my anxiety for decades. I didn’t realize how severely depressed I was as a child and teenager until I started trying to deal with anxiety as an adult. I believe that suffering through years of sexual and physical abuse traumatized me, destroyed my self esteem and trained my brain to think something bad was coming and it usually did. I developed bad social anxiety, afraid to speak to people individually or publicly. Anxiety has held me back in a lot of ways and I’ve spent years trying to figure out why I get so nervous when there’s nothing to be afraid of-I often wake up nervous and immediately have to start calming myself down. I have been able to overcome it and control it many times with breathing and positive thoughts spoken aloud or just feeling the panic then talking it down in my head. I’ve been able to rebuild myself over the years and now being single at 39, and just recently getting my heart broken, I don’t feel afraid of relationships but social anxiety still creeps in sometime. I have made huge progress over the years and am very sociable now instead of guarding myself from everybody. Articles like this help give me tools and ideas that I can use to help my individual situation. It takes time but I know if I continue to work on it I can make lasting changes because I already have.

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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