Anxiety can mean danger, but it can also mean there is something brave or important they need to do.
The problem is that anxiety will feel the same for both - for brave, growthful, important things (scary-safe), and dangerous things (scary-dangerous).
Of course if they are in danger, we need to protect them from that. But as long as they are safe, we have another very important job to do - to give them the experiences they need to recognise they can handle the discomfort of anxiety.
If the brain hasn’t had enough experience of this brave, important thing, it’s going to be on guard - not because this is dangerous, but because it’s unfamiliar, hard, unpredictable.
Ask, ‘Is this scary-safe, or is this scary-dangerous?’ If they are safe, help them recognise their anxiety is there because they are about to do something brave, or important, or something that matters. The existence of anxiety is exactly what makes it brave. Then ask, ‘What’s one little step you can take towards that brave, important thing?’
It doesn’t matter how small or how long it takes. What matters is the experience of handling the discomfort of anxiety. Courage is not about outcome, but about handling that discomfort. If they’ve handled that discomfort this week for longer than they did last week, then they’ve been brave enough. These are the profound, important, necessary foundations for recognising they can feel anxious and do brave.♥️
Sometimes the hardest thing about talking to someone about our ‘stuff’ is starting the chat. Let them know that if they ever want to talk, it will be enough (and so brave) if they come to you with something, like, ‘I want to talk but I don’t know how to start,’ and you’ll help them from there.
Even when they’re so small, they’re noticing how we handle the little things to gauge how we’ll handle the big things.
Are we available? Are we warm? Are we safe? Do we try to hurry their words and feelings? Or are we patient and gentle? Do we jump too quickly to problem solving? Or can we listen even when the words don’t make sense? Can we handle the messy stuff? Or are we best when things are tidy. (And big feelings, big thoughts, and big questions are rarely ‘tidy’ - important and necessary - but rarely tidy.)
Let them know you can handle any of their feelings and any of their thoughts. Even if the words and feelings are messy, that’s okay - the important part is to get them out.♥️
Oh I’m so excited about this! I’m joining @michellemitchell.author, @maggiedentauthor, and @drjustincoulson for the Resilient Kids Conference. We’ll be coming to Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Launceston. This is going to be so packed with information and strategies to support young people towards courage and resilience. We know our kids have everything inside them be brave, strong, and resilient. Now to make sure they know it too. We’d love you to join us.♥️
Tickets on sale now. (https://www.resilientkidsconference)
@resilientkidsconference We are in love with Karen Young - Hey Sigmund's blog Hey Sigmund... and I know so many of you have her children’s books in your home. Why not come and meet her in person? She’s equally as fabulous.
Karen is going to talk about being stronger than anxiety. For many anxiety is an intrusive part of everyday life, with the effects often stealing into families, classrooms and friendships. Anxiety can potentially undermine the way children see themselves, the world and their important place in it – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Anxiety is very manageable when it is recognised and responded to.
If you like to have a further look at what she will be speaking about, you can find it here: https://www.resilientkidsconference.com.au/
It is so true thay anxiety can feel brutal for so many young people (and older ones). Sometimes we, the adults who love them, also get caught in the tailwhip of anxiety. We wonder if we should be protecting them from the distress of anxiety, while we look at them wishing so much that they could see how magnificent and powerful and amazing they truly are.
Anxiety has a way of hiding their magic under stories of disaster (‘What if something bad happens?’) and stories of deficiency (‘I’m not brave enough/ strong enough for this.’)
But we know they are enough. They are always enough. Brave/ new/ hard things (scary-safe) will often feel the same as truly unsafe things (scary-dangerous). Anxiety can’t tell the difference. It’s like a smoke alarm - it can’t tell the difference between smoke from burnt toast and smoke from a fire.
Just because a smoke alarm squeals at burnt toast, this doesn’t make it faulty. It’s doing exactly what we need it to do. The problem isn’t the alarm (or the anxiety) but the response.
Of course, sometimes getting safe is exactly the right response, and sometimes moving forward with the anxiety is. Their growth comes in knowing which response when.
Our job as their important adults isn’t to hush the noise or the discomfort that comes from their anxiety, but to give the experiences (when it’s safe) to recognise that they can feel anxious and do brave.
Anxiety is not about breakage. It is a strong, powerful, beautiful brain doing exactly what brains are meant to do: warn us of possible danger.
Danger isn’t about what is safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. ‘Danger’ can be physical or relational (any chance of humiliation, judgement, shame, exclusion, separation). Brave, new, hard things are full of relational threats - but they are safe. Scary, but safe.
Growth comes from having enough experiences with scary safe to recognise that they can feel anxious, and do brave. Having those experiences might feel too big sometimes, but as long as they aren’t alone in the distress of that, they are safe.
They can feel anxious and do brave. ‘Yes you are anxious, and yes, you are brave.’ ‘Yes you are anxious, and you are powerful.’♥️
Such a great night with over 100 parents at Gumdale State School, on how to strengthen young people against anxiety. I love this school. First, staff joined me for a workshop, then parents.
This school is doing so much as part of their ‘everyday’ to support the wellbeing of students. When the staff and parent community are able to share the same language and the same ideas around anxiety and wellbeing, students will feel the wrap around of their important adults around them. This will help make sure young people in the very best position to learn, connect, and grow. These kids are in strong, capable hands.♥️