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Separation Anxiety Webinar

Separation Anxiety: How to Build Their Brave

Separation anxiety can come with loads of heartache for children and their important adults, but there's something else it comes with - the opportunity to strengthen all children against anxiety and build their brave - and we know they can be brave.

Saying 'goodbye' can be tough! Not only for our children, but for us too - even the strongest and bravest of parenting hearts can feel the wrenching that can come at separation. Separation anxiety exists for a good reason. We want our children to feel loved and supported, and we also want to build their brave so anxiety doesn't stand in the way of the important, growthful things they need to do.

Of course we'd rather our young ones never feel the tailwhip of separation anxiety, but so many young people (and the adults who love them) are going to experience anxiety at separation from a loved one. It's part of being human, but it doesn't have to hurt. As their important adult, you have a profound capacity to support them through separation anxiety and help them feel braver, stronger, and closer to you, even when you're not beside them - at school, at bedtime - any time they are away from you. In this one-and-a-half-hour webinar, we will explore practical, powerful ways to do this.

This is information I wish every parent could have. I'll be speaking to you from my professional experience, but more importantly, I'll be speaking to you from my parenting heart. Something you might not know about me is that my own experience with my daughter's separation anxiety when she was a little person is what led me to this work. (She's now one of the bravest women I know!

I know we can get kids through separation anxiety. I know the heartache. I know the feelings of helplessness. And I know we can get them through. 

If you can't make the 'live' online event, that's no problem at all. A recording of the webinar will be made available to all registered participants for 30 days.

We will explore:

  • why separation anxiety happens, and the important job it's there to do;
  • the thing all loving adults will do (we'll all do them!) that can inadvertently make their anxiety worse, and what to do instead;
  • why their anxiety will fuel yours;
  • what adults can do to soften the impact of separation;
  • how to respond in the midst of anxiety - strategies for children, parents and carers (including teachers and other important adults);
  • practical ways to support your child through separation anxiety;
  • specific strategies for bedtime anxiety;
  • the toolbox for young people - how to help all children feel bigger at separation;
  • the connection between anxiety and aggression, and how to respond to big behaviour in the moment;
  • the connection between anxiety, behaviour and learning, and how to work with this;
  • a road map for supporting your child through anxiety - before, during, and after;
  • why relationships matter, and how to facilitate relationships between children and their important adults (teachers, other important adults) in ways that will build brave behaviour.
Thursday 08 February 2024, 6:30 pm-8:30 pm
Online
Registration Closed

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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/parental-as-anything-with-maggie-dent/how-can-i-help-my-anxious-teen/104035562
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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