You are deeply worried because your daughter seems to be so overwhelmed and anxious all the time and nothing you say or do seems to re-assure her.
You are also super aware that you don’t always get it right:
- Sometimes you get impatient with how she reacts to completely trivial nonsense of the ‘she said, he said’ variety.
- Sometimes you shout at her, other times you mollycoddle.
- You always feel guilty.
This present level of anxiety has not all happened overnight. There was the stress-related hair loss (alopecia) in year 6 after the minor house fire.
And the nail biting that started the first term of secondary school and has become ‘tearing the skin off your fingers with your teeth’ and looks so sore and painful.
Today your own worry went off the scale when the phone call came from her Head of Year that she has missed a lesson and has been found in the girls’ loo crying her heart out and in a complete state of panic.
Sadly this scenario is very common and is played out in many thousands of families across the UK and plenty of column inches have been written trying to answer the question of why this generation is struggling so much with anxiety.While the unpleasant feelings and thoughts that are the symptoms of anxiety are quite similar for most people, the reasons for the anxiety are always different and unique for each person due to different DNA, different family culture and a different life lived.
You can’t change the anxiety for the whole generation but you can make a difference for your child and your family.
BE CURIOUS AS TO WHAT MAY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR CHILD’S FEARFUL STATE.
Ask yourself the following questions that are intended to spark a bit of reflection:
1. This blog started with the words ‘You are deeply worried’.
Are you of an anxious disposition? Do you worry and fret about things? Who taught you to worry?
2. Is there a glaringly obvious reason why your child is so anxious?
The sort that we usually call the ‘Elephant in the Room’ that everybody in the immediate family knows about, but it is never spoken of?
3. Is yours a family where both parents work hard and long hours? Are you available to your child in an unstructured ‘just hanging out’ kind of way or are you always ‘doing’?
4. How important are good grades? Is making an effort and doing your best absolutely and unconditionally equivalent to an A*?
5. Have you taught your child how to cope with feelings of uncertainty and fear? Were you taught? Do you know how to handle those feelings? (We dive into how you deal with these emotions in my upcoming workshops and also what exactly happens in the brain when it panics.)
Now cast your mind back to your childhood, be that child again and ask yourself the questions from that perspective?
Same or different answers?
HERE ARE SOME LONG TERM SUGGESTIONS for things you can put in place to foster good mental health that do not come with the horrible side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Exercise together as a family (walks, ball games, skating, running, cycling, swimming)
Take time to just be available – no agenda, no screen – just present for your child and teenager
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness
Encourage your child to spend time outside in nature. If this causes you to worry: get help!
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
Anxiety takes up an incredible amount of airtime and bandwidth in families that could be used in much nicer ways.
How have you dealt with an anxious child? Have you got caught in the loop of excessive re-assurance? What has worked best for you?
We are all interested to know what works so please join the private facebook group and share or ask questions.
As parents we are the experts with a wealth of knowledge and now the technology to share our expertise. That’s pretty amazing and potentially an incredible resource that can shape the future.
I guess what still holds us back from sharing is embarrassment that it is happening in our family? Do you know ANYONE who hasn’t got skeletons rattling around? If you do perhaps you don’t know them well enough ;-).
In my last blog I talked about us being brought up by stiff-upper-lippers: is it not time we moved on from this and started taking some power back by talking openly about it?
OVER TO YOU
I believe that the mental health statistics on child and adolescent mental health require us to step up and get over our fear of judgement so we can support each other and find ways to enable our children to develop resilience and self-confidence in the face of the modern-day pressures they find themselves facing.
FEELING LOST AND SCARED ABOUT PARENTING AN ANXIOUS CHILD?
If you want to learn how to cope with the overwhelm of anxiety, check out my low cost workshop. Just two hours will enable to you to help your child and equip you with the understanding and tools to come into relationship with the ‘anxiety parasite’. You can sign up here.