Helping your child learn how to experience and manage worry.
Yup, you read that right. We may want to have our kids be worry free, but it’s unrealistic and overall, honestly not as helpful as we as parents would like it to be. Instead, learning to handle difficult thought patterns and emotions makes for stronger, more balanced people.
Sometimes worry is useful as an internal guidance system that alerts us to be cautious, aware and look for danger. That can be lifesaving when it shows up at the right time.
Some kids are born with a predisposition to be sensitive, fearful, highly strung and emotional. You know if this is your child or someone you know.
These kids will have a strong tendency toward showing signs of stress and distress when faced with a change in routine, change in environment (new school, anyone?) or new people (that teacher has a very loud voice and frowny face. Help!!!). Cue the meltdown and refusal to go to school today!
Sensitive kids feel safe with routine, certainty and predictability. However, life doesn’t often go that way. (By the way, there are very few kids that can accept change from the get-go with aplomb. They all need a little help).
In the early years, the sensitive child may develop phobias such as fear of the dark, thunder, or be extremely shy when meeting new kids.
Not all do, but about half of them. It’s worth knowing though.
As the anxious child gets older, the anxiety shifts and changes into worry. The teen can probably mask this issue from people for much of the time, but the common tells are there if you know where to look.
Excessive planning for the day. Thoughts about worst-case scenarios and you’ll hear “what if…?” a LOT. Can I do this? Will it be good enough? Am I going to get this done on time? etc.
Now the thing is, you are quite right, some of this questioning is fine. It’s a good idea, even. Questions and concerns suggest an ability and willingness to explore future possibilities and options. There is an element of evaluation and decision making. This is indeed a good thing.
The time this train of thought becomes a red flag, and you know your highly sensitive child is now a highly reactive teen, is when she poses these questions continually, creates scenarios and plans to a point of standstill and frets over details.
There are a few choices from here – the child can grow into an inhibited teen with limited interests and restricted social interactions. She is upset to the point of meltdown when faced with disruption of her expectations and feels overwhelmed just thinking about “what if”.
All this to say, temperament makes a difference.
And here’s something important to remember – anxious predispositions provide a guide (not a guarantee) as to what your child won’t become.
They are far less likely to be risk-taking hell-bent teens that their less concerned peers, for example.
Did you just breathe?
Good. Keep doing that.
Here’s the flip side of knowing what they likely won’t become – it doesn’t give you much of a clue as to what they will become.
This is your cue. This is where you step in and help to shape your child into a confident, decision-making machine.
Well, okay, maybe not a machine, I may have gotten a little carried away there, but you do have the unique position and potential to change the trajectory for your anxious child.
Anxiety and worry are part nature and part nurture. The good news is that this means these characteristics are not set in stone. Neither is the future outcomes for your child. In fact, the future doesn’t exist.
It really doesn’t. Think about it. Then realize that YOU get to create it. Whoa! That’s HUGE!!
So, what behaviors are you going to choose to model for your child? How will you shape your future and hers?
Oh my! That was a lot for one blog post.
You can bet I’ll be bringing more soon.
Right now, it’s time for a cuppa….
Tell me, are you feeling okay so far? Got feedback or questions? Please do get in touch. Let me know how I can best assist you.
it keeps getting better – Mikki
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