Sep 21, 2021
As we talk about raising mentally healthy kids, I can’t think of a more relevant topic right now for all of us than anxiety. Worry and anxiety seemed to have peaked in our country as COVID-19 hit, but it certainly has not disappeared. And while we as adults tend to focus on the big life things, kids are still dealing with the natural anxieties of adolescence. In this episode I’m talking with the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries Sissy Goff, M. Ed., LPC-MHSP about some practical things we can do to help our kids socially, emotionally, spiritually, and functionally develop well.
Key points from our conversation:
💕 When we view our child’s behavior as manipulative or controlling, it’s important to remember that behavior is a form of communication. Understanding that we do not face the same dynamics as our kids can help us move us to a place of empathy and compassion.
⚖️ Our goal should not be just to teach our children how to respond but to learn how to respond in a way that best suits them. We may have to self-regulate ourselves first as parents.
👂 When kids talk about their worries, reassurance can sometimes come off as minimizing or fixing. And when parents minimize, kids respond more dynamically to be heard. You kids are going to have worries; it’s important to slow down, listen, and validate their worry even if you don’t share their perspective.
😠 Children who struggle with anxiety care deeply which means they may bury what they consider negative emotions because they don’t feel they’re appropriate. Perfectionistic tendencies can lead to eating disorders or self-harm.
Practical tips to help your child manage anxiety:
🤢 If your child struggles with anxiety causing vomiting or an upset stomach, speak to their teacher and let them know the student may need to exit suddenly. Seat them near the door and make sure they have a safe place to go like the nurses’ office.
⏱️ Some kids need to sit with their emotions longer than others. When you get frustrated that they aren’t moving faster, give them 10 more minutes.
🧏 Practice reflective listening to make sure your child feels heard and understood.
✨ Avoid telling your child there is hope. Instead, ask them where they feel there is hope.
🗣️ Ask “is there anything else you want to share about that?” If we fill in the gaps with our own words, our kids are less likely to share openly, especially adolescents.
🎧 When you’re in the car and want to ask your child questions, try turning on music to give them space so they don’t have to speak. Allow them time to decompress.
🐶 Pets can be good therapy for kids. Petting can be soothing but having someone who loves you unconditionally can do immeasurable good. Having something to talk to can help kids get what is on the inside to the outside.
You can find more resources about mental health, parenting, and coping with anxiety at MichelleNietert.com.
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