To say that the past few years have been a collective strain on most of us is an understatement. Wedged somewhere between a global pandemic, political and economic chaos, polarization in our homes and institutions, mass shootings, and an emergent war in Ukraine, we find ourselves struggling to get by from day to day. Recently, descriptors like numb, stuck, frustrated, exhausted and hopeless are common with most everyone I meet as a therapist.
One group that has been particularly vulnerable and affected by these events are parents. Providing safety, shelter, food, and other necessities has always been a benchmark of parenting. However, the yardstick by which the basics are measured now feels threatened, fueled by fear and misinformation. How can we help ourselves while not producing more anxiety in our kids? Here are some tips that might be helpful for parents to navigate the growing level of intense anxiety their kids are experiencing.
1. Turn down the volume. Try to help a child navigate and manage their anxiety. Anxiety is something live with, not avoid or turn off. The better way to help children overcome anxiety is to help them learn to live with it. Over time the volume will lower itself.
2. Understand balance. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious. Avoiding things that we are afraid of will make us feel better presently, but it reinforces and increases the anxiety over the long run.
3. Express positive and realistic expectations. Don’t set yourself or your child up for failure. Create realistic expectations for scheduling and self-care.
4. Support, don’t service. Respect feelings, but don’t empower them. Validating feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. Explore feelings and listen without judgment.
5. Be encouraging. Let your child know that you appreciate how hard they’re working and remind them that the more we accept and manage anxiety, the more it will diminish.
6. Practice anticipatory care for yourself, too. Don’t over discuss or over talk an issue, event, or problem. Talking your fears out loud can be helpful, but there is also a limit. Like everything else try to strike a balance.
7. Think things through with your child. Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a fear came true—how would they handle it? For some children, having a plan can reduce uncertainty in a healthy way.
Finally, try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety. Take time for yourself. Don’t relegate your own mental health to “someday” or “when there’s more time.” Don’t pretend that anxiety, stress, worry, and fear are foreign concepts to you. Let kids hear or see you managing it calmly, accepting it and getting through it in a balanced way.
Talking with one of eTalkTherapy’s caring and experienced professionals can help you learn how to cope with your fears and anxieties about the future. We offer private and affordable therapy sessions via video or phone in the comfort of your home. Contact us today for details.