Check out this little superhero – a wise teacher (at the ripe old age of 9) who shows us how to use self talk when facing challenges! Love her!
Recently I’ve had a number of friends ask about resources for their anxious children. Most of these friends deal with anxiety themselves & are either beginning to see signs of anxiety in their kids or are worried they’ll somehow pass down their “crazy genes”.
I’m a big fan of Lynn Lyons who co-authored Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents with Reid Wilson. Check out the website with links to the book and Casey’s Guide (a companion book for kids & teens – find the free download here and “real” book for sale here). Each chapter has info you can use right now with your family.
And this is the video I’ve been sharing with everyone. I listened to it a few weeks ago while making dinner and it’s excellent. Lynn has years of experience working with anxious kids and their parents, and I love that she’s a straight shooter and delivers information with humor.
Anxious parenting behavior, it turns out, is more indicative of an anxious child than genetics. That’s not to say genetics and an anxious pre-disposition aren’t at play – but it’s nice to know there is much we can do to help educate and build skills within the whole family.
*I had posted a fabulous training video of Lynn’s, but it’s been taken off of youtube. In it’s place, check out this 30 minute interview with Lynn where she talks about how to begin educating ourselves & our kids about anxiety and tips for working with it when anxiety shows up. Enjoy!
“This bridge freaks me out, Mama,” says my 6 year old as we get ready to enter the National Zoo.
“I know baby. Sometimes I get nervous on bridges, too. What’s going on?” I ask.
“It makes my legs feel funny. It feels like we’re high up in the trees and the water is so far below,” she explains.
“You know what’s cool about that? I ask, getting her attention, “Your body is real smart & that’s your body’s way of asking – Is this safe?
And, what’s cool is that you can look around, make sure you’re safe & give your body an answer.
So, what’s the answer? Are you safe?”
My big girl looks at me, and then all around. “Yeah, but I still feel funny.”
“Let’s look at the bridge,” I suggest. “Hmm – looks strong – lots of people are on it – cars, too.
Let’s check the railing (we try to shake it). Nice and sturdy.
What can we tell our body now?”
“It’s ok body. I’m safe,” she tells herself out loud, smiling.
“That’s right & that funny feeling in your legs & tummy will slowly go away. Maybe it has already. And, if it doesn’t for a while, that’s ok too.”
“It’s gone already,” she tells me.
“Alright, baby. Let’s go to the zoo!”
“Yeah! I want to go see the monkeys!”
We were on vacation at the beach last week & I wanted to share a moment from the journey.
To get to the beach, our route takes us over a handful of bridges and a tunnel that goes underwater. I could have easily gotten my husband to drive, but I knew that I needed to “stir up trouble” for myself & this was a good opportunity to do so. “You driving today?” he asked. “Yeah” I responded & smiled, “No problem.” Of course, it’s easy to be brave when the offending bridges & tunnel are not in view.
As we approached the bridge/tunnel/bridge area, I started questioning why I was doing this, when a perfectly good, non-anxious driver was sitting next to me. I had to keep reminding myself to invite the symptoms – to try & make them stronger – to ask them to stay around – because, all of a sudden, I really didn’t want to be driving & thought, ‘Make them stronger? Are you crazy?’
As I descended into the tunnel, I started wondering how strong the walls were & musing about how this is really an unnatural thing to do – driving underwater and such. Before I knew it, the visual images were rolling in of water crashing in all around us as the light from the exit faded into darkness & I wanted to slam down the gas pedal and get out of there quick!
My 8 year old daughter must have known that I needed a reminder to invite in more sensation. Just as we were about half way through, she chimed in and asked, “Do these tunnels ever flood? What would happen if they did? Would we all drown?” My husband & I smiled at each other & her impeccable timing. We told her that, yes, it would be bad if the tunnel flooded, but that it was built to be extremely strong. And, besides, there are people whose only job is to check it’s safety all the time. And, isn’t it cool that someone came up with the idea to make a tunnel that goes under the water & boats can travel over? (More sensation thinking about being underneath a boat).
I drove us safely into the light and, after that, the bridges didn’t phase me that much. We had a fun week in a beach house with 17 people & I decided that it was alright to take the passenger seat on the way home.
I wrote this late on Tuesday night and had saved it as a draft. Before you read any further, know that our daughter is home now and recovering. We’re keeping life as simple and low key as you can with 3 energetic kids, accepting the love & support of our tribe and readjusting to home life after hospitalization.
My little girl is in the hospital tonight. She’s 6 years old and her little body is working hard to get rid of a high fever, junky cough, intense stomach pains and all around malaise. Her doctor says she’s fighting both a bacterial and viral infection and is getting IV antibiotics to get rid of the former. The combination of medicine, body wisdom and time seem to be working and we hope to bring her home in two days.
I had many moments today where I felt a surge of adrenaline, wondering what was going on and when my baby would be back to her normal self.
Something I was reminded of is that, even in high stress situations, I can handle anxiety and that sometimes it serves an important purpose.
As the doctor told us that she felt that her symptoms needed to be monitored & treated at the hospital, my anxiety pushed me (and my amazing husband) to ask good questions to make an informed decision.
When I walked into the room and she was in a lot of abdominal pain, panting and looked terrible, I felt a big wave of adrenaline. This was no run of the mill panicky feeling, it was a signal that all was not right. My anxiety prompted me to get the nurse and ask what’s going on with my baby, when will we see the doctor & what can we do for her right now.
As we traveled downstairs to get x-rays, me in the wheelchair and her in my lap, my mind wandered to many dark places. My body listened closely and responded. I remembered that thoughts are not facts, just a collection of ideas, worries and imagination and decided to sing in my daughters’ ear instead, soothing both of us. I whispered affirmations – Everything’s going to be alright, baby; You’re body is so strong; I love you; You’re safe – I’m right here.
Today was a reminder that there can be wisdom in anxiety. The flush of adrenaline, welcomed, shouting, “Be alert, Ask questions, Protect” empowers us & gives us direction and energy to do what needs to be done. It’s part of a fine tuned alarm system that, at it’s best, is essential and serves us well.
I’ve got to be honest. One of the upsides of my anxiety is that I have cat-like reflex skills when it comes to my children. I can remember when my first child was learning to eat solids. I’d cut up her apple and cheese into tiny, mouse sized bites. Even when I was taking pre-cautions and being ultra careful, that “breathe, chew, swallow” function would derail from time to time. I’d go to give her another apple bit and she would start coughing and getting all red in the face. Before she knew what was happening, I had grabbed her from the highchair and turned her upside down, patting her on the back to dislodge the “foreign object” while my heart raced.
When I told my former therapist this story, she said that I should be proud. She added that in the olden days, clans needed quick reflexes to flee danger at a moment’s notice. When we talked about how anxiety runs in my family, she laughed and said, “See, it served its purpose then. Your clan survived!”