Anxiety in children is on the rise, and I have no doubt that parental anxiety over kid anxiety is following the same course. While there is no magic bullet or easy answer, there are tools. And with these tools, we can help our kids cope and thrive. There is inherent in this philosophy, however, an imperative paradigm shift: our central job is not to protect them, but to prepare them. Easier said than done, right? Don’t I know it.
But, parents, we are not in this alone. Not only do we have our community of family and friends, but there are experts whose work is a deep dive into how we can best plant the seeds of resilience and self- worth in our children. I had the great fortune of listening to one such person at my son’s school a few weeks back. Namely, Allison Edwards, Licensed Professional Counselor and Play Therapist, best-selling author, and straight-talking giver of wisdom, spent the morning giving our lucky group the opportunity to hear about her expertise, to share our struggles, and ultimately to leave feeling ready to do better.
So what insight did Allison provide? More than I can detail here, but it left me ready to give a cover-to- cover read of her 2013 book written for parents, Why Smart Kids Worry. Here are a couple gems to give some context for the practicality and ingenuity of Allison’s practice:
- Worry Jars. It’s not always the time or place to get into the deep stuff. (And why do they always want to talk when you’re merging into traffic?) This fact isn’t one to feel guilty over; frankly, it would not be healthy for anyone to constantly exist at a telenovela level of drama. But how do we keep the lines of communication open, and not leave fragile feelings unheard? Allison suggests a “worry jar” – basically, a container for small notes to get thoughts down on paper and then, when the time is right, use those notes to have a conversation. This has the dual effect of offering respect to your child, while setting appropriate boundaries around delving into sensitive matters.
- “I did it” List. Our inner critic can drown out the reality of all of the things we do accomplish. One way to combat this, per Allison, is to hang up a piece of paper – or poster board! – in some visible place and to write messages reflecting your child’s successes, big and small. It’s like a voice from the past leaving words of encouragement for low moments. Allison talked about the impact of a kid seeing his or her own handwriting, being cheered on by their inner champion. I adore this idea, and know it would resonate with my oldest.
While I have not yet read her book for parents, her newest book, Worry Says What?, is in heavy rotation in my house. Allison introduced it to us, saying that the target audience was the 6 to 10 years range. She forewarned that there were no adults represented in this animated book, and that was on purpose: the point of the book is to acknowledge kids as autonomous people, and as people capable of advocating for themselves. The premise of the story is that “Worry” – Allison’s term for “anxiety” in her practice, as a more accessible, and less stigmatizing word – is a monster. Worry can get very loud, and can obscure daily life at times. But, importantly, Worry is not part of the child; it is an external voice. So it turns out that there is one way to defeat Worry: disagree, ignore, and even actively send it away. Because Worry isn’t something that helps you or that knows the truth. It is, ultimately, a scared, negative presence that feeds on brining you down. But the children learn to fight back.
When Worry visits children, it tells them they can’t do it, that their friends don’t like them, and many other refrains that are hard to hear. Do not let this turn you off to this book: that’s your desire to offer protection over preparation rearing up. After all, we can’t pretend our kids aren’t experiencing that voice, parents. Let’s be honest: most of us are still on a journey to slay Worry ourselves. So let’s let our kids know that we worry too, and what they’re feeling is normal. But that doesn’t make it good or true. And we trust them to learn how to keep Worry at bay.
So, phew! After you go out and get a copy of Worry Says What?, let Denver Date Nite
help you give your Worry an evening off. Because you deserve it too.
**This was not a sponsored post. The author, Rachael Andersen-Watts, wrote it based on a presentation she attended and enjoyed.**
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