They rant. They rave. They make blanket statements on the condition of their lives.
Sometimes they emotionally throw up on us. And it’s likely that we are getting the worst of it, with their raw emotions spilling out, and even perhaps setting off our own anxiety.
We can just as easily feel keyed up when they are keyed up. As parents and caregivers, it can be difficult to choose our words wisely and offer counsel that helps an anxious child know that they are resilient, and capable of coming up for air and regrouping once they’ve regained their footing.
Traps to Avoid
Beliefs born out of anxious moments can catapult us into an avalanche of messy cognitive distortions and self-sabotage. Here are some traps to avoid; they are well worth teaching our kids (and ourselves) to avoid in those messy moments:
Trap # 1: Bolting. The quick exit is so tempting when things go awry. Even though the instinct to try help make it better for our kids, tough moments are powerful teachers. Helping them confront what is happening and work through it can build grit and stress resistance, which are essential through every stage of life.
Trap # 2: Trying to problem solve in the heat of the moment. When we’re clobbered with stress, we want to make immediate sense of things. Unfortunately, high anxiety levels can interfere with rational thinking. Teaching our kids when to problem solve and when to hold off is a valuable skill.
Trap # 3: Keeping it a secret. Letting anxiety and negative emotions fester and go untended only makes matters worse. Anxiety is part of life. When we normalize this for our kids, they are more likely to open up and reach out for help. Creating a space where kids can vent and admit they are struggling is vital.
Coaching our kids through anxious moments takes finesse. By helping them see these common anxiety traps, we support them in creating habits that cultivate resilience. ###
Dr. Kristen Costa speaks not only from her 20+ years as a mental health clinician and educator, but as a parent. Known as “America’s Stress and Burnout Doc,” Dr. Kris is the author of the award-winning book, RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, and she’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. [website]