My mission as a parent was to create a safe environment for my children where they can thrive. Unfortunately without the knowledge I have now this is impossible.
Yes, I know you probably do not agree, but stay with me.
My son is 9 years old, very smiley, talkative, compassionate and confident person. He is good at home, helps me almost every time I need his help. He is doing great at school. Yes, he is the perfect son.
But I know that deep inside he is worry a lot – “what about if I don`t pass the test”, “what about I don`t meet my parents expectations, “ what about my mum doesn’t like what I did yesterday” and so on.
He is an anxious child.
Right – how we can help our children with their anxiety.
The first thing we need to do is – STOP REASURING YOUR CHILD! Yes, you heard me right – stop saying to your child that everything will be okay!
You see, your child worry and as a parent you want to reassure your child – it`s going to be okay, I love you, I am here for you…
But the child still worries… and you begin to feel hopeless, stressed, and angry, out of control.
Anxiety manifest in different ways – anger, tantrum, crying, kicking, shouting etc.
So, I really wanted to help my son to understand what is happening with him and accept that this is OKAY.
I am a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and also run Mindfulness Classes for Children. My understanding about how the brain works, how thoughts can affect us helped me to make it easy for him. The problem is that he has experienced Fight –Flight response and didn`t know how to control it.
You see, we as parents think that we are able to control our children Anxiety. That`s a MYTH, not true at all.
We can`t control it because it is their challenge, their struggle. We can be only guides; we need to learn how to respond rather than react to them…and that takes PRACTICE.
We are normal human being, most of us don`t like big, scary emotions so we try to avoid them and we teach our children the same. Reassuring your child that everything will be okay, without the understanding and acceptance will teach them to numb the emotions, to push them on the side. And when they grow up they will numb their own emotions.
Triger – Flight-Fight respond – angry child.
Child who avoid emotions, who pretend that everything is OKAY. And when they are teenagers you will ask yourself – “why they are always in their room and don`t want to talk to me”, “I thought we are friends”, “My child is a very happy and smiley person, always good in school – why they suddenly become depressed”.
Children must change not the negative emotions, but they have to change the relationship with them.
You all watch “Star Wars” and know Yoda and Jedi. They all practice mindfulness. They have this inner strength, they are able very time when the time is difficult to come back to that strength and respond to the situation. So, I want you to find this inner strength inside you, find the resources, those mental skills which will help you to stay strong when needed. This could be breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation, coming back to a moment when you was happy and in control… There are so many ways for us to look inside and find all the strength and inner people we already have. I love meditation and hypnotherapy as tools to do that.
Okay, let`s go back to my son and how I started helping him.
This is what I do when my child has all this big emotions.
FREEZE! Yes, I freeze and tap into your inner strength, giving myself a minute not to react straight away. Knowing what works for me – breathing and taking few minutes to tap to my Yoda!
Then EMPHATISE – not dismissing, even if it`s not rational emotion or problem or worry – listening carefully, hearing what he is saying. And yes, some of the things he worries about are complete nonsense. Sometimes he worries about everyone and everything, but who am I to judge. That is his world, his thoughts, his struggle to understand the world.
And UNDERSTAND – before trying to fix it I allow the feelings to come out, the problem to come out, understand what actually the child`s problem is.
And then CONNECT – you finally get it. What I usually say is “I want to talk to you” – you need to name the emotions – you feel angry, frustrated, label the reactions – you did kick that chair. In this way you give permission to the emotions, permission to feel, to be normal. Give the child a cuddle, tap on the shoulder – “You are safe”, “I am here for you”. If the child need give them some space, don`t invades their personal space.
How you can make connection with your child – authentically repeat what they are saying back to them – if they say “I don`t want to do my homework” repeat – “so, you don`t want to do your homework”, “I am angry because my friend told me horrible things” you repeat “so, you are angry because your friend told you horrible things”. And connection is made.
If you like to calm your child by breathing and they hate this, they resist – do it with a twist – I know this is comfortable, but will pass. Ask them to blow out feathers, candles, make it fun.
So, go and try it. Make this new way of responding rather than reacting your way. Listen the child, label the emotions and connect with your child.