Imagine for a moment, your morning starts – alarm , gently shaking you from your sleep. You stretch and part your eyes to greet the morning sunlight, Only to discover…there is no light. Puzzled, as you confirm your eyes are open,- you feel overwhelmed. Realizing – the darkness you see is the start of your new day.
After months of tests multiple doctors confirm what you reluctantly suspect. And here an almost inevitable moment occurs; a pivotal change in life. How did this happen? You ask yourself time and again, how did I get here? Have I even accomplished the beautiful, happy life I imagined as a child? A resounding “no” rises within you like a tidal wave. Memories of opportunities missed, love lost, and life experiences not seized over now what seems to be minor reasons are almost unbearable. Why didn’t some of those things happen? -Fear, anxiety, procrastination, lack of motivation and sometimes anger are the reasons. Why were those things such a huge obstacle all this time? Where did it all start?
Studies show anxiety arise first during childhood. Though biology is a contributing factor; Early life events, especially traumatic experiences change the body’s fear-processing alerts, causing it to become hyper reactive to stress. Constant exaggerated worries and expectations of negative outcomes in unknown situations often cause stress to the body, bringing on physical symptoms such as muscle tensions, headaches and stomach cramps, overtime leading to decline in health.
While coping skills can be developed at any time, learning those skills at an early age is most beneficial since anxiety is likely to increase over time. William L. Mace, Ph.D cites statistics in his article, Childhood Anxiety:
Gateway to all adult mental disorders.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/campus-confidential-coping-college/201704/childhood-anxiety reflecting that at the age four, 9 percent of preschoolers have Childhood Anxiety Disorder. One in every five adults ages 18-28 experience an anxiety episode, preventing them for adapting to the challenges of adulthood and the only stigma associated with childhood anxiety stems from parents who refuse to acknowledge their anxiety. Children can suffer 2-7 years before parents accept the problem, preventing the child from learning to cope. Symptoms include stomach aches before school, too much time on games, avoidance of many everyday encounters arise in children. In young adults, major problems occur, such as academic decline, depression, and self-destructive behaviors.
What’s the take away?
“What our eyes behold”, the things we see and experience over the course of our lives have a tremendous effect on what our minds enclose. Our mental, emotional health and social emotional development. Ensuring we have the appropriate coping skills in times of uncertainty can help to regain the focus needed to deal with stressors and process them in a healthy manner.
It has been said that anxiety occurs with depression, so often that is thought to be twin faces of one disorder. When in the face of stress and traumatic situations a child with developed positive coping skills is able to more effectively ward off excessive anxiety and it’s symptoms; maintaining positive relationships and derailing the onset of depression in most cases. However, a child who lacks these skills are susceptible to an abundance of anxiety, a cycle of withdrawal and isolation, more often leading to depression, physical health decline, emotional health issues and disorders.
Why is this necessary to know? Is there more we should know?
Stress in America Report 2013, explains that extreme stress and ineffective coping skills appear to be ingrained in our culture, perpetrating unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors for future generations. According to the study, adults say that managing stress is extremely important, but only 35 percent are doing a good job at it.
It’s clear that anxiety appears in early childhood, building into other disorders such as depression in young adult years and manifests into physical and emotional health issues in adults, if left unchecked. Yet, what is the root cause of this? Could it be more than lack of proper coping skills? How closely have we considered the need for relational value? Greg Henriques, Ph.D talks about this in his article, Anxiety and Depression Are Symptoms, Not Diseases
Depression and anxiety are signs that one is not getting key needs met
. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201603/anxiety-and-depression-are-symptoms-not-diseases Is it also the need for connection with family, friends, partners, and one’s own social identity that contributes to anxiety and depression episodes? Lack of this sort of connection is linked to depression bringing along symptoms of isolation and a nasty cycle of deepened withdrawal according to Henriques.
“Children come into the world with the basic emotional needs: to be loved and feel positive self-esteem.” Says Meri Wallace, LCSW in her article, Understanding Children’s Emotional Needs:
Your loving care helps her to feel safe and trust others.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-raise-happy-cooperative-child/201710/understanding-childrens-emotional-needs Parents should be aware of these needs and communicate in a way that will support positive growth. Spending time, showing affections, knowing their feelings are accepted and opinions are heard are positive ways to support a child’s needs. – “when you are present in the moment and respond with warmth, your child will grow up feeling secure and loved.”
What can be done?
As you probably guessed, the scenario I describe at the beginning of this article was one of my own personal experiences. Luckily it was not too late to regain my vision; literally and figuratively. Now filled with gratitude for not only my sight, but the clarity to appreciate more simplistic beauty, I have allowed myself to adjust my focus to things that truly matter. Though I am fortunate to have learned the importance of positive coping; I cannot forget how much that lesson almost cost. Years and opportunities engulfed in anxiety, circumstances leaving me immobilized by depression, or health issues caused by stress seemed, simply avoidable – if I’d learned sooner.
I created the Tuliva Lane Children Book series http://www.tulvialane.com/ for this very reason; to provide an opportunity for families to effectively communicate their feelings during turbulent times, in a positive safe environment. The series encourages important discussions and positive coping skills for topics that could potentially be pivotal turning points in mental and social emotional health.
Often as adults we forget children are also just as affected by circumstances that occur. Where we have developed some sort of coping techniques; they have yet to. Thus, left not knowing how to process or communicate their emotions. Reading stories filled with characters they can relate to, wrapped in the arms of loved ones naturally helps them to feel they are not alone in their experiences, thoughts and emotions. Parents are not only providing needed emotional support, but also using the book to segway into important discussion with their children. Asking question such as: “How do you feel? – Is this happening to you? – like Ali in the book, have you felt that way? Or …Tyler seemed angry in this chapter, is this how you feel? Meanwhile teaching appropriate coping skills by initiating questions such as: How could Kylie have behaved differently?
The experience of quality time, comfort, and safety your child will feel during a time of uncertainty will be irreplaceable. Successfully implementing, creative coping skills your child needs moving forward, all the while replacing their sense of wonder as they are happily enjoying the story time and illustrations will be a win for both you and your child!
We all deserve to have the strength, the fortitude and blueprint to move through circumstances that challenges us as early as possible in life, so that our progress, wellbeing and sense of wonder are not unnecessarily hindered. As adults we must learn and teach our children to cope so that they are not paralyzed tomorrow.