Every kid is different, just like every adult is. You may not be a parent, but you, or somebody you love may suffer from anxiety, so go ahead and read this post, because who knows, something in here might help you find your centre. If you have a child, or you yourself do suffer from anxious thoughts, honestly, the first thing I would tell you to do: eat less sugar, and limit your time on social media, or reading the news. It’s all geared to make us upset. This is the bottom line. Unless like me, you know primarily look at dog videos when you go on the wild world of the internet.
Okay, so that was way more than one thing that I would do. As far as having an anxious student, I’ll be the first person to say that school sure has changed A LOT since I, and most likely many of you reading this went. You won’t hear me discounting that today’s kids have way more pressure, and stress on them than we did. I mean for God’s sake we could eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches without worrying if our best friend was going to go into anaphylactic shock from sitting next to us in the lunch room. And this is a tame stressor compared to what some people’s children are concerned about. I’m speaking primarily about the fear; “is my school going to be next?”
How is that children, of all ages are worried about whether or not their school is going to be the victim of a school shooting?? It is asinine that kids, who should be more concerned about what game they’re going to play at recess, or if the person they have a crush on is going to ask them out first. These are “normal” kid worries, not wondering if today they might die. I can’t imagine what parents who are sending kids off to school these days say to a child who is suffering from a fear about that. But, I do know one thing for sure, and something that worked beautifully with my girls when they had, what I deemed, irrational thoughts about how their school day was going to play out.
I listened to them. I listened a lot. Then I asked questions. Very simple questions, such as; “why do you feel this way?” If they didn’t know the answer to that question, I would then follow it up with; “do any of your friends share these same feelings?”
Why I would ask that question is because anxiety can often be “catching.” Meaning, that kids can sometimes fan the flames of anxiety within one another by hearing a friend share a fear, or an upset, and then internalize it themselves making it their own. So it’s important to ask your child if this upset really is theirs, or are they absorbing somebody else’s upset. You’d be surprised at how often you’ll get the answer that; “hey, yeah Susie is afraid of blah, blah, blah, and she told me about it.” Once you know the source you can guide your student, or yourself (because this can happen to us adults too!) out of the upset by helping them understand the root of their concern and giving them some practical parent wisdom with how to cope.
Then there is the issue of a not great teacher relationship that can really send a student into emotional turmoil. We often ran into conflicting personalities with teachers who our girls didn’t get along with. In those instances we always advised the girls to deal with that teacher directly. To be respectful, always, be respectful, because can’t we all agree that being a teacher is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet??? I mean I wanted to curl up in the fetal position numerous times during the tough years of raising my girls, and I gave them life? Imagine if you didn’t have that intimate relationship with a kid, and you were trying to get them to do something they didn’t agree with, or didn’t want to do??? OY VEY. I’m breaking out in hives just thinking about that!! So let’s cut teachers some slack can we, and make sure when you have a student upset with a teacher that you don’t immediately point the finger of blame at the teacher. It’s important to also give your student the knowledge that teachers are human too, that they’re not perfect, and we never know what might be happening in their personal life that has them being harsh, or impatient. So, if your encourage your student to be respectful to their teacher, the relationship can only level out and find its normal/balance.
As I said in this parenting segment. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Talk with your kids, ask questions, teach them coping mechanisms to deal with stress; Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, getting out in nature, and most importantly how to address conflict, upset, or fears head on. When you do that, scary things don’t seem so scary when you look it in the eye, take control of it, handle it, and let it go. Plus, think of all the hours you’ll save because you won’t be solving all your kids problems for them! Take it from a Momma Bear who did train her daughters to conflict solve, and taught them healthy ways to deal with their anxiety, how much easier and enjoyable life is for all of us. Now that they’re all in their 20’s I get phone calls telling me HOW they handled a shitty situation with a co-worker, prof, or a toxic person in their lives, and how good knowing how to “protect” themselves from difficult, potential anxiety creating situations has turned into something empowering. And I don’t know you, but I trust that as a parent, you love your kid(s), and as a human you love yourself; you want your children, and yourself to excel in every area of life and to get through this one life on their (your) own two feet. So, do the work now, and if you have a child that you’re unable to provide enough support for, or perhaps you can’t do it for yourself; then do what I did during those lost days, weeks, and in some cases, months. Get a kick ass therapist to be your parenting (life) partner. Doing this is not admitting failure, doing this is showing your kid that even you, their super hero parent, is humble enough to know when they need support too! We are, after all, only human.