Jaime Gordon is the Unstuckologist. She is a certified Life Coach who has personally helped me and today we have a conversation about anxiety in kids and how to parent them effectively. The conversation was so good, aka: L-O-N-G that we split it into two parts. Today we talk about what anxiety is, what signs to look for and most importantly the kindness and compassion you need for YOURSELF as you navigate this experience with your child.
Let’s dive in!
Angie is a public speaker, An Instagram influencer and a popular podcaster with over 15 million downloads, which is absolutely incredible. She also describes herself as your weirdest friend. She started in the online space way back in 2009 with a health and wellness blog with no intention to monetize it, but over the years has built up her brand and business with what it is today. Her biggest message to women about wellness is sharing what it feels like to feel good and how we all can experience it.
Jaime likes to think of anxiety as being afraid of being afraid. If you boil it down, it’s like I’m afraid and when fear gets so big and overwhelming, I then become afraid of the fear I’m experiencing. And it seems to turn in on itself and gain momentum, like a snowball rolling down a hill and it becomes bigger and bigger and bigger.
And what happens is that it’s internal chaos. Not only in our thoughts, it’s chaos in our emotions, it’s chaos in our nervous system. And it doesn’t matter which one it starts with
Number one thing is to release the idea that you have to get your child diagnosed. I think that the diagnosis can sometimes invite a sense of finality or hopelessness or like the label for some is not actually helpful. It’s not that you have anxiety it’s that you are experiencing anxiety.
And some experience anxiety at a much larger and much more unbalanced scale. It’s not bad broken or wrong. It’s just the way that your body is trying to communicate to you.
There are three categories. Emotional, Behavioral, and Physical. Let’s start with physical, we start with physical because actually children communicate a lot with the physical more so than the emotional or the behavioral. Physical is maybe they aren’t consciously aware of what’s happening for them, but they are aware that their tummy hurts. Or they are aware that their chest is tight or heart is racing. The physical can be a good indicator.
I’m not saying that if your child has constant stomach aches, that it’s anxiety. No, it just is like, “oh, I wonder if it could be, if it’s could be part of the equation.” It might also be anxiety can also cause constipation and diarrhea, but that doesn’t mean that the constipation and diarrhea are caused by anxiety.
It’s the idea of like, “Hmm, could this be part of the equation?” We’re just pretending, like we’re an investigator looking at all the clues and some of the clues are like the tummy ache or the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
You might actually see that anxiety presents not only just as fear or what we normally would picture as anxiety, we might actually see some anger outbursts. Anger is a secondary emotion and kids who are quick to an angered response, if you were to actually slow down what is happening for them, a lot of times you’ll find that there is a fear behind that. And anger is an easier emotion to feel, and in some regards it makes us feel stronger. It doesn’t make us feel as vulnerable as fear does. There’s nothing wrong with anger.
When looking for behavioral signs, pay attention to their language. Are they constantly asking for reassurance? Do they always need to know what’s next, does change really throw them off? Sometimes as kids get older anxiety can look less panicked and more like being withdrawn, out of body, zoned out, or numb.
When we say “what NOT to do as a parent,” I think every person in the entire face of the universe is going to listen to us and go, “oh crap”. Because the things that aren’t helpful is what most of us are naturally inclined to do. And before I even say this, If this is you, I invite you to not go to shame or beating yourself up, but just be like, “oh, that’s interesting.”
We’re getting use the phrase: That’s interesting. And the goal here is that we’re going to learn some things that aren’t super helpful, but they are going to be part of the bag of tricks that you dig into. And they’re probably the easiest ones. They’re our default. They’re the ones that are already like in our toolbox. The point is to learn why we may not want to use all these tools often and why we might want to, when we can think of it, to choose a new tool. Because the other tools are more effective than what we might be currently doing.
Let’s talk about that because the idea of that inner mean girl, that might tell you that you are a bad mom. Kelli has frequently battled this lie from her inner mean girl. It says things like, “see your child has anxiety because you didn’t do this.” or “you suck, you are not the right mom for your kids.” Those thoughts are not true and are not helpful. When we go to shame and guilt we pull ourselves out of a place of being able to help. The grace and self compassion component for you as the mom or the caregiver is imperative to helping your child navigate anxiety.
Next week we will dive into what not to do and give you some really good tools for your toolbelt that you can start to use right away. For this week, practice some detective work and compassion for yourself.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode! I’m honored and excited to be on this journey toward personal growth and greater confidence with you. If you enjoyed the podcast, I’d love to ask you to take 2 minutes to leave me a 5-star review on your podcast app, that way we can help even more women to join us as we #dropkickyourinnermenagirl together.
P.S. If you’re looking for ways to increase your confidence and silence your inner mean-girl, download my free workbook, 6 Ways to Dropkick Your Inner Mean Girl.