Jaime Gordon: Parenting the Anxious Child, Part 2

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Today is Part 2 of our conversation with Jaime Gordon aka: 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. We are covering what NOT to do,

Let’s dive in!

IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN:

  • 01:01 What to Avoid: Fixing it or Taking Away The Fear
  • 06:15 Working In Our Own Backyards
  • 10:51 Emotions are Okay
  • 20:28 Invalidating Fear Leads to Self Distrust
  • 24:40 Using Creativity to Move Through Fear
  • 29:22 Distractions as a Coping Tool
  • 32:26 Too Much Support and Too Much Challenge

WHAT TO AVOID: FIXING IT OR TAKING AWAY THE FEAR

When we immediately go to fix it mode or want to take away the fear it can do more harm than good. We think we are helping, but in fact we are almost validating the child’s fear more. When we take them away from it, rather than empowering them, it validates that their fear was in fact real and they were in danger. Your child sees, ” I thought I wasn’t safe and I must not have been.”

We want to help our kids feel empowered versus just taking away the stimulus for the fear, because then they’re like, “Oh, I wasn’t safe. See mom took it away. So like, what I was fearing was actually true.” They start to believe the anxiety as true, instead of just an emotion to question.

WORKING IN OUR OWN BACKYARDS

A big reason why we like to rush to the rescue is because of our own fear and our own discomfort. Jaime uses a beautiful analogy of gardening in our own backyards. If we are constantly in our kids yards and doing all of their gardening, they are going to grow up and not know how to do it, and look for someone else to take care of their garden. But if our kids can see us doing the work in our own garden (life, mental health) they can learn from us and become empowered in their own lives.

First stop is not to do anything with your kids, but actually to contain your own emotions so that you can be a container for theirs. You can’t help regulate and they can’t regulate themselves, if we’re disregulated also.

EMOTIONS ARE OKAY

It’s okay to have emotions that are less than happy. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to be sad. There’s obviously boundaries, where can I do it? In what way can I do it? How far can I take this? When is it appropriate? When is it not appropriate?

But as far as like allowing for all emotions to be okay is a very good place to start for ourselves first and then for our children. We are emotional beings and we get very uncomfortable feeling our emotions. And when we’re uncomfortable with feeling our emotions, we often feel the anxiety because a lot of anxiety pops up especially for adults is when we are trying to please and to be perfect and we’re living in a way that is at less than honest than what we deep down feel. And that just creates so much discord inside that, of course it stirs up stirs up anxiety. So allowing for emotions to come and to be welcomed is a great first step. The second step is to get curious with those emotions. Jaime loves the phrase, ” that’s interesting.” Which allows you to show up with curiousity and compassion for yourself and honor your emotions.

INVALIDATING FEAR LEADS TO SELF DISTRUST

Another thing we sometimes to do help our kids through fear/anxiety is invalidating the fear. An example, is a child may say when you are watching a show, “That monster is scary.”

And you say, “no, that’s not, Monster’s not scary. Look, he’s funny.” In that moment, we think we are helping but what they actually hear is that your assessment is off. You can’t actually trust you.

Which means they start to put trust in the parent instead of themselves. They learn to abandon themselves and go to mom or a caregiver for reassurance and be like, am I okay? Instead we can talk through it with them, you can ask them about the fear and acknowledge that they are experiencing it and determine together how you would like to move through it. Once again it becomes about allowing the emotion and empowering your child in it.

USING CREATIVITY TO MOVE THROUGH FEAR AND ANXIETY

One tool we can utilize is a conversational tool or getting our kids to think creatively about the situation. First, we always want to allow the fear to be an option. We don’t want to tell them that it won’t happen, we want to leave that possibility open and again validate their emotions. But then we can ask, well what else could be true? Or what else could happen?

Kelli shares that with her son, once she validated his fears and allowed them to be a possibility that it helped immensely. On one hand, that may feel counterintuitive to say, yes, your fear could potentially come true, we think what it does is it’s going to make the fear worse. What it actually does is it says to them you can trust yourself. You saw a possibility that could happen. Now invite them into creativity and see if they can come up with different possibilities. Can they make the scenario funny? Can they add a surprising element? If you can get into a creative space you leave black and white thinking, which is where anxiety thrives.

DISTRACTIONS AS A COPING TOOL

Distractions can be a helpful coping tool, but if it’s our go to, we’re not actually coping, we’re just suppressing. And when we suppress over time, it does not help it. It’s putting the feeling, the emotions on a credit card and eventually that we get maxed out. Distractions are great in a moment where like, a child is afraid of needles and needs immunizations. That time is great for distraction. It’s not a moment to be like, “tell me about your feelings when your body.”

Your nervous system is so flooded that there’s no conversation that could possibly happen at that time. That is a perfect time for that tool.

TOO MUCH SUPPORT AND TOO MUCH CHALLENGE

There’s no growth that happens with too much support and there’s no growth that happens with too much challenge. We literally don’t grow when we are in chaos or in too much order when we are supporting so much they don’t grow. We actually need them to have like one foot in order and one foot, in chaos, that’s where they actually grow. Our job is to allow them to be stretched without breaking and each moment might be different. What was enough support yesterday may not be enough support today.

Jaime says instead of going back and forth between too much support and too much challenge (like a teeter totter) instead to try to find the point of balance. Jaime thinks of it like on the job training, something that’s very similar to like the apprenticeship.

First you’re gonna watch me do it. Then you’re gonna watch me do it, but you’re gonna help me. And then you’re gonna do it and I’m gonna help you. And then I’m gonna watch you do it by yourself. So I’ve given them basically the combo of support and challenge and it’s incremental.

Our goal here is to support them, but build up their confidence in themselves to do and try new things.

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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.

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