This is a question that every busy parent has to ask themselves and thinking back to my most intense parenting years, I hear your screams, friends. Oh boy do I appreciate how many plates you’re already spinning and how fast they have to spin especially when you’re parenting an anxious child.
Let’s be frank, you’re not going to be able to find time because most of you are already over scheduled, over booked and over whelmed. It’s the nature of the parenting beast. So the answer to this question is more complicated than just revisiting your schedule.
When we think about working on our child’s anxiety, it’s easy to think about it as a separate curriculum. A thing you make time for, an event you schedule. But the most effective work is one that you integrate into your day to day life. Yes, most of us will eventually need to have a plan — a concrete step by step of figuring out what to do next — but that’s a lot easier when you have things already in place.
Think of it like cooking. Cooking is easier by a lot when you do the preparation.
- You go to your recipe box or click to your favorite cooking site
- You choose what you want to make
- You make a list of the ingredients
- You go to the store and get them
- You prepare everything — chop the onions, wash the greens, debone the chicken — and get out all of the equipment
Oh yes, we forgot about the equipment because you also need to have the appropriate pan and knives, etc.
Then you cook. And when you’re first learning to cook, you make mistakes. You don’t know what medium heat means on your stovetop of you are still working on your knife skills.
Once you’ve been cooking for awhile you can wing it. You know how to make last minute substitutes or how to throw together a dinner based only what’s in your pantry. You may not need recipes or you may have figured out how to adjust the recipes you have to suit your family’s tastes and budgets. You know which meals you can make quickly and which are the ones to save for special events.
You get better at it by learning and by practicing.
Most of us don’t have time to take cooking lessons — formal once a week events that we block out on our calendar — instead we kind of learn as we go. And we have to learn if we want to be able to expand our palates beyond whatever uber eats or Lean Cusine has for us. Not that there’s anything wrong with take out because sometimes that’s all we have time or space for but if we want to save money or eat in ways that serve us body and soul more or just more to our preference.
Managing child anxiety is like that, too. Right now you might be spending more energy on NOT managing the anxiety — or more specifically managing it in ways that don’t serve you or your child or your family as well — and you’re going to have to make a shift in how you think about it.
Now, you can take cooking lessons for anxiety. You can join a program like mine or grab a book or workbook and you can do the things. You can devote an hour each week or even more time and work your way through it. And that’s great. That’s a great way to do it.
But most of us are going to do it in more messy ways, which is why I designed my program the way I did. Most of us are going to dip in and out. We’re going to join the program or grab the book and we’re going to dive in and then we’re going to set it aside. We’re going to forget about it a little bit. We’re going to feel overwhelmed and guilty about not tuning in more and that will make it even harder to return to it.
Let me assure you that it’s ok to be messy and in fact I think it HAS to be messy to be effective.
Learning to manage your child’s anxiety is a lifelong learning. It’s full of paradigm shifts and self growth and you’ll need to become an expert on a lot of different topics like anxiety in general, and your child’s unique development, and specific tools and techniques that you can pull out at different times and in different contexts.
I designed my program thinking of this messiness as a feature not a bug. There is the asynchronous step by step course, Strong Kids Strong Families, and it’s asynchronous so you can get it whenever and wherever you need it. But there are other opportunities for learning, too. There is CBT Family, which are the skills and techniques to bring cognitive behavioral tools to your family. Those are things you can dip in and out of. You can bring those in as slowly as you like wherever you might be in the Strong Kids Strong Families process. And then there are some people who basically use the membership in order to contact me and ask me questions and directions about their particular child. They may not use any of the courses at all at first, they’re just messaging me and that’s fine. I will direct them to where I think they might need help.
In short, I designed this as a membership and not a static course were you pay once and forget about it because I wanted members to start thinking of it as a companion. And as a commitment that is flexible to meet their needs.
You do not need to have set aside time but you do need to be willing to come by and check things out or check in with me. Then as you grow in your understanding of how anxiety works, it becomes easier to see ways to adjust things.
It’s a little like one of those meal kits, where you get to ease your way in. A lot of it is done for you, you can give feedback or ask how to make it more personalized and eventually you take the confidence you’ve gained through the meal kit and into your own menu.
I think this metaphor works.
Anyway, if you’re struggling to figure out how to find time to manage your child’s anxiety, I encourage you to consider just starting with learning more about anxiety. This podcast is a good place to start — dive into some of the archives. The more you learn, the more you will know your way to go. So just keep learning.