Most of the time we take what we learn about the world and apply that moving forward. Consider the first time you have to give a report to the whole class. Nerve wracking, right? Maybe you don’t sleep well the night before, imagining all the terrible scenarios! Then you give the report and you survive! It’s fine! It’s over! Maybe next time giving the report won’t be so difficult.
Now consider the child with a social anxiety disorder. The parents call the teacher and ask if they can come sit in the back of the classroom just to help their child feel safe giving the report. The teacher, understandably concerned about supporting their students, agrees. The child gives the report and they survive! It’s fine! It’s over! But now they think it’s because their parent was there.
They say to themselves, “Whoa, I very nearly bombed! If it weren’t for my mom in the back of the classroom that would have been a disaster!”
Success doesn’t build on itself for the anxious child; success is the exception to the rule of disaster.
It’s tricky because for some kids having a parent in the back of the classroom is exactly the bridge they need to do it alone next time; a lot of times hand-holding helps. But for a child who is prone to more severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder, this is going to make them more stuck.
We think, “I will help this once” and instead we’ve created a new rule that we always show up in the classroom when they have to give a report.
This is how we get trapped in our children’s anxieties. Good intentions that go awry.
If you feel trapped that’s a clear sign that your family could use some help getting unstuck. And help is available. Feel free to schedule a consult with me to learn more about what I offer.