Dawn Friedman MSEd

How can I tell if my child’s anxiety is general or situational?

What this person was asking about specifically is, is Is her child’s anxiety being caused by an event at school? Her child is experiencing some school refusal.

That seems to be coming up a lot in the questions I’m getting these days. So is there something going on at school or is this just generally how the child is experiencing the world? Are they just being more anxious? How do we tell the difference? The easiest way to tell the difference is, does this seem atypical for your child?

Has your child been anxious in the past? Have they been the kind of child who worries about things a great deal? Is this a child who always liked to stick close to home, who maybe struggled with you leaving them when they were younger, who now struggles at Bedtime or did struggle at bedtime in the past.

Something to know about school refusal when it’s not related to an event is very often it’s about separation anxiety. The child does not want to separate from you or from their home, or they don’t like you separating from them. So you would look for a history of that when they were younger or in the past.

Or, it has to do with social anxiety. So is this a child who’s always been a little bit shy or has been nervous about social events? Is this a child who is more withdrawn? If this seems consistent with your child’s behavior, even if it’s new, this particular manifestation of anxiety is new, then it’s likely to be a reflection of their anxious Now, if this seems completely out of character, if your once outgoing, optimistic, bright eyed child is all of a sudden shutting down, getting more morose, unwilling to talk to you about what’s going on, that is a sign that something has happened, that an event has happened.

What we’re looking for is behavior that is more or less consistent. What we do know is that anxiety does not get better without attention and care and coping tools. That’s because those of us who have anxious brains will continue to have anxious brains, and we need to learn how to work with our anxious brains.

If we don’t learn how to work with it, if we stay stuck in the avoidance that is the biggest signpost of dysfunctional anxiety, then our lives will get smaller. You’ll notice children who have not learned to manage their anxiety just seem to get smaller. They may have outbursts, but what you see They’re less willing to do things in life.

They’re less willing to open up and share. They’re less willing to make connections. They’re less willing to take advantage of opportunities. They are harder on themselves. They use more mean language when they’re talking about themselves.

And that’s anxiety shrinking them. Because at the core of anxiety is this idea that We cannot take chances. We cannot try new things because those things might hurt us. Anxiety is an overactive danger response. If your child has previously been super forward about things and it’s now shutting down, Something is going on.

There’s been something going on. However, if you look back and say, you know, they did have a fear of thunderstorms when they were younger and they did used to worry a lot about, um, forgetting to feed the dog. Uh, they do ask for reassurance a great deal. They did have that period of separation anxiety in preschool.

Then this new behavior I know these things can be tricky. One of the ways you can figure it out, because it can feel difficult, if we’re living with our child, we might not notice changes over time, or we might be accustomed to the way things are going on, is to take my Parenting Pitfalls quiz. That’s a ChildAnxietySupport.com quiz, just go to my front page, ChildAnxietySupport. com, and I think there’ll be a pop up and, and at the bottom, at the bottom in the footer will be a link to it. And I really encourage you to take that. That can help you see patterns of anxiety that you may not realize were going on. So if you’re not sure, is this an event?

One of the ways you can start to figure it out is take that quiz. If the scores are pretty high and have been over time, you look at it and say, these are behaviors that have been happening in our family for quite some time. That is a good indicator that this is part of the way your child is experiencing the world as an anxious person.

Now, that doesn’t mean that something might not have happened. Uh, there could still be, there could be a child who’s generally anxious, and then they get bullied, and that really revs things up, or they have a mean teacher, and that’s when their anxiety really becomes an issue. So I’m not saying that it’s all or nothing.

It’s usually kind of a mix of the two, but that at least will help you figure out, is, is this something I really need to look for? Something dangerous going on? Or is this more about I need to help my child learn some coping tools and need to learn to figure out how to manage their anxious brain? I hope that’s helpful.

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What do you do when a child is still as anxious if not more anxious of something after exposing them to it?

Now, you know, that our focus on Child Anxiety is not avoiding and going towards the things that make our child anxious in order for them to confront and cope with their anxiety. So I’m going to read the rest of the question here so we can dig into this specific example. My son year eight is terrified of being in the classroom as he is scared of the teachers shouting not at him, just in general.

He either can’t get in the room or when he does, he is really worried if other children start chatting, as he knows the teacher will raise their voice. The thing he is scared of keeps happening so he can’t be shown that it’s okay it won’t happen because it does. He has been in the situation over and over again for over a year.

And the worry has gotten bigger, not smaller. How do we deal with this? Now, when she says, uh, age or year eight, I’m not sure if she means that her child is eight years old or in eighth grade. Not that this necessarily matters, but I’m unsure about that. So let’s talk about this one. Now there’s a couple of things here.

And one is, uh, the thing he is scared of keeps happening so he can’t be shown that it’s okay. It won’t happen because it does. Well, that’s true. So telling the child, you don’t need to be scared because it won’t happen is not realistic because sometimes the things we’re scared of do happen. And then it’s about coping with those things.

That’s a shift in the way that we’re looking at it. So it’s not “go ahead and do the scary thing cause that’s unlikely to happen.” And it’s more “go ahead and do this scary thing because I believe you can handle it.” Now I’m curious, what else might be going on here? And what it is about this classroom that particularly scares this child. I am curious about who they are. In particular. I can’t tell if this child has anxiety in other situations is learning to cope with anxiety and other ways I can’t tell if there are sensory issues that are going .On. I am curious about their auditory sensitivity.

Are they especially sensitive to big noises? And is it coming from that place? Or are they very sensitive to, uh, perceived criticism? And is it coming from that place? So I want to have a bigger picture of this child to know what else is going on. I am betting that there are other anxious things happening for this child; other sensitivities and concerns. Which is not to say that there’s not something going on specifically in this classroom, but I am curious what makes this child especially vulnerable.

The other thing I want to know is is this child safe? Is this a good teacher? Is this a good fit? Is this a good school? What has happened in this child’s history that may have made them especially sensitive? However, it’s easy to get trapped in that rabbit hole of there has to be a reason and that identifying the reason we’ll identify the way out. It’s more about creating a whole big picture because sometimes there is no reason.

Sometimes the child is just anxious, is just sensitive. And other times there is a reason. And then we need to address that.

This is really common in school refusal where we’re trying to figure out is the school refusal having to do with social anxiety or separation anxiety? Or is school truly a poor fit for that child? An example I will give is we had a child whose family I was working with who had a lot of big behaviors around school. And as we dug into it we realized that the school, which was very rigid and very high pressure and very structured, was not a good fit for this particular child. Their anxiety came out as anger and behavior issues. And their anxiety was a fact.

It was true and we needed to do address the anxiety. But we couldn’t do that while the child was in a poor fit situation. When we addressed that, when we found ways to make the school a better fit for that child. And sometimes that might mean changing schools

when families are able to do that, sometimes it might be working with the school to create more flexibility for that child. Then we were able to address the anxiety appropriately. But if a child is constantly being triggered, Then that’s, that’s not going to be something we can overcome just by creating more exposures.

So, I don’t know what’s going on with this child

and I would want to know more about that. I would want to know more about their background. I would want to know more about their functioning in other areas of their life. I would want to know what the family has already tried. And I would want to know if it’s really about building in more coping tools. An example might be, a Child who has a teacher who is loud

and that’s the issue, that it’s an auditory sensitivity. We might think about buying those loop earplugs. We might discuss with the school about allowing them to wear headphones, something that would decrease that auditory sensitivity. On the other hand, if it’s more about being afraid of people getting in trouble or their own concerns about getting in trouble, we might create a coping plan for that child and work with them in addressing their negative cognitions that increase their anxiety. We would not want to up the avoidance.

If we determine the child was safe, if we determined that there wasn’t sensory sensitivities, if we determined that the teacher was well-intentioned and this was truly an anxiety of the child, we would work on that child’s coping skills. So the first step is that exposure and making sure that we are supporting the exposure and not getting in the way of it. And then it’s about coping.

So, what does it mean to support exposure rather than getting in way of it? Is sometimes the Parenting Pitfalls or we get, we also have anxiety about our child’s anxiety and we end up creating more anxiety about the circumstances.

An example would be a parent who really kept checking in with the child and kept unintentionally sending the message. “This is too hard for you to handle. Are you going to be okay because I don’t know if you’re going to be okay.” A very sensitive child may interpret that support as a message that they’re not as capable.

So we would also look at that. There’s a whole lot to look at. So it’s not an easy answer. It’s not a one and done easy answer. And this is why it’s really important to tailor these messages to that specific families needs. I try to give really good general support here and also then give you some keys and clues into where you might look further to figure out what it is that your specific child needs in these specific circumstances.

What do you do when a child is still as anxious if not more anxious of something after exposing them to it? Read More »

Is it my anxiety or my child’s?

This week’s question is, is it my anxiety or my child’s? That’s a great question. And I’m going to insert that meme here, where the kid says, why not both? The truth is it can be difficult to tease out where the anxiety started. Do we have an anxious parent? Do we have an anxious kid? Is the parent anxious because they’re anxious about their child is the child anxious because they have an anxious parent. It’s very complicated.

So first of all, let’s explain that when we are talking about child and teen anxiety, we are talking about it in the context of a family.

And that’s because the research shows us over and over again that the family system perpetuates anxiety. We do not need to know if it is the parent’s anxiety or the child’s anxiety. We can just say there is anxiety in the family and it needs support. Now the people that are most in charge, most in control of how the family functions are the parents. Which is why we start the intervention with the parents. We work on helping the parents interrupt patterns of anxiety and as we start to unhook from anxiety, then we can work more directly with the child. All right. As far as is it your anxiety? Is that the child’s? I kind of feel like at the beginning, at least it doesn’t matter. So for example, I have many families who come to me and the child has anxiety with one parent more than the other parent and the parent who is not seeing the anxiety will often tell me, I think it’s the other parent.

I think the other parent is so anxious they make the child anxious. And I say, yeah, maybe, maybe that, that could be part of it. It’s still going to need the same kind of attention, which is we have to interrupt the pattern. Is the parent creating the anxiety in the Child, perhaps but it’s very chicken and egg.

You cannot look at something happening with the child and know exactly what’s happening in the family. It’s kind of backwards when we do that. So when we, when we’re working with a child and we say the parent is clearly doing it wrong, we’re ignoring the fact that maybe the parent is doing things in reaction to the child.

All right. We know that. We know from the research that parents of anxious kids get trapped in those anxiety patterns. We also know that some children inherit anxiety from their parents, both genetically; they have brains shaped for anxiety. And also because we teach them how to be anxious. For example, if you’re afraid of spiders, then every time you see a spider, you’re going to jump and act afraid your child learns, oh, I get it.

Spiders are scary. I need to be afraid of spiders that doesn’t make it your fault per se. It’s just the reality that we teach children how to function in the world. On the other hand, if the child is afraid of spiders and freaks out every time they see it. The parent will start being afraid of seeing spiders because they know it will create a reaction in the Child.

Then you’ve got both people kind of freaking out over spiders. And you can’t say, well, it’s the parents’ fault because they shouldn’t be freaking out over spiders. Any more than you can say, it’s the child’s fault because they’re freaking out over spiders. So let’s quit talking about fault and instead start talking about how do we interrupt that pattern? And that is through exposure designing exposures about spiders. And that might be getting some spider toys, some little rubber spiders, some toys spiders, reading books about spiders. Until the pattern is interrupted in a way. If you’re just working with the child with the rubber spiders, toys spiders, all of those things. And the parent is still reacting. Hey, are you okay? There’s a spider. Are you all right? Then you can see that’s not going to go very far with the child. We also have to work with the parent. We need to calm down your reaction to the spider.

We need to help you not freak out when you see a spider, whether that’s because you yourself are uncomfortable with spiders or because having a child who’s afraid of spiders has made you reactive to spiders. Am I making sense here? We do know, too, that the bigger your child’s reaction, the more outsized their child’s reaction, the more likely you are to get activated.

If your child has big behaviors in their anxiety, then you are likely to feel that more and to get more caught in those anxious patterns. By the same token, if you are a sensitive, anxious individual, then your family is also more likely to get stuck in anxious patterns. Which is all to say, it is not helpful to talk about blame and talk about how we got here so much as to talk about how do we get out of here. If you’re feeling guilty because you feel like you have brought anxiety into the family. Please let that go

and instead, focus on how do I figure out how to get out of these anxious patterns we’re stuck in? How do I learn to take care of myself around the anxiety? Because I guarantee that’s going to make things better for your child. The more you can take care of your anxiety about your child’s anxiety, the better. And sometimes when I’m talking to parents that go, I do not have anxiety.

This is all my child. But the fact they’re reaching out to me tells me they do have anxiety. They’re anxious about their child’s functioning and that anxiety while you might not think of it as well. I’m an anxious person. You do have anxiety within the relationship because naturally as a loving, connected, empathetic parent, you’re worried about your kid. And that’s the anxiety that we’re going to pay attention to

as we work on getting the family out of the whole anxiety pattern. I get it, that the focus is on the child because the child is the one everybody’s concerned about. The child is the one who may be seems trapped. The child is the one who’s maybe causing issues for the family at large. But again, we need to start with the parent. Once the parent understands the patterns.

Once the parent understands how they are perpetuating or trapped in the patterns. Once the parent understands that they do have anxiety, even if it’s just about their child’s anxiety, then we’re really going to be able to get to work. .As we work on the parent to extricate themselves, I promise you, the whole family will extricate.

It may not look like you expect it may not look like all of a sudden my child’s anxiety has gone; they’re coping, et cetera. But again, the more you focus on you and understand what’s happening. The more you pull out of it. The more, you’re going to be able to support your child. I hope this all makes sense.

Thanks for tuning in this week. Remember if you have a question you’d like me to address on the show, please go to ChildAnxietySupport .com/question, and you can post it there. Maybe I’ll address it on a future episode. I also wanted to let you know that I have a webinar called “Tell Me It Will Be OK: How To Talk To Your Anxious Child About Their Anxiety”

and you can register for that at ChildAnxietySupport.com /webinar. That’s free for you. I just want you to check it out and let me know if it’s helpful. If you’d like to learn more about me and my program and see if maybe I can help your family, please visit ChildAnxietySupport.Com.

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Gentle Parenting for Anxious Children

Parenting is a journey that comes with its unique set of challenges, especially for those who have decided to embrace the gentle parenting approach. Gentle parenting is about guiding children with kindness, empathy, and respect, rather than punitive measures. This becomes particularly poignant when we, as parents with our own hard backgrounds, are faced with the task of raising anxious children. It’s a path that requires patience, understanding, and a recognition of our own experiences and how they shape our responses to our children’s needs.

Understanding Projection in Parenting

One of the intricate aspects of parenting is the tendency to project our own childhood experiences onto our children. Many of us turn to gentle parenting because it offers a stark contrast to the way we were raised. We want to do better, to be the empathetic and responsive caregivers we craved for ourselves. When we see our children struggling with anxiety, our hearts naturally swell with empathy. Yet, this well-meaning impulse can sometimes cloud our judgment.

Projection can lead us to over-identify with our child’s experiences of anxiety. In doing so, we may inadvertently hinder their ability to develop resilience. It is crucial to remember that while empathy is a beautiful gift, it must be balanced with the recognition that our children are individuals separate from ourselves. They have their own paths to navigate, and sometimes, what they need most from us is the space to learn and grow through their own experiences.

Embracing Exposure with Love and Support

It may seem counterintuitive, but part of helping an anxious child is to encourage them towards exposure to the things they fear. This can be one of the toughest aspects for a gentle parent to reconcile with their nurturing instincts. Exposure can feel like we are pushing our children into discomfort, which can trigger memories of our emotional neglect. It can be distressing when our child questions our love and support in the face of their anxiety, asking, “Don’t you love me?” or “Why aren’t you helping?”

However, it’s important to recognize that this exposure is not the same as abandonment. As gentle parents, we’ve laid a foundation of support and empathy that we, ourselves, may not have had. Our children have a resource in us that we may not have had in our own parents. They are not alone in their journey. As they face their anxieties, they do so with a parent who is emotionally present and equipped to support them through the process, creating a fundamentally different experience than the one we may have known.

Recognizing Individuality in the Parent-Child Relationship

Embracing the fact that your child is not you, and you are not your child, is a powerful step in gentle parenting. This recognition allows us to see our children as the unique individuals they are, with their own strengths and vulnerabilities. It allows us to parent from a place of understanding and support, without the constraints of our own past experiences.

Remember, you are breaking the cycle. Your child has the benefit of a parent who is doing things differently. Through your presence, empathy, and responsiveness, you are providing your child with the resources to face their challenges in ways you might not have been able to. This is the essence of gentle parenting—offering our children the tools and emotional support they need to grow into resilient, well-adjusted individuals.

As we navigate the complexities of parenting anxious children, we must hold onto the knowledge that our journey is distinct from theirs. We guide, we support, but we also let them find their own way, knowing that they are fortified by the love and empathy we shower upon them. Gentle parenting isn’t about shielding our children from every discomfort; it’s about preparing them to face the world with courage and the knowledge that they are never alone.

In closing, gentle parents, take heart. Your hard background has equipped you with an enormous capacity for empathy and growth. Your decision to parent gently is a testament to your strength and commitment to doing better for your child. Trust in the foundation you have built, and watch as your child uses the tools you have given them to navigate their anxieties. Together, you are on a path of healing and growth, one step at a time.

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Understanding and Supporting Anxious Children: Beyond Deep Breaths

If you’re a parent, an educator, or simply a caring adult, you’ve likely encountered the delicate challenge of helping a child navigate anxiety. So often we hear the well-meaning advice of “just take a deep breath,” but what if this common refrain isn’t the balm we hope it to be? Let’s explore this together in a way that’s empathetic, knowledgeable, and, hopefully, a little enlightening.

The Limits of “Just Breathe”

It’s a scene played out in countless homes and classrooms: a child’s anxiety begins to bubble up, and the immediate response is a chorus of “calm down” and “take a deep breath.” But for many children, this advice falls flat. The act of breathing deeply, while beneficial for some, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The frustration was palpable in the voice of a child I once saw in my office, tired of being told to breathe as a panacea for their anxiety. This child’s experience is far from unique, and it highlights a critical point: the more tense we get, the less helpful it can be to be told to calm down and breathe.

Shaking It Out: A Natural Response to Anxiety

When we consider how our bodies naturally react to fear, we notice something interesting: we shiver. This involuntary response can also be harnessed in a more deliberate way to help children manage anxiety. By encouraging them to ‘shake it out’—whether that means literally shaking their limbs, jumping up and down, or engaging in another form of movement—we can help them work through the physical tension that anxiety brings. This approach is rooted in the understanding that our bodies and minds are deeply interconnected, and sometimes physical action can pave the way to emotional relief.

Movement as Medicine: Trying a Different Approach

So, what can we do the next time we see a child overwhelmed with anxiety? Instead of the default directive to breathe, we might suggest shaking it out. This simple, yet potentially powerful technique offers an alternative path to calmness by channeling the body’s natural instincts. It’s an opportunity to validate a child’s feelings and give them a tool that might be more in tune with their needs at that moment. I encourage you to try this with your child or a child in your care. Observe how it works for them. Does it help to dissipate the anxiety? Does it seem to move the tension through and out of their body?

Every child’s experience with anxiety is unique, and there are no universal solutions. However, by offering a range of techniques and being open to what resonates with each individual child, we can provide a more supportive and understanding environment. If you’ve tried this approach, or if you have other strategies that have worked, I’d love to hear from you. Sharing insights and experiences can be incredibly beneficial to our community of caregivers seeking to nurture and empower anxious children.

Thank you for joining me in this exploration of childhood anxiety management. Remember, our role is not to fix everything for the children in our lives, but to support them in finding the tools that help them manage their own challenges. Let’s continue to learn and grow together for their sake.

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Debunking the Myth: The Perfect Child and Parental Influence

Welcome to an insightful discussion about parenting, growth, and the timeless debate on the nature of children’s development. In today’s post, we’re going to delve deep into the heart of a concept that has been circling around the realm of child psychology and modern parenting philosophies—the myth of the perfect child and the impact of parental influence. Join me as we unpack this complex subject with empathy and authority, aiming to educate and support parents in their journey.

The Fallacy of the Blank Slate

The blank slate theory, a notion as old as time, suggests that children are born as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with the knowledge, values, and behaviors imparted by their parents. It’s a concept that has been thoroughly discredited, yet its echoes can still be heard in some parenting circles. This outdated idea fails to recognize that children are born full of potential, as complete individuals in their infancy, who will naturally evolve into adulthood.

The growth and development of a child are more pronounced during their early years, as their brains are still forming. However, it’s a lifelong process that does not cease with age. We must acknowledge that each child comes into the world with their unique personality and inherent traits. They are not blank slates for us to inscribe upon but are individuals who will grow and adapt in their own right.

The Myth of Perfection and Parent-Child Dynamics

Another pervasive myth is the belief that children are born perfect, only to be marred by life’s experiences and the influence of their parents. This narrative is not only unhelpful but also detrimental to the understanding of the complex dynamic that exists between a parent and a child. Both are part of a system, a unit that interacts and influences one another in profound ways.

It is indisputable that parents have a significant impact on their children’s development. Yet, it is essential to recognize that the influence is bidirectional—children also shape their parents’ lives and approaches. Struggling with your child does not make you a bad parent; it presents an opportunity for mutual growth and change that should be embraced, not feared.

Navigating the Parent-Child Relationship with Compassion and Flexibility

It is often the case that the most gentle, respectful, and conscientious parents are the ones who are the hardest on themselves. Driven by a deep desire to ‘do things right,’ they may inadvertently hold back from asking their children to rise to challenges, fearing that they might impose too much on their young minds. However, it is crucial for parents to understand that it is not only okay but necessary to ask their children to adapt and grow alongside them.

We are all in a constant state of flux, both as individuals and as parts of a larger system. By allowing ourselves and our children the space to flex and change, we foster an environment in which everyone can grow. This does not mean that parenting will always be straightforward. When you find yourself at a loss, especially when dealing with an anxious child, remember that seeking help is a sign of strength. There are resources and support systems in place for this very reason—to provide guidance and an objective perspective on your parent-child relationship.

In conclusion, let us reject the myths of the blank slate and the perfect child. Let us instead embrace the complexity and reality of parenting, acknowledging that it is a dance of mutual growth and adaptation. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Whether you’re seeking advice, reassurance, or simply a listening ear, the community is here to support you and your child as you navigate the ever-changing landscape of life together.

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Understanding the Roots of Child Anxiety: It’s Not Just About Parenting

Welcome to today’s discussion on a topic that I find crucial and yet often misunderstood – child anxiety and the role of parents in it. As someone who has been immersed both in clinical work and providing support through child anxiety parent education, I’ve encountered numerous instances that leave me shaking my head in frustration. The narrative of blaming parents for their children’s anxiety is not just prevalent; it’s damaging. Let’s delve into this topic with empathy, understanding, and education, to dispel some myths and shed light on the real issues at hand.

The Blame Game: Why Professionals Shouldn’t Point Fingers at Parents

One of the most distressing experiences for parents seeking help for their anxious child is being met with blame. Imagine mustering the courage to ask for support, only to be told that the problem lies with you – that you are the cause of your child’s struggles because “you’re doing it wrong.” It’s a narrative I’ve encountered all too often, and it’s one that needs to change.

When professionals hastily judge parents without fully engaging with the child, they overlook a crucial fact: parents reaching out are already taking a positive step. These are the individuals we should be supporting, not chastising. Moreover, the simplistic notion that a child’s challenges can be pinned solely on parental actions ignores the complexities of human behavior and development. Two children raised in the same environment can have vastly different outcomes because the equation of human emotion and psychology is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Focusing on Strengths: The Constructive Approach to Parental Support

In my work with families, my approach is to identify and build upon what parents are doing right. Believe me, no matter the situation, there are always strengths to be found. It is from this foundation of positivity that we can create effective strategies to support both the child and the family as a whole.

Supporting a child with anxiety is not just about addressing what’s “wrong” or “lacking” in the parental approach. It’s about recognizing the unique strengths and skills of each family member and leveraging these to foster a nurturing environment. By focusing on what parents and children are doing right and how we can enhance those behaviors, we create a more robust support system that benefits everyone involved.

Child Anxiety: A Family Pattern That Can Be Rewoven

Child anxiety does not exist in a vacuum; it is often a reflection of family dynamics. Yes, parents play a role, as do the children. However, by understanding that each family member contributes to the pattern, we can begin to make meaningful changes that benefit everyone.

It’s important to start with the parents who have already shown their willingness to seek help. These parents are not the problem; they are part of the solution. By working collaboratively with them, we can make significant strides in reducing child anxiety and improving the family’s overall wellbeing.

In conclusion, if you’re a parent struggling with your child’s anxiety, know that you’re not alone, and it’s not about assigning blame. It’s about finding solutions and building on the love and strengths that already exist within your family. For those who are ready to embrace a supportive and constructive approach to addressing child anxiety, I’m here to help. Let’s have a conversation and begin the journey towards healing and growth together.

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Untangling the Knot of Childhood Anxiety: A Journey from Small Beginnings to Big Changes

Welcome to our latest discussion on a topic that many families find themselves grappling with: childhood anxiety. It’s not an easy path to navigate, and often, when parents reach out for guidance, they’re met with an overwhelming number of strategies, opinions, and potential solutions. But today, we’re going to talk about the transformative power of starting small to create big change.

Identifying the Core Struggle

When parents first approach me about their anxious child, they often come with a heavy heart and a story that feels like a Gordian knot of worries and struggles. They lay out the entirety of their child’s issues, and inevitably, the family’s struggles, which are invariably interwoven with the child’s experiences. They present this complex, tangled mess with a plea for help: “Let’s fix it.”

However, this intricate tangle of issues is akin to a literal knot. If you’ve ever tried to untangle a knot, you know that pulling at random strands only tightens the snarl. The same principle applies to addressing childhood anxiety. The key is not to tackle everything at once but to start small. We need to locate that one strand that, when gently pulled, will begin to loosen the entire knot.

Finding the Most Impactful Starting Point

Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response when confronting your child’s anxiety. The sheer breadth of the issue can paralyze even the most proactive parents. So where do we begin? The answer lies in pinpointing the area of greatest pain or potential relief. This is where you start—where the first small change can be made.

Perhaps it’s establishing a simple bedtime routine that helps your child wind down, or maybe it’s practicing deep-breathing exercises together for moments when anxiety starts to spike. It could even be as straightforward as creating a safe space where your child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. These are not sweeping changes but rather focused, manageable starting points.

By homing in on one specific area, you’re not just aiming for an immediate sense of relief; you’re also setting the stage for a ripple effect. You’ll begin to notice that as you address this one area effectively, the benefits start to spill over into other areas of your child’s life—and by extension, the family’s life as well.

The Power of Incremental Progress

Starting small may seem counterintuitive when the desire for quick, comprehensive change is strong. But trust in the process of incremental progress. As you make small adjustments and celebrate each victory, no matter how minor it may seem, you’re laying the groundwork for lasting change.

Each step forward is a shift in the patterns of your family’s functioning. Over time, these small shifts accumulate, and the once daunting knot of anxiety begins to loosen. The changes in behavior, the growing resilience, and the improved coping strategies in your child will become more evident. And as these transformations take place, your family as a whole will find a new equilibrium, one that is healthier and more harmonious.

So, to all the parents out there grappling with the weight of their child’s anxiety, remember this: Start where you are, with what you have, and do what you can. Know that each small effort is a step towards a larger transformation. Be patient, be persistent, and believe in the potential for change. As you untangle each strand of difficulty, you are not just addressing symptoms; you are nurturing resilience and strength in your child that will last a lifetime.

In closing, I want to reaffirm that you are not alone on this journey. Many have walked this path before you, and there is support available. Starting small does not mean starting alone. Reach out, connect, and let’s untangle this knot together, one strand at a time.

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Understanding and Supporting Anxious, Irritable Kids

As parents, educators, and caretakers, we often encounter children who display anxiety and irritability. It’s natural to want to soothe their worries and calm their tempers. Yet, when we dive deeper into these challenges, we realize that the key is not to focus solely on the emotions themselves but rather on how the child is functioning despite these emotions.

Looking Beyond the Surface

At first glance, it’s easy to get caught up in the desire to see our children as beacons of positivity. The reality, however, can be quite different. Anxious and irritable children may not immediately transform into paragons of peace and contentment. It’s important to recognize that while their demeanor might not change overnight, their ability to cope with and perform necessary tasks can still be cultivated.

This is where our focus should lie: not on the external behavior that can come with anxiety, such as whining, foot-dragging, or arguing, but on their overall functioning. How are they managing their responsibilities? Are they attending school, completing assignments, and engaging in social activities? These are the measures of functioning we should be attentive to.

Embracing a Calm and Patient Approach

It’s a challenging journey, often testing the limits of our patience. But by tapping into our reservoirs of calm, we can provide a stable base from which our children can learn to manage their anxiety. Arguing with an anxious child often leads nowhere—except perhaps further into the cycle of avoidance and anxiety.

Instead, we can acknowledge their feelings—frustration, anger, sadness, worry—and still gently encourage progress towards the tasks at hand. This approach does not dismiss their emotions but rather validates them, while also emphasizing the importance of moving forward and functioning within their environment.

Progress Over Perfection

When encouraging a child to face something that scares them, it’s essential to concentrate on the progress they make rather than the peripheral behaviors that accompany their anxiety. If a child is worried about attending a birthday party, for instance, the goal becomes their attendance and participation, not the absence of complaints or nervous behavior before the event.

By focusing on the functioning—the act of showing up and participating—we set a realistic and attainable goal. It’s not about having a child who’s free from anxiety; it’s about having a child who can function with it. That’s the victory we’re aiming for.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that as much as we wish to ease our children’s anxieties, we should also empower them to function through their worries. If you have questions or would like to discuss strategies for supporting anxious and irritable children, please feel free to reach out. Together, we can focus on building their resilience and their ability to navigate life’s challenges, one step at a time.

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