They might throw public tantrums, or refuse to talk to people, or fight a lot with other kids, or run and hide when family and friends come over, or cry a lot or cling a lot, or slam doors, or hit siblings, and so on and so on, aaarrrggghhh! (insert that crying face emoji).
Parenting an anxious child can be a no-win situation. If we aren’t aware that anxiety is behind this behaviour we can get caught up in the ‘naughtiness’ of it, or the ‘embarrassment’ or the sheer exasperation of it! Even if we are aware that anxiety is often behind this type of behaviour, we can feel all of the above! And if we are aware that anxiety might be behind their display, we feel a crushing combo of empathy, out of control-ness and probably guilt!
What to do?!?! Well ideally, and I say ideally because I am a parent and I KNOW it is all well and good to have plans, but being able to follow them through all the time is another thing! So, ideally, we work first of all on our PB at PB’ing. That is, on our Personal Bests at PAUSING and BREATHNG.
This makes all the difference between getting caught up and stuck in their behaviour, and taking a mental step back and observing what is going on.
In other words, PAUSING and BREATHING puts our brain in a better position to ‘respond’ as opposed to ‘react’. When we have our abilities to respond it means we have more access to our abilities to remember they are probably worried about something and their behaviour is an offshoot of that. When we are in reaction mode we are more under the influence of our strong emotions and that’s when we say and do things that, in calmer moments are against how we want to be as a parent – those shame-filled, guilt-laden moments (insert that crying face emoji again).
It takes time and practice though. We might have good intentions to pause and breathe so we can respond rather than react, but we might be up against a whole heap of factors: our genes, our own parenting, our own anxiety, multiple stressors, our children’s’ temperaments, sibling interaction, etc, etc.
It’s a tough gig!
What can help toward our PB in PB’ing? Imagining our misbehaving little cherubs as they were when they were tiny vulnerable little babies. It helps us tap into their ‘childness’ and remember that they are still learning how to be in this world. And when it comes to anxiety being the ‘emotional culprit’, that they are feeling overwhelmed, frightened and not sure how to handle it all.
Hope this is helpful! What have you found helpful?