The new school year is upon us and for some or our kiddos(and mamas and papas), that can mean mounds of anxiety as we approach the new once again.
How do we learn from this feelings, and more importantly, how do we navigate it and teach the youngest among us how to navigate it as well?
First, let's have some understanding.
Your nervous system is constantly scanning for safety. This may be picking up physical threats, or emotional threats. A feeling of unsafety will cause you to have a vague sense of something being not right. You feel the possibility of danger. A new year at school can feel very threatening. The nervous system can be on high alert, particularly if there was difficulty in the past.
First, you don’t get to decide how someone should feel. What they feel is what’s true for them. It may sound completely ridiculous and illogical to you, but to the young immature mind of your little person, the possibility of their fear is VERY real. Here is where we help them examine what is true, what is really true. We can talk to them about what they feel like and where they feel it in their body. Then we can help them establish if there really is a "tiger" in the corner ready to pounce on them or not.
We have to address which form of mental/emotional anxiety it is: Situational or Learned Anxiety.
Situational is what the body sees as acute trauma or stress. It’s happening right now. This is where management techniques can be used.
Learned anxiety is the chronic vague feeling, just knowing something isn’t right, constantly. This article is going to address one way we may be instilling a sense of "learned anxiety" without even realizing it.
Worst Thing We Can Do is What Most People Do
When someone you love, especially your child is experiencing stress, the first thing we want to do is make them feel okay. So we do. We attempt it by saying, "Shhh, you're okay. You're okay".
Why shouldn't we do this? I know it goes against instinct, but by not giving credence to what they BELIEVE is a feeling of unsafety, we aren't helping them to establish a way to acknowledge their feelings and do something about it. We are teaching them that what they are feeling isn't real. Essentially, teaching their minds to lie to them that they are okay even though they feel they are not. Addressing the fear is necessary. You can't convince someone they are okay, WHEN THEY DON'T FEEL THEY ARE. This is why, later on in life, when they have these vague senses of anxiety and they don't know where they are coming from, it is because we've been training them to "just be okay", even though their fear has not been addressed. That when they were scared in kindergarten we told them they were okay, without addressing what they were feeling or believing. Later on in 9th grade and they're feeling nervous, no wonder they can't pinpoint why.
What To Do Instead
- Listen to them express how they feel.
- Understand it from their perspective.
- Don't judge their assessment of it.
- Ask questions that help draw it out if they're having a hard time describing it. Your PRESENCE, your willingness to be their and help them through it is the more effective way of us saying "You're okay".
- Ask them questions that help them assess if the danger is real.
- Let THEM decide this and then guide them to options of what they can do about it. This way, you can help them not hide from the anxiety, but learn to listen to their body's cues and come up with a solution.
- Finally, teach them these feelings of anxiety is not a disease, it is not permanent and it is not something wrong with them.
If feelings of anxiety are problematic in your family, I would highly recommend some options we offer:
Our office has copies of "Unbound", which delivers a whole new perspective on feelings of anxiety, and what it really is.
And the multiple therapeutic options we have at ANMC including Craniosacral therapy, Huso sound therapy and Heartmath HRV training.
Here's to a wonderful school year!