Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Category Archives: Anxiety in Children

“Javier says the president is going to make him move back to his country. Is that true?”

“The school was on lock down this afternoon because somebody threatened to blow it up.”

“This kid was beaten up on his way home from school. And they posted it on YouTube. Everyone was laughing about it?!?”

“There was a shooting at the Mall. How do we know we won’t get shot at the mall we go to?”

“Charlie says that the world is going to self-destruct in the next 20 years because of global warming.”

Recently, children and teens have been bombarded with images of shootings, angry political rhetoric, and a nearly constant flood of information and footage through social media, TV, and newsprint. They can’t help but be frightened and stressed out. If we as adults are struggling to make sense of the barrage of horrifying images, our kids and teens don’t have a chance.

So, how can parents help relieve kids’ concerns and answer their questions without exacerbating already existing fears and anxiety? Therapist Carla M. Shuman in her article “The Search for Peace in 2017” says, “Be mindful of what you read and absorb…When people are anxious, it’s very common for them to seek information, often more than is necessary or even helpful.” Shuman suggests we find a couple of reliable news sources and stick to those when reading about current events. Before we can advise our kids, we first have to get a handle on ourselves. Just like when airline crewmembers tell us to put on our oxygen masks first before we put them on our children, parents need to take a deep breath and find perspective BEFORE they try to answer their children’s questions. When kids see their parents freaking out, they may not fully understand what they are being told but they pick up on HOW it’s being said and will respond with fear and trepidation.

Here are a couple of pointers to help you respond to your kids’ concerns:

  1. Keep it short and sweet

    Don’t overwhelm your kids with too much in-depth information on a topic. Most kids younger than age 10 will get very little from a long discussion about deportation, economic uncertainty, or terrorism. You may know that the media can be very biased and focuses stridently on terrifying words and events, and you know that news sources may present information that hasn’t been verified as fact. But your kids may not. So make sure what you do communicate in front of or to your children is clear, concise, and evidence-based.

    Remember: Just because you fear it doesn’t make it so.

  2. Avoid all or nothing thinking

    In life, there are few situations or human beings that are all good or all bad. Black and white thinking leads to generalizations and sharp divisions between people. For your children’s sake, you must practice residing in an optimistic shade of gray. When you feel yourself sliding into fear based thinking, pull yourself back to the middle. Take a break from reading or seeking information that confirms your own pessimistic leanings. Help your children develop the ability to view their world through others’ eyes. With perspective taking comes compassion, and with compassion comes understanding and peace.
  3. Seek peaceful solutions to every day problems

    Discourage violence as a way to manage conflict. Instead, help your children develop problem-solving skills that emphasize compromise, negotiation, and perspective taking. These skills develop at home first. Sibling conflicts may drive you crazy as a parent, but they offer rich opportunities for children to learn how to express their feelings and empathize with the needs of others.

  4. Empathize with your child’s feelings. Reassure their safety.

    Develop a plan in the here and now with your child to help them feel safe. Resist the urge to overprotect or avoid situations that provoke anxiety. If, for example, your child, after learning of a recent shooting at a mall, is refusing to go to your local shopping center for fear of being shot, empathize with their fear. “If I thought I was going to be shot at the shopping center, I’d be scared too.” But be sure to challenge the thought by gathering evidence and then facing the fear.

  5. Model kindness and compassion

    Trust that you are constantly modeling your values, morals, and attitudes for your children in everything you do and how you interact with the world.

    To a certain degree, kids view the world through their parents’ eyes. What this means is the parent who models a can-do attitude – ‘this is a difficult problem, but I know I can handle it’ – teaches the child that even in an unpredictable world they have what it takes to cope.

Posted in Anxiety in Children, Anxiety in Teenagers, Parenting | Comments off

In Step hosted a “Siblings of Special Needs Kids” workshop led by Melanie Kaplan, LCSW, this weekend at our Sterling office. It was a huge success and I asked Melanie to talk a bit about what the kids discussed and to put a date on the calendar for another session.

“The workshop was a great! The kids were all very open and happy to talk to each other about shared experiences. I heard a plethora of “I can relate to that”s, “Oh yeah, me too!”s, and “that definitely happens to me”s. The discussion was so lively and helpful that I hated for it to end.

We spent the majority of our time in discussion about what it’s like to live with a sibling with special needs. Topics that came up from the group included: feelings of wanting to protect your sibling, feelings of resentment, feelings of the unfairness of family time/resources spent on the sibling, embarrassment in public situations, and feelings of anger about mistreatment/misbehavior from the sibling. All of these feelings are natural, normal, and expected from siblings of kids with special needs. This was a wonderful opportunity for them to vent, feel heard, and know that other kids are experiencing the same things.

We also spent some time discussing how they can all de-stress and care for themselves when things are particularly hard with their siblings. Each participant came up with a Self Care Plan for things they could do to care for themselves. They also each left with a master list of de-stressing activities from other group participants. The kids expressed a desire to meet up again and this time talk about communication within their families and how to express what they need. I am hopeful we can add new kids to the group to expand on the idea that other families have similar struggles.”

If you would like to sign up for our next workshop, here is the registration information.

Posted in Anxiety in Children, Sibling Rivalry | Comments off