Talking to Your Child About Worries
This week is back to school for many of us in Minnesota and that means lot of feelings happening. Excitement, fear, nerves, sadness, anticipation, happiness and joy - all of these can be experienced all at once even!
So what do you do when your child expresses the fear, anxiety or uncertainty to you?
A typical reaction is to try and fill their heads with all of the great things about them. "You're such a good student. You always do well in school. The teacher will be really nice and can help you. This year will be easy for you, don't worry. You won't have any trouble making friends."
Sometimes our response shows up to negate our child's feelings. "There's nothing to worry about. You're always so anxious and it always turns out okay. You always make friends, this time shouldn't be hard at all."
This year, rather than trying to say just the right thing, I encourage you to say less. Focus on just listening, questioning and being curious.
It can look like this:
Child: I'm worried about starting school this week.
You: Really? Tell me about it.
Child: I don't know, I just worry that I will make a mistake or not understand an assignment. I'm also worried that I won't have any friends.
You: What do you imagine would happen if you make a mistake?
Child: The teacher might be disappointed in me.
You: And then what?
Child: They might not like me.
You: And then what would happen? How would you feel?
Child: I'd worry that I'm not good enough.
You: Wow, that must be really hard to feel not good enough.
Now you're getting somewhere. Feeling not good enough is underneath all of the fear, worry and anxiety. Everything stems from this feeling. When you walk through a conversation like this, you can bring your child to exactly the hurting place. When you can identify it, the healing begins because your child feels like you truly see and understand them.
So what to do if you uncover this type of deep belief for your child? First, check it out for yourself. Is this also my deep hurting place? If it is, it's best to start healing yourself. For your child, it's a great opportunity to create a daily affirmation and check in with them regularly. If you hear self talk or fears arising, you can check back in with them using the "not good enough" words they used. "Hey, I hear you feeling anxious about your test coming up. Is that our old friend "not good enough" showing up again? Do you really feel like you're not ready? How can I help?" Once again, question with curiosity.
I wish you a school year of curiosity, courage and healing for you and your child.