Below is an excellent article written by Sharon Selby. North Star parents will have the opportunity to hear Sharon speak at North Star on October 25th! Sharon also has an excellent blog which you can sign up for http://www.sharonselby.com/anxiety/are-you-allowing-uncertainty
Anxiety is increasing rapidly and parents are trying to be so supportive by removing any uncertainty. However, the irony is that we need to be able to handle uncertainty to be less anxious and more resilient. We need to let our children jump into a bigger pond!
Why Is Experiencing Uncertainty Helpful?
The one we thing know for sure, is that change is inevitable. We all have to face uncertainty over and over again. We can’t predict what is going to happen and therefore we need to have the tools to handle the unknown.
If we have children who are scared of dogs and we always protect them, and make sure that they’re not around dogs, how will they manage when the day comes that they are face-to-face with a dog and you weren’t there to protect them?
Instead of rescuing them and trying to save them from any distress, it would be better if we taught them some facts about dogs.
For example, a wagging tail means that the dog is happy, a sleeping dog does not like to be crept on as it may get spooked and then snap, dogs can have playful barks and aggressive barks etc. The more knowledge a person has about dogs, the more they are able to assess if a dog seems friendly or not.
Children with high anxiety feel out of control and so it is natural for them to try and control their environment and the people in their environment. They want everything to stay exactly the same. They want to know what is going to happen, minute by minute. They really don’t like change, but change is inevitable and the more we can help them build up their tolerance for uncertainty the more they will be prepared for their adult life.
We Want to Celebrate Uncertainty But in Manageable Amounts…
When a new situation arises and you know it’s going to cause your child some distress, we need to think of it as an opportunity vs. an event to be feared. (Our children do pick up on our own anxieties and fears.)
For example, if your child has been moved to a new sports team, you’re moving house, your child has a performance, or your child is starting a new school etc. it is normal to be anxious and your child needs to know this. However, you also need to help your child think about these questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- How would my friends handle it?
- Are there other people I know who’ve managed the same situation?
- Is this a true 911 emergency or a false alarm?
- When are some other times in my life, that I’ve had a similar experience and got through it?
- What would I tell my friend, if my friend was nervous about the same situation?
Ultimately, we want our children to believe in their own capabilities. We want them to know that they can fend for themselves and they can problem-solve. (However, we need to set them up to be capable – we don’t want to flood them with so much uncertainty that they feel defeated and paralyzed; it needs to be a journey.)
Do your children know this Winnie-the-Pooh quote?
You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
If we are always doing everything for our children and we’re always by their side, and we’re always speaking up for them, they won’ t have the chance to discover their courage, inner wisdom and capability.
We need to trust more and let go of our own fear.
Dr. Shefali says that when we ask our children lots of questions, it’s our anxiety that we’re projecting onto our children. We want to know who did you have lunch with, who did you play with, who was at the same party as you, what are you going to be when your grow up? etc. etc.
We need to let our children be. We need to let our children blossom according to nature’s timeline, as with all of nature’s flowers.
We need to focus on being in a more trusting place and letting go of our fears.
Let’s focus on raising capable kids instead! If you want to build-up your child’s box for handling uncertainty, I will be starting my next round of “Brain Science” groups for boys and girls ages 7-9yrs. and 10-12 yrs. this Thursday. This 7 week “camp” fills your child’s toolbox (and yours) with life skills for handling, stress, uncertainty, and anxiety in general. Please see the registration link below.
Take-Action Tip for This Week: Celebrate uncertainty! Find ways for your child to learn a new life-skill such as a new chore, a new recipe, taking a bus for the first time, a new hobby, a new sport, a new musical instrument, etc.