Anxiety is extremely contagious but so is calmHarriet Lerner
One of the hardest things as a parent is to see your child/teen’s anxiety and to stay calm and unruffled yourself. It’s totally human to observe a loved one feeling anxious and feel anxiety yourself. I remember being at a statewide public speaking event and my son, waiting to be called up to speak, sitting next to me and I became so anxious I had to start deep breathing which irritated him beyond words and just served to make him more anxious!! I had to switch to moving my toes and feet quietly instead and reminding myself ‘this time too will pass’!!
This is the ‘anxiety dance’ that can occur between parent and child/teen which is so human, so natural and if only happening infrequently it is manageable but how do you manage this if it is happening on a daily / weekly basis? What do you do when you notice that anxiety is contagious in your house? What do you do if you notice that you are so keen to reassure your child/teen that s/he doesn’t need to be anxious that you find you are supporting your child/teen to avoid what they are feeling anxious about?
This is why the Cool Kids Anxiety Program (& Chilled Out for teens) and No Scared Cats (info here) are focussed equally on supporting parents as well as the child/teen and to equip parents to know how to coach their child in small achievable steps to face what they are scared of with appropriate, realistic anxiety management strategies.
There is research to show that where significant adults in a child’s life can learn how to respond to a child’s anxiety, this type of intervention can be as effective in treating a child with mild-level anxiety compared with seeing a psychologist.Michael Hawton: https://www.parentshop.com.au/how-to-intervene-to-reduce-anxiety/
Creswell, c., Parkinson, M., Thirwall, K. & Willetts, L. Parent led CBT for child anxiety (2017), Guilford Press: New York.
The anxiety dance refers to the negative spiral that can occur where a child is anxious (e.g. about going to school) so in desperation, as a parent, it is easy to keep your child home from school but the more this occurs the more the anxiety builds and it becomes harder and harder to overcome the anxiety. This is where the Cool Kids (or Chilled Out) Anxiety Program or No Scaredy Cats (more info here), whether delivered in a group or individually in counselling/coaching sessions, can be so useful to equip you as a parent with how to coach your child/teen in small achievable steps to face what they are scared of with appropriate anxiety management strategies.
You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.Martin Luther King
I ran a version of Chilled Out (& the proACTive treatment program for young people with anxiety) groups using CBT and ACT strategies at headspace 2018-2020 (Called Building Confidence) and I also have used these approaches with many teens individually when I worked at headspace and with many parents when I worked at Interrelate. When these programs are introduced in realistic and achievable ways it can feel truly miraculous observing the young person face their fears adn manage their anxiety (e.g. the teen who used to stay at home re-engage with school or work or Tafe) and life becomes so much easier for the parents.
If you would like more information on these programs as workshops or individual counselling please phone/text me on 0458231968 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I am passionate about supporting parents to know as many strategies as possible to support your child/teen with anxiety or other emotional issues.
Hope to hear from you soon, Cheers Sara 🙂