This year, I have had the pleasure of being a Responsibility.org ambassador. I was compensated to write this post, but all opinions of course, are my own.
For the last 21 months, I’ve been…anxious.
Everytime I think I am seeing the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, something ( hello variants) pulls me back in.
But living an anxious life with an anxious brain is not healthy for me, or our family.
Did you know that the anxious brain has a hard time imaging positive outcomes? And that projecting our anxious thoughts makes our kids anxious and indecisive too?
So how do we as parents, in this sort of/on and off pandemic , talk about hope to ourselves and our kids?
I often consoled myself that hey: Pookah is just fine. He’s handling it great. In fact, I’ve been proud of how he has adapted over the pandemic.
But as limbo pandemic life drags on, I know I have to keep speaking positivity and keep talking to him about adaptability, healing and flexibility.
At our last Responsibiliy.org summit of the year, we spoke with Lynn Lyons, anxiety expert, therapist, co-host of Fluster Clux podcast, a podcast for parents who worry with helpful tips on managing the mental health of your family, about how the use of language plays a role in building social and emotional management skills.
We started with the question: how do we emotionally equip our kids for what they are dealing with now ? Lynn talked about the four skills of emotional management that we as parents need to pass on to our kids:
The 4 skills of Emotional Management:
1.The Ability to Tolerate Uncertainty
The ability to tolerate uncertainty ( not knowing what’s going to happen) is the ability to manage or continue to function when things don’t go the way we plan.
This is the hardest for me. I’m a planner, so it’s been hard to live with the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic. Anxious parents and families ( like me these past 21 months) try to make sure everything goes exactly as planned. Children in these type of families have difficulty with change, and uncertainty, and it gets in way of being able to manage when things don’t go as planned.
One way to help? Try going around the dinner table and talk about unexpected thing that happened today and how did they manage it. I do this in the car on the way home from school.
2.Independent problem solving.
Kids who live in an anxious environment can lack independent problem solving skills. During the pandemic, giving our kids independence became tricky because we were together ALL THE TIME, leaving no room to independently problem solve.
Lynn states that now more than ever, parents need to step back and let kids figure things out for themselves.
3.Development of autonomy.
There was no autonomy during the pandemic! Adolescents ( ie Pookah in middle school) lost this skill set during the pandemic. They are supposed to be doing things behind our backs! We are not supposed to know their every move! It’s a part of growing up and learning to make the right life choices!!
The key is to figure out ways to lengthen the leash again to let them experience independence. For me, this was as simple as letting Pookah ride the bus to school instead of me taking him.
4.The ability to assess reasonable risk.
Parents right now are rightfully fearful and have big big concerns about our children’s safety and we tend to be overactive about the emotional roller coasters ( not liking teacher, drama with friends, heartbreak) of tweens and teens. But in anxious families – kids perceive world as more dangerous place.
According to Lynn, the challenge for parents today is to normalize discomfort, uncertainty, problem solving, autonomy and reasonable risk. We need to figure out: how are we going to make sure we are building back up the strength of these kids and giving them the tools to be autonomous.
Because we want to let our kids them experience LIFE and give them the skills to move through the challenges it throws at them. Rather than freaking out.
It’s been a difficult time for all of us, but I think keeping these tips in mind as we go forward, we can help our kids still continue to grow and learn to emotionally manage their lives without us. As they should.
If you want more resources about talking to your kids about risky behavior, Responsibility.org is a great resource. Responsibility.org is a national not-for-profit organization and its mission is to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and to help adults to drink alcohol responsibly as a part of their lifestyle.