Being a parent today is no walk in the park. Especially with anxious kids.
We are up against commercialism. Every advertisement on TV, billboards, radio, in movies, webpages, (on practically every surface we see) touts the message that we deserve things, just because we are us.
This message gets under our skin, we like it, it makes us feel good, important. We want the product, so we can have the good, deserving feeling the product promises. We feel entitled to have it. They say we are entitled to it!
I think this is where anxious kids come from.
Kids today are raised on these commercials. Even if you restrict your children’s TV, they are everywhere (even in schools) growing a sense of entitlement to huge proportions. Kids want what they want, they feel like they deserve it whether they work for it or not, simply because they are them. Generally, kids have lost their work ethic. (Not every kid, many kids are incredibly hard working.) Read more in my book You 1, Anxiety 0.
When our children are born, we hold our little bundles and think that we are going to make the world perfect for them, protecting them from all harm and trouble. Our love overflows and we try to do this to the best of our abilities. But we can become like Merlin, the dad in Finding Nemo. He didn’t want anything to happen to his son, and Dory says, “What do you mean you don’t want anything to happen to him? Then nothing would happen to him!”
So our kids expect their lives to be perfect and we desire to make it perfect for them. Do we see a problem in this equation? Kids get anxious if it is not perfect, if they are slightly uncomfortable. It feels too out of control. Parents are pulling their hair out because their children are asking for material things, discarding them once purchased, and then asking for more. This sets up much conflict between kids and parents. But worse I think this is the culprit for some anxiety.
Anxiety grows out of a feeling that you have no control. When parents restrict kids who feel entitled, anxiety can result, kids are desperate to be comfortable, feel good and important all of the time. They want their way and if they don’t get it feel desperate. Their desperation makes them panic. (My future plan is to write an ebook about parenting kids with anxiety. This is just one of the causes. I hope I get to it soon. I hope.)
They get nervous
My kids have been a little nervous this week, especially my 12 year old who is dreading long days of school then crew practice, then homework. To him, it seems as if there is nothing for him to look forward to. He proclaims daily that he is quitting everything, desperate for relief from the social anxiety and discomfort he feels. Even though I deeply desire to relieve him of his stress, I gently and compassionately make him go. I worked with too many children who have limited their lives because of anxiety. Once they begin to quit things, it can get worse, everything becomes a choice, even school, even getting help for themselves. In extreme cases, they feel entitled to not do what they don’t want to do, to the point that they may not even be brushing their teeth, showering, or leaving the house. And they desperately never want to be forced to do anything. Feeling so entitled they can become angry and violent when they do not get their way, claiming that they “can’t” and you should know that!
A desperate mom left this comment on my Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog this week.
My 19 year old son has severe depression and anxiety. He refuses counseling, and will only take his medication when he is rock bottom. He has only one friend. One of my biggest problems right now is that in order for me to keep things on an even keel I give in to him constantly. I am starting to see (I think) that his need to control me and his younger brother may stem from his feeling unable to control anything else in his life. I need to break this. And, I am at a loss. It is scary and painful.
Exactly, his need for control is that he feels so out of control in his life. If he believes this, it is a trick of the anxiety, since he is very much in control. No matter how much he controls a situation, he may use the excuse he is out of control. This is a tactic of power, playing on his parents inherent guilt that he is struggling.
Sometimes in protecting them, we take away our children’s ability to do what they don’t want to do–skills in doing hard things. I work with these kids and their parents to ease them into doing things that they don’t want to do. It is a struggle because some kids feel so entitled they do not want to participate in treatment since treatment means they have to do “hard stuff.” They want to be better without work, like can’t they just buy something or take a pill and feel good like the commercials say.
They assume there should be an answer, and I say there is: It is attitude. See the good instead of seeing the bad. They think they have to feel good before they could do things, but it is the opposite. They have to do things to gradually feel good. The problem is they have so convinced themselves and everyone around them that “they can’t.” We need skills in doing hard things to survive this physical world. We need to have confidence in ourselves that we can do it in order to do it. We need to have them do hard things and reap the rewards of this.
They will convince us that it is not “worth it,” but it is so worth it.
These skills will help them their whole lives. But mostly it will help them not be anxious kids.
It is one of the most important gifts that we can give our children– the ability to work through a hard time. More info in the comment section!
Do you have anxious kids? How grateful were you to have the skills to get through a hard time in your life?