Hello, this is in response to the request yesterday about any topics about school. Most of the DMs and comments and stuff were about surrounding anxiety. And parents of kids of varying ages from three to 18. "How do I help my kid manage anxiety when starting school?" I could make 1000s of hours of content on anxiety. So I'm just gonna, I just wrote down quickly, my favorite.
Okay, first, if your kid is 14 and under, please buy the book 'Hey Warrior' by Karen Young. It's my favorite book on anxiety. It covers all of the bases. And it's just awesome. I use it all the time at work with adult clients and kid clients, it's the best way to explain anxiety. It's from an awesome lady named Karen Young, who is a clinician in Queensland, and ships worldwide. Buy it, you won't regret it, if you can buy the little plush, soft toy that comes with it, even better, because that really helps consolidate the learning for the kids. So that's one.
Second, connection - that is so helpful. If you can build connection with your kid, validate how they feel, empathize with them, mirror back to them how they're feeling. Not criticizing them, shaming them, telling them to suck it up, saying it's not that big a deal. It's just first day of school, you've been here 1000 times. That sort of stuff does not help. What's way more helpful is if you validate their experience and empathize with them.
I love to label anxiety as an external thing with kids and adults. So, third, we might name it -- it's fascinating, if you ask kids they often have - they'll tell you, it looks green, it looks orange. It's a blob, it's a man, it's a woman, it's a lion, it's a dog... Get your kid to try to tell you what they think it looks like or draw it and come up with a name, maybe it's called Larry. The point is you want to externalize the anxiety from the child that they are not their anxiety. It's separate from them. It's not them. That's not who they are. The 'Hey Warrior' book talks about the amygdala, which is actually the part of the brain that's responsible for anxiety. So that's one option that kids do is 'it's my amygdala talking to me and telling me to be afraid.'
So let's say we call our anxiety Larry. Sorry, Larry. 'So tomorrow's the first day of school. So who do you think is going to be there? I bet you Larry is going to be there. Hmm.' And then they kind of might go 'Yeah, I think he might be there.' 'Because Larry usually comes to places when it's new. Hmm. And every time we've tried something new, like swimming, or that birthday party, or when you started gymnastics, Larry was there wasn't he? Yeah, he was. So the day before, the day of, he starts saying all these things that he's worried about, right? What do you think he's gonna say?' And then they might go, 'I don't know' or 'he's gonna say you're stupid, or you're not gonna have any friends or whatever.' Usually what I say is, 'I'm pretty sure what Larry is going to say is, this is going to be hard, and you're not going to be able to do it, blah, blah, blah. That's usually around what he says, right?' And then they say, yeah. So we come up with our standard thing, that it doesn't matter what the circumstances is, it doesn't matter what the anxiety thing is, I have my standard set that I always reply back to it. Because that's the thing with anxiety, it'll always find something different to make you worried about. So we have a standard reply to anxiety, whatever it's for, which is, 'Hey, anxiety, or Hey, Larry, or Hey, amygdala, I see what you're doing. And I'm fine, I can handle this,' or, 'I know you're trying to make me worried about that. But I can handle it. And I got mom and dad has backup and they'll be there for me,' or 'I can do hard things,' or 'I'm brave,' or 'The worst thing that's gonna happen is I might be a little bit embarrassed, but I know we'll get through it.'Whatever the line is that works for your kid.
Fourth, if you can leave them with someone, that's great. If you can hand them over, like to their teacher, if they're having a really hard time. Ideally not leaving them with an activity like drawing or play-doh or something. If you can leave them with a human. That's awesome, because then you can transfer that attachment or sense of comfort from you to them.
And fifth - probably my biggest one that's most important to me - is please do not shame them. If you shame them for their feelings and make them feel embarrassed or stupid or 'this is silly' or 'you've been going here for five years. Why are you worried all of a sudden now or feeling anxious?' That is just not helpful because shame creates disconnection, isolation, and makes them feel that they're not okay and that they're doing something wrong and I've never met an anxious person that loves it.
Every anxious person I've ever met, or anytime I've experienced anxiety, I've not wanted it and wished I wasn't experiencing it. So try not to shame them because it just creates disconnection and isolation. If you can, instead, the antidote to shame is vulnerability, connection, and empathy. And if you can try those things, you often create a much tighter bond with your kids so that when they do get into trouble, or they do get stuck with something, they will come to you because they feel seen by you and feel okay. Whereas if you're shaming, it's not okay, and it's not safe for them to come to you and open up. So, yeah, that's like, this is like five minutes on anxiety and I could seriously talk so much longer. So I'll try to make a better video about more. But these are just my quick ones, five minutes of my favorite bits of how to manage anxiety with your kids. Also at drop off, take time. Don't rush off. There's no such thing as getting out the door fast at drop off, especially on the first day of school. Take as much time as you need and just try to be present with them and sit with them. It's a big day. It's transition for everyone.