Parenting is a challenge for all of us, but especially for those raising kids with unique needs and struggles. Even though our kids don’t come with a “This is How to Raise Me To Be Awesome” instruction manual, there is hope! We can reach out for wisdom from God, and from one another.
If you listen to constructive criticism,
you will be at home among the wise.
If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself;
but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.
Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom;
humility precedes honor. Proverbs 15:31-33 (NLT)
How Do I Parent My Sensitive Kids with Anxiety?
Question from a Father of Four: It’s seems like this generation of kids is so overly sensitive. Is there such a thing as being too compassionate, even when they struggle with ADHD or anxiety? Does it cause kids to be lazy, less resilient, or fail to push through when things are difficult?
Response from Kristal Mathis, MA MFT, LMHC—Youth Mental Health Specialist:
Dramatic children can be challenging. They don’t respond to logic well. Ironically, validating their feelings and thoughts (not necessarily their behavior) reduces the intensity of their emotions. If the child/teen hears enough validation, they can internalize it and manage their own emotions less dramatically.
Often, parents equate validation as approval so they avoid it when kids are emotional/dramatic.
All kids- even with ADHD and anxiety need boundaries and consequences. Kids with these issues also need ALOT of structure. Know what your child is capable of and set them up for success. Validate the feeling, set the expectations, and give choices.
“It makes sense this assignment is stressful, AND it needs to be done tonight. The sooner we get this done, the more time we will have to watch a movie.”
“I get that you’re upset with your sister and what she said. That makes sense. AND the rules of the house include being respectful. Let’s figure out how to be respectful in this situation and how you can make it up to her. If you choose not to work with me on this, there will be no electronics until we discuss it and come up with a plan.”
Parents tend to do the feeling stuff so well, they don’t hold the expectations or consequences. Others tend to ignore the feelings and only hold the expectations/consequences. Both are important.
Response from Rev. Angela Howard, Director of Mental Health—His Heart Foundation:
I’ve been right where you are! It’s the balancing act of truth and love. Here’s how I deal with it:
- Be the calmest person in the room: Whenever there is chaos going on around me, I get to choose to be the stabilizer. They might be feeling anxiety, but that doesn’t have to rile me up. It helps me to make better decisions when I have a clear head.
- Examine the motives behind my behavior: Is my motive to get them to stop inconveniencing me with their drama? Is my motive to teach them? Is my motive to love them? I have to be honest with myself or I’ll make a decision I might regret. (Search me, God, and know my heart…Psalm 139:23)
- Timing is everything: Anytime someone is feeling tremendous anxiety, it’s physically impossible for them to think clearly. There’s a rush of adrenaline and cortisol that changes the way our brain functions, most importantly our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for problem-solving among other things. This isn’t the time to go into a lecture. Help them calm down first and teach later.
- Lead by example: Whatever you want to teach your kids, live it out. They will listen more with their eyes than their ears. They can and will learn perseverance and resilience through loving parents who acknowledge their feelings and hold true to the values of your individual family.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
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5 Things TO Say to Someone with Anxiety
5 Things NOT to Say to Someone with Anxiety
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