The 2 things I hear most from kids and teens about anxiety.

The 2 things I hear most from kids and teens about anxiety.

I’ve spoken all around the world about anxiety, and it doesn’t matter where I find myself, anxiety is there. That’s because anxiety is a human thing. It’s not a breakage thing, or a deficiency thing. It’s not a child thing, or a grown up thing. It’s not a ‘me’ thing or a ‘you’ thing, or an ‘us’ thing or a ‘them’ thing. It’s an ‘all of us’ thing, and our kids need to know this.

I often go into schools to speak to groups of kids or teens about anxiety. I’m always so warmed and overjoyed by their openness when they realise it’s safe for them to speak or ask questions.

This is what happens when we make anxiety safe. When we turn a conversation about anxiety into a conversation about courage, when we normalise anxiety and speak to the human-ness of it, we strip away any shame story or deficiency story and we make it easy for young people to show up, to be brave, to grow and stretch themselves at their edges. We strengthen them. 

The two things I hear most from kids and teens about anxiety.

When I speak to kids or teens about anxiety, there are two things I hear almost every time.

The first is, ‘I thought it was just me.’ Anxiety can be so isolating. This in itself will drive more anxiety about the anxiety, and fuel the deficiency story that can often come with anxiety.

If only every young person could know that anxiety is one of the most human of the human experiences. And it happens to all of us. If only that could happen, they’d feel less alone in their symptoms, less broken because of them, and more comforted by the human-ness of them.

The second thing I hear is, ‘I didn’t know who to talk to.’ My response is, ‘Talk to an adult you trust, because I promise you, at some point in their lives – probably many points, maybe even today – they would have felt the way you do. If that adult isn’t sure what to say, that’s okay – we adults don’t always have the words we need to make sense of things – find another adult. We’re there. And we get it. Sometimes the hardest thing is knowing where to start. If this happens, try, ‘I’d like to talk to you but I don’t know what to say,’ – and let the adult help you find the words that come next.’

We’re all in this. Let them feel the human-ness of their symptoms, so they don’t feel the isolation of them. ‘Anxiety can be tough can’t it. I get it. I’ve felt that way too before. I want you to know it’s a sign that you’re doing something hard – not that you can’t do hard things. How can I help?

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Thanks so much @maggiedentauthor♥️…
“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This