Avoiding Snowflakery (Part 2 of 3)
Avoiding Snowflakery Part 2: Dealing with Anxiety in our Children
Written by: Mr. Kyle Maestri
As we continue our discussion on parenting, one of the things that Mrs. Orr, our Upper School Guidance Counselor and I have spoken about many times recently is Anxiety.
Here is a small part of that conversation we thought might be helpful to share.
Mr. Maestri: So, how should a parent respond to their child’s anxiety about a test, an assignment, social challenges, or just anxiety in general?
Mrs. Orr: It is tempting for parents and teachers to think that experiences that trigger anxiety are better left avoided, right? Wrong, this couldn’t be further from the healthy path of coping with anxiety resulting in a lifetime of unhealthy coping habits. Putting our children in what we perceive to be “harm’s way” while working through anxiety goes against the very grain of our parental instincts. As parents, we want to protect and deflect any possible outside force that can cause injury to our children be it physical, emotional or otherwise. Anxiety poses a threat to our children, so in fulfilling our parental duty, we work to remove the threat. But, what if anxiety could be seen as an opportunity at times rather than always a threat?
Mr. Maestri: What do you mean it could be seen as an opportunity?
Mrs. Orr: Yes, the anxiety can be very real and yes it can be emotionally taxing on both the parent and the child, but yet still opportunity lies just beneath waiting to be pulled to the surface. The opportunity that I speak of is growth. Too often, we, the parents, step in and remove the child from the anxiety induced situation (avoidance), without ever looking for the positive. Anxiety is real. Fear is real. Our ability to cope (not avoid), both fear and anxiety is necessary for maturity. Habitually removing our children from situations that cause anxiety teaches them the skill of avoidance and deprives them of learning the proper tools to face anxiety head on. Avoiding is not real life. This is where opportunity comes into play. This is our chance as parents to come alongside our children and to truly equip them by taking on the anxiety that is plaguing them and using those instances to grow their faith, confidence, and understanding of how the world really works.
Mr. Maestri: That sounds good and I think you are right but that is hard in practice. As a father I want to protect my children from feeling these things. How do I get to a place of seeing it the way you are describing?
Mrs. Orr: Yes it is hard even in my own life as a mother. We love our children and want to protect them but when I step back and apply this train of thought to my parenting and my child’s thinking we both become increasingly aware that they (our children) are capable of working through difficult things rather than avoiding them. This is a life skill that will put our children on a healthy path to coping with future problems and steering clear of developing social inadequacies and behavioral issues. As parents, we want our children to thrive. It helps us to seize the opportunity anxiety has thrown our way and put our children on the healthy path of personal growth and success.
For a bigger picture look at anxiety and some more specifics related to this, see the article below in Christianity Today. I think it does a good job of giving us the big picture culturally and can spark some interesting discussions about causes and solutions related to childhood and teen anxiety and how the gospel really is helpful in these matters!