I can’t believe it’s end of the year already. How are you doing and feeling? Like many of you, I felt frustrated, lost and anxious throughout the year. I never thought the pandemic will last this long. And quite frankly, the entire two years of 2020 and 2021 feel like one big blur.
But here we are again, celebrating another holiday season while embracing changes, uncertainties and hope. Despite all that we have experienced personally and collectively, there has been highs in my personal and professional life as evident through my partnership with responsibility.org.
Overcoming Anxiety and Building Positive Outcomes
If you need a reminder, responsibility.org aims to educate and empower parents and teens to be smart decision-makers and make sound decisions around alcohol. I love partnerships such as this because it not only educates me to become a better, more open-minded parent but also gives me the opportunity to share important messaging with my community.
Recently I got to be a part of an enlightening discussion with Lynn Lyons. An anxiety expert and therapist who provides helpful tips on managing the mental health of your family.
In particular, she stresses the importance of avoiding catastrophic language. Or language with permanence with your children. One example of this is “kids won’t catch up,” or “if this continues, my child will never _____.”
The data points to our reality that about 40% of adults over the last few months experienced some symptom of anxiety. Now more than ever, it’s important to take a step back. And really examine how we are modeling adaptability, healing and flexibility for our children.
Here are the 4 skills of emotional management as clarified through Lynn Lyons.
The 4 skills of emotional management
1) The ability to tolerate uncertainty
This is the ability to not know what’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean we get rid of planning and preparing. But that we manage our emotions and actions in healthy ways when things don’t go the way we plan. Many parents don’t realize this. But always making sure everything goes as planned is a sign of an anxious family.
When children grow up in such an environment, the child may have difficulty with change. Uncertainty, and even exhibit unhealthy controlling behaviors. One way to work on this is to go around the dinner table and talk about unexpected things that happened that day and share how each family member managed it.
2. Independent problem solving
Kids living in an anxious environment can lack independent problem-solving skills. And this can become especially problematic during the pandemic because everyone is living closer to each other. Kids need their own space to solve problems independently. And it’s best if parents take a step back and let kids figure things out on their own.
3. Development of autonomy
Autonomy is an invaluable skill that creates healthy and successful adults. This skillset was often hampered during the pandemic for adolescents who ended up doing things behind their parents’ backs. How do we – now that we have more space – lengthen the leash on our kids again in a way that allows them to experience independence?
4. The ability to assess reasonable risk
In anxious families, kids perceive the world as a more dangerous place. This is largely due to the fact that parents today are over-reactive to normal ups and downs. Especially with tweens and teens. We need to normalize discomfort, uncertainty, problem solving. And autonomy and reasonable risk-taking because these are a natural part of life.
I know how hard it is to let our kids figure things out on their own when they go through difficult times. Such as friendship troubles or a heartbreak. But letting them experience these things on their own and move through them gives them invaluable skills that will pay off on the long run.
There are lots of fears and projections going on right now due to the pandemic and tragic news in the media. It’s important to give our kids skills to problem solve and move through difficulties rather than freak out.
The anxious brain has a hard time imaging positive outcomes. So how can we talk about hope in this pandemic? One way to manifest hope in our families is to imagine how life will be after the pandemic is over. Create a vision board, make a bucket list. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? What are your hopes and goals for 2022?
In doing so, we are generating the skill of projecting positively into the future. Which also helps stay away from catastrophic projection. As Lynn reminds us, talk to your children about positive outcomes, not the silver linings.
To begin, consider asking your kids the following questions:
- What did you discover about yourself during the pandemic?
- What did you get better at during the pandemic?
- What are you most proud of?