|Posted on 11 June, 2018 at 6:35|
Today we are facing an epidemic of anxiety, affecting everyone from those as young as our infants with feeding and sleeping difficulties and our very young children with school refusal and behavioral difficulties.
Anxiety has multiple contributing factors that lead to its development. We know that there is a genetic component, that is, the children of either one or both anxious parents are more likely to experience anxiety.
Then there is our individual temperament or personality, which is shaped by both our genes and the environment in which we live. It makes sense then that a child with a genetic predisposition to being anxious, brought up in an anxious household where this behavior is the norm, is more likely to have anxiety issues.
Another contributing factor is our modern Western society. We have become so technologically advanced and yet in other ways seem to be living in an almost backward state of mindless, fast paced chaos. We seem to have missed the point of what truly living in a wholehearted, contented manner is all about. We have become so achievement driven that our daily life has been consumed by schedules, deadlines, and everyone is busier than the next person. At the same time it seems that we are always striving to achieve happiness, which we believe may come in some distant future once we have gone to school, got into university, got a job, bought a house, got married, paid off the mortgage, travelled the world...
So how do our children respond to this increasingly pressurizing, goal driven, future focused society? They develop “behavior issues” or anxiety disorders, sometimes identified and other times not, proceeding through their life in a state of chaos and stress.
What can we do about it? We need to reframe how we interact and engage with our children. The key is not making life easier for our kids by choosing the perfect school, afterschool activities, tutor or experiences for them in attempt to get rid of or minimize the chances of becoming anxious. In fact the opposite holds true.
As much as it may go against our very nature, we need to expose our kids to a variety of experiences, unpredictability, uncertainty and instead model a flexible approach to dealing with life. We need to teach them how to manage their emotional states, rather than confuse them with statements like “It’s all okay” or “It will be fine” when they are feeling overwhelmed or distressed. This is just confusing!
Preventative measures and early intervention are the key, as well as modeling through our own behaviors, the way to live in a more mindful way. We need to show our children that all we really have is what is happening in the present moment and that this, in fact, is enough.