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How to guide emotions, manage meltdowns and help children cope with anxiety.
A couple of weeks ago an event notification hit my inbox. It was primarily about kids and anxiety.
It popped up at a really interesting time for me. To be quite frank, I was at my ‘parenting wits end’ when it came to Autumn and some of her behaviours. I was exhausted literally exhausting all my options. Timely indeed.
The event is a public event hosted by Child Australia on Thursday the 24th August. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and parent educator Dr Kaylene Henderson will focus on how to guide emotions, manage meltdowns and help children cope with anxiety. See event details here. The purpose of the seminar is to educate and support Perth parents and its being held at the South Perth Community Hall.
When it comes to parenting I’m not really a ‘wing it’ kind of parent. I’m spontaneous and relaxed but I’m also firm and I really enjoy researching different parenting styles and discipline techniques to do my best to make sure that all my kids are getting from me what they need and that I am tackling situations to the very best of my ability.
I’ve had quite a bit of a challenge over the years with Autumn and some of her behaviours. I’ve been to courses, read books, research online but I’ve always felt like maybe she just a little different in the way she goes about things. She’s such a beautiful, confident young lady but she absolutely hates being told what to do. She’s quite controlling in most situations but she is also super attached to me to the point where she really freaks out when I drop her at school, sporting commitments and anywhere that isn’t a ‘play date’.
Normal 8 year old behaviour?? Probably! But after reading up about this seminar I wanted to know more.
I was lucky enough to have Dr Henderson answer a few questions for me. Such great, practical, easy to implement tips!! I’m sure you will all get something from this too.
My daughter Autumn is 8 next month. She is an extremely strong willed young lady. So strong willed in fact that I would liken it to being ‘allergic to being told what to do’. I love this trait in her but it can be really hard to parent. Do you have any tips on dealing with this type of personality? I feel like I’m becoming stricter on her and all she wants is more rope.
Power struggles with our kids never go well. Our kids tend to dig their heels in further and the resulting battle can feel like a ‘lose-lose situation’. It’s more helpful when we have a problem with our kids to align with them, the two of us, against a problem rather than to line up against our child. So, for example, if you’re frequently clashing with your daughter, you could say something like, ‘Hey Autumn, you and I have always been close but it seems like we’re both finding it tricky when I ask you to do something and you refuse. I’m wondering how we can make this better? Any ideas? It’d be great if we can work out what we can do differently…’ Now, as the parent, you’re still in charge but this sort of approach makes it easier for kids to problem solve with you and to come up with a plan that they are more likely to adhere to. You’re also teaching your daughter a valuable life skill by teaching her how to resolve conflict with her loved ones in the future. A win win!
On the other hand, she still makes me walk her into the class room and most of the time when I drop her at school or a sporting commitment she grips onto me and I have to peel her away and hand her to the teacher. Is this anxiety or an attachment to me?
A lot of kids find it hard to be away from their parents and the reasons for this can vary – sometimes it’s separation anxiety; other kids are ‘slow to warm up’; It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason without getting to know your little girl. That said, assuming goodbyes are difficult for her, you can approach this situation in the same way by saying something like, ‘Gee it seems like you’re still finding it hard to say goodbye at school in the mornings. What’s happening for you? How can I help?’ What we know is that children learn best when they’re calm, so rather than trying to come up with a plan while peeling her off you, it’s more helpful to have a chat with her while she’s feeling calm and connected with you about how you can both manage the situation better. And then, just as you would encourage her to practise any challenging skill, the two of you can practise your ‘new plan’ together, so that you’re setting her up for success next time she’s in that situation. Young kids love fun role plays and they’re a great way to practise difficult social situations, goodbyes included. This technique of aligning with our kids as we help them tackle tricky situations fosters greater independence and resilience.