Raising parents

Dear parents of Little panickers,

I am your kid, all grown up, and I’d like to tell you a few things you may not know about the child you raised from scratch.

Your child is not acting out “to be difficult” or “for no reason.” If your child is coming to you, complaining they can’t sleep when they haven’t even tried, there is something going on, they just don’t have the words to say. You need to help them. If your child is having tantrums that you can’t explain, that are getting worse, the tantrum is the frustration they feel being unable to express themselves and what they need. Your anxious kids have extraordinary feelings. They register the world with their bodies first and foremost. Those registers don’t always break down into words, which means they cannot express themselves to you the way you are accustomed. You must learn the language your child speaks before trying to teach her your language, which is the language the world will demand of her.

Ordinary children experience the world with their minds AND their bodies. When they are worried, they can reach into their arsenal of reason and logic. They don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, and they’re just fine with that. Things are vague and abstract? Not a worry. But anxious kids are not fine with that. They need things to be concrete; they need to know what’s going to happen. This is what anxiety is—the dread of uncertainty. The dread of discomfort. The fear of feeling fear. Of course, no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow or the tomorrow after that but teaching your child how to break down abstract concepts like time, is a good place to start.

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