STOP LYING TO YOUR CHILDREN

Slate has a new parenting advice blog. In a recent post, a mother wonders…

“Should I Tell My Daughter About Her Dyslexia?”

She explains “I don’t want her to feel different, but does she have the right to know why she struggles where others don’t?”

Obviously, the question enraged me. But what enrages me, even more, is that it’s 2019, and parents are still wondering whether to treat their children as human beings.

So, as a person with very little patience for this kind of bullshit (my patience goes exactly where it should–to children, all of them, any age, all the time) I want the opportunity to answer it my way.

LADY, OH MY GOD, WHAT THE FUCK? Should I tell my daughter she has dyslexia?? Does she have the right to know?? First, fuck you. Second, she already knows. Your daughter knows she has Dyslexia, she just doesn’t know what it’s called because you are holding her hostage from her own reality. She is eight years old! Her problem isn’t that she has learning disabilities; her problem is you.

PARENTS! PLEASE, CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION! Your children are human beings. You are afraid to fuck them up so you withhold the truth of who they are from them, and you withhold the truth of the world. You want them to continue being wholesome, innocent creatures, and you’re afraid that by telling them the truth you will corrupt them. The truth doesn’t corrupt them. Lying corrupts them. By not telling them what’s going on, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY KNOW SOMETHING IS GOING ON, you are lying to them.

We protect our children, not by hiding the world from them, but by teaching them how to handle each hardship the world hands us. You want to raise healthy, strong, vibrant children and you want them to one day leave the bubble you have created for them and thrive, but for some reason, you don’t want to teach them how to face adversity and grow. You say you’re parenting, you insist that you’re a good parent, but parenting is teaching your children life-skills. It’s showing your children who they are, and who the world is, and then modeling for them how to manage these truths. Parenting is teaching your children to live independently in this world without you.

So please, I beg of you, do not coddle your children in this way. Do not hold them hostage to the world by keeping who they are from them. My entire life I was tested. Those results were withheld from me, and when I asked what was wrong with me, I was told I was a “slow learner,” and to this day, in my 40’s, I have trouble believing anything else. But I am not a “slow learner.” No one is a “slow learner.” The paradigm that exists to teach children is a one-size-fits-all model, and I am not “all.” I am me, and I learn through experience, not by sitting in a chair and listening to a teacher who is clearly bored by having to recite the same shit every day.

“Miss Sixty Jr Adv, Catalogue” by D-image studio is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

What was wrong with me was that I had a panic disorder, and I didn’t learn that fact until I was 25 years old. If at 8 years old, someone had told me what was wrong with me and had helped me learn how to manage it, I would not have suffered unnecessarily for a majority of my life.

So, my eight-year-old self is begging all of you to be honest with your kids. Tell them who they are, because they already know, they just don’t know what it’s called.

(here’s the original post from SLATE: https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/05/when-to-tell-children-about-disability-care-and-feeding.html)

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HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD WHEN THEY’RE HAVING A PANIC ATTACK

When your child is having a panic attack, do you know how to help them? Do you tell them that they’re okay? That they’re fine? Do you tell them to breathe?

Yes?

Okay.

Please stop doing that.

When your kid (or your sibling or friend or loved one) is having a panic attack, they are not fine and they are not okay. They know this. You know this. So, when you tell them that they ARE fine, when they are very clearly not, the person having the panic attack knows you are not someone they can rely upon. You are not being in charge of reality, which is what the anxious person needs. Having a panic attack is losing control–a terrifying place for an anxious person to be. If they are going to be soothed by you, you need to prove to your anxious loved one that you are capable of being the one in control, and in order to do that, you need to tell the truth.

“Crying Child” by A.MASH is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Anxiety gets worse when it’s denied or hidden. Telling someone they are okay when they are not, makes their anxiety worse. Acknowledging that someone is not okay does not in fact trigger their anxiety, rather it allows the anxious person to relax a little knowing that someone is completely there with them. A person having a panic attack is afraid of what’s happening to them, and when the person they are with is calm and stable, able to recognize the situation for what it is, the anxious person can begin to feel safer.

So, are you supposed to tell the panicking person they are NOT okay?

Sort of, and no. A good approach is to acknowledge what’s happening, and that you’re there and will get through it with them. Ex: “I know you don’t feel okay right now, but I’m here with you and we’ll get through this together.” Remind them of the last time this happened, point out that they were scared then that they would never stop panicking, but that they did, and they will again.

Be conscious of mirroring back to your child whatever it is they’re afraid they’re doing or not doing. If they feel they are unable to breathe, tell them you are watching their chest and belly rise and fall, that even though they feel their body is shutting down, the person not panicking is watching and able to see that their body is not shutting down. “Yes, I know it feels like your body is closing down, this is what panic attacks do, remember? I am your emergency contact and I’m here with you, and I can tell you that you are going to be okay.”

Try and point out that feelings are not facts. Yes, your child might be CONVINCED that you’ll forget they exist after they’ve left for their school trip, but that’s just a feeling, some bad information their anxious brain is sending them, but it’s not a fact. The FACT is that you have never forgotten your child in the past, the FACT is that your child has never forgotten they have a parent, so it makes logical sense that no parent could forget they had a child. Separate their worries from reality with logical, evidenced-based facts.

“i’m gonna cry…” by sashomasho is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 


Sit with them. Do not be busy doing other things while your child is panicking. Hold the anxiety with them. If they are hyperventilating, it is appropriate to have them breathe, but breathe alongside them. Show them how you would like them to be breathing (slowly in for a count of six, slowly out for a count of six. Keep doing this a few times). If they are not hyperventilating, having them breathe might actually induce hyperventilation, so do not tell them to breathe unless it’s necessary.

When they breathe, tell them to imagine they are inhaling blue, safe, clear and clean air and exhaling hot red, polluted mad air.

Remind them that panic attacks are false alarms. That their alarm has gone off when it didn’t need to, and now you just have to sit and be patient until the alarm begins to quiet. Their alarm is more sensitive than others so things that other people wouldn’t think are dangerous, threatening, or scary are all of these things to a sensitively-alarmed human.

Whatever you do, do not deny their experience. Do not diminish what is happening for them. Don’t tell them they are being ridiculous or over-dramatic. When you panic from actual danger, imagine if everyone dismissed your fear, telling you that you were being ridiculous and over-dramatic. Just because you don’t have the same fears as your child, doesn’t make them less traumatic for them to live through. Anxiety attacks happen when we mistake a non-threatening thing for a threatening thing. There are ways to acknowledge that the thing itself isn’t dangerous, that feeling afraid won’t kill you, while also communicating that you understand the fear is very real to them. Be your child’s life coach, their mental health advocate, their best friend. Treat them the way you want them to treat themselves. They are learning all of their behavior from you. Be their role model. It’s what they’ve always wanted from you.

You got this.

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