Anxiety begins with a thought and can end with a thought taken captive; but, if given free rein to niggle and run around our brains long enough, it creeps into our hearts to squeeze and constrict and proceeds to run rampant through our actions in unhealthy tendencies. How do we teach ourselves and our children to recognize the beginning of an anxious thought in order to stop the cycle before it begins? In this article my goal is to go to the statistically supported source with only one true method of healing (going right through whatever makes you anxious). Books for further reading will be listed, but the toughest work is getting yourself to the point of choosing an unpopular path of action rather than the encourage path of passivity.
Do our children trust? This begins with us and, of course! -up until a certain age– a certain point. The point at which they realize they are their own person is usually when the ugly face of anxiety rears its head. Access to the world in their pockets, the feelings of shame at what they (accidentally) view, read, or say, and the sense that if they disconnect back to safety they will be all alone complicates this time of life multi-factorial-ly.
This age varies from child to child and anxiety, thankfully, does not dwell and swell within every child’s heart and head. If Mom or Dad are prone to anxiety there is a higher likelihood of the child growing into what is modeled. No matter how well we think we mask our inner turmoils, our children see it with their all-seeing ‘child’s eye’. The more attune and sensitive your child, the more they ‘see’ and, without thought, emulate us (inwardly) beginning at the youngest stages of being deeply and purely in love with you- they want to be just like you!
Usually anxiety begins to exhibit when hormonal changes begin, but I have counseled moms with children as young as 4! Children realize that we are not their personal demi-gods which leads to disappointment in the ways we have changed. Attitude springs from hurt. Hurst springs from misunderstanding. Misunderstanding springs from lack of faith. And they begin to separate themselves from our limited earthly shelter. They seek and listen to outside ideas and opinions. Theses thoughts travel from their heads, begin to creep into their hearts, and then thrash about creating havoc that comes out all all spouts- including physical and emotional illness.
Our parental sheltering safety was created/provided as a model to practice the same behavior of seeking shelter from a loving strong Father. If you struggle with anxiety, model battling against it. Rail the Heavens for help. Exhibit courage as you go through your areas of anxiety. -for there is NO WAY AROUND and NO WAY TO AVOID. You can put off until they are out of your house, but if they wish to find peace with their anxieties, they will have to face them. (-the only way around is straight through the middle-)
Anxious thoughts can feel good to a certain degree because they make us feel –deeply-. In this emotionally dry and arid land of having most of our 25 daily touches going to and coming from a screen, this is a very real hunger within each of us. This feeling of being alive comes with an amazing adrenaline rush (chemical-ized brain bath) that becomes both our sense of peace out of our source of anxiety.
As an adult we may safely skirt around enjoying the razor’s edge of emotion, but our children are not so wise. Until it takes us captive and then we turn to food, tech, gossip, etc to achieve the very same results. These are sophisticated ‘adult’ methods of self-mutilation, numbing, destroying. Our children are not so savvy– but make no mistake, they are watching! A very difficult read but of great value is American Girls– social media and the secret lives of teenagers. It is not an easy read and much of the content will turn your stomach. The saddest fact in the book is that it was researched prior to 2015 when it was published. This is nothing new. It is simply so common that we have become unaware, unwilling, unable.
Statistically they biggest source of anxiety in our daughters comes from social media and for our sons it comes from gaming. Both of these things have become normalized in today’s society to the point of becoming heroes on the scene for mom-down-time or finished-my-day-chill-time, but if we follow the money, the science and psychology behind these platforms does not hold one beneficial need that our children would lack were their friends face to face. It is a lucrative business for the designers and the builders. Many of them doctors sworn to NOT harm another. The statistics are devastating if you decide that you truly want to know- to change- to influence your Littles and model for your Bigs. Begin personal research
Please don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love the power of technology and use it daily to support and serve our Faithful Scholars families, but we all know there is a fine line that comes down to two words- consumer and producer. Which are you? Which is your child? BTW- if you get a product for free, such as an app or download, YOU are the product being sold to cover the cost of ‘free’.
Stick with me. We are getting back to anxiety. Recall that statistics are indicating social media and gaming as the biggest cause of anxiety in children and adults of all ages….. but child development expert, James Garbarino says there is great hope.
Consumers are the targeted audience of the professional tech-platformed predator –not producers with no time for fake news feed rabbit trails. Their lightly veiled goal is money gained through re-occurring visits. A gamer is truly a well trained pet who works avidly to improve anticipating the codes of his master. Social media has a similar model but it is driven by emojis and numbers assigned by peers.
If we look at the chemistry occurring in our brains, we can make an easy hop to that of drug supplier and addict , but who wants to think like that much less state such a thing. They are likely to be cancelled for speaking against harmless good fun. My media ecology students tell me that they are willing to cut off body parts to belong and are willing to remain in/on platforms they admittedly know are damaging them. Option 2 is to be a nobody, so they choose anxiety and depression.
Sources of anxiety are wide and varied. Begin with the most likely source to begin your battle back to balance for your child and your family. Determine for yourself that tech is 100% NOT the cause and then move forward. If you are uncertain, fasting from (even just) social media/gaming for 5 days will give you a definite answer. If you do this, do not trust a possible addict. No need to assign labels, but there is a strong need to insure your experiment is designed and carried out in a pure fashion. Remove all devices from your home or keep them in a lock box with the key around your neck and the internet shut off with the box in the room with the devices.
There are many excuses why not to do this: It is time together with dad. It is their only happy time (red flag). It is how I get them (bribe them) to do their work. It is… it is… it is. What if it is the source of their anxiety and/or depression? Would this exceedingly distasteful and difficult task gain in value? Were we discussing a known and recognized drug such as cocaine you would not think twice.
Once you locate the source of anxiety, you can explore the thought patterns that get them to wanting to ‘escape’ into their (oddly) source (food, social media, gaming, gossip, etc) of their anxiety. Make a plan of action and commit to the difficult rather than cave to the convenient. Verbalize and model what is happening within your spirit in order for your children to acknowledge and see laid bare. Teach them in the way you grow so that they might grow just as courageously and slay their dragons when they begin to appear. 1 Peter 5:8