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 heart to squeeze and constrict and then runs rampant through our actions in unhealthy tendencies. How do we teach ourselves and our children to recognize the beginning of anxious thoughts in order to stop the cycle before it begins? First they must trust us. In Jesus Today I was reminded of this. In order to take refuge in Jesus as He warmly opens Himself up and offers His protection- I MUST first, know that I need Him, and second, I must trust Him.
Do our children trust us? Of course, up until a certain age. Up until 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. This age varies from child to child and anxiety, thankfully, does not dwell and swell within every child. If mom or dad are prone to anxiety there is a higher likelihood of the child growing into what is modeled for him/her. No matter how well we think we mask our inner turmoil’s, 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) during their young stage of being deeply and purely in love with you- they want to be just like us!
Usually it begins to exhibit when hormonal changes begin around ages 10-15, but I have seen it occur as early as 4! Our children realize that we are not the demi-gods they had imagined; able to control the weather and all things good and bad, and they become disappointed in the way we have changed and give push back. Separating themselves from our limited earthly shelter, the thoughts in their heads begin to creep through their hearts and thrash about creating havoc. Our parental sheltering safety was created/provided as a model to practice the same behavior of seeking shelter from a loving strong Father.
Quick question- how do you handle your anxious thoughts when they take hold? They can feel good to a certain degree because they make us ‘feel’ deeply, and while we know that feelings can take us captive if we are not careful, we skirt around enjoying the razor’s edge of emotion. After all, this feeling of being so alive comes with an adrenaline rush chemical brain bath that is enjoyable. Until it takes us captive and then we turn to food, tech, gossip, etc for the needed distraction. These are sophisticated ‘adult’ methods of self-mutilation, numbing, destroying. Our children are not so savvy, but they are watching.
Often the triggering event, thing, or person is not something we/they wish to give up or (that our child) feels they can trust us with making the source of their exhibiting anxiety like finding a needle in a haystack. Parent and child know it is there and both want the accompanying negative feelings and debilitating actions to come to a full stop, but putting ones finger upon the source takes courage and stinkin’ hard work.
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 through mass media, but the science and psychology behind these platforms is so lucrative to the designers and builders that doctors sworn to not harm another are taking on a profession that is known to do more harm than good. 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 across the world, but there is a fine line that comes down to two words- consumer or producer.
Consumers are the targeted audience of the professional tech-platformed predator. Their goal is money gained through re-occurring visits. If we look at the chemistry occurring in ours and our children’s brains, we can make a light leap to that of drug supplier and addict. However, in today’s world of weak language and weaker conviction, that seems harsh and ‘judgmental’, too broad a statement. Do not accept that and do not back down. Become a scientist in your own home and determine for yourself that tech is 100% NOT the cause. Rule it in or out and then move forward. Fasting from tech as consumers for 21 days will give you a definite answer. Don’t trust a possible addict. Remove all devices or keep them in a lock box with the key around your neck.
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) to do their work. It is, it is, it is. What if it is the source of their anxiety (and depression)? Is this exceedingly difficult task worth your child’s life? That is definitely an extreme statement, but were we discussing a known and recognized drug such as cocaine you would not think twice. A short while back in history, this same discussion was going on regarding cocaine. Just sayin’.
Once you locate the source of anxiety (and I guess this has expanded to include depression as another exhibiting factor of inner worry), you can explore the thought patterns that get them to wanting to ‘escape’ into their source (food, social media, gaming, gossip, etc), teach them when and how to run to Him with their thoughts, and what it means to seek His refuge.
Moms and dads, I encourage you to seek His shelter early when thoughts of inadequacy and anxiety hit. Take them captive and rest in His protection. 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