Most people at one point or another in their lives feel overly sensitive or overwhelmed by emotions or fears. Some also experience anxiety related to these feelings. Often sensitive children are the products of sensitive parents (either one or both).
Is anxiety caused by genetics? Researchers are still divided on the cause, environmental or hereditary, the old nature-nurture question.
I certainly learned without a doubt this week that this overly sensitive (sometimes anxious) mum has produced two sensitive (sometimes anxious) boys. They are very different personalities and their sensitivities are somewhat different too, but they (we) all have very similar traits when worries set in!
One thing that is true, is that there isn’t an easy or quick fix. Often, as well intentioned parents, our first instinct is to jump in and stop the fear causing thought by removing whatever it is causing the fear. We try to solve our children’s fear by protecting them from experiencing it. For example if the fear is heights, we won’t take our child to the rope course. I am definitely ‘guilty’ of this! Sometimes our ‘fixes’ are exhausting, the elaborate and methodical planning all in vain.
This is because the strategy of protecting our children from the fear actually reinforces them to think that they should be fearful. We project increased fear onto them, instead of reassuring them that they are safe and can learn to work through it.
Instead of preventing a child from experiencing the fear/ sensitivity/ anxiety, our role can be to teach them skills and strategies to help cope in these situations. Giving them exposure and opportunity to practice is much more powerful than avoidance tactics. The teaching will take time and patience, it is never an easy endeavour and there will be hiccups and regressions along the journey. But over time your child may learn to recognise their worries for what they are and be able to use a repertoire of coping strategies. And most importantly they will feel supported and always know that you are a safe place for them to open up.
I know personally, worries I have had throughout my life, have always been lessened when I share my feelings with a trusted person. They say a trouble shared is a trouble halved. And while the worries may not disappear, the act of talking about it is like a personal pressure valve release. Often the trusted person gives you a different and more logical perspective and you feel better about your capacity to cope.
Encouraging our kids to talk is a massive part of protecting their mental and emotional well-being. Anxiety is on the increase and it’s rearing it’s head at a younger and younger age. We can’t expect a teenager to share their feelings if they haven’t been supported to do so as a young child. If we start early by encouraging our kids to talk openly about their feelings, worries and troubles, maybe we can prevent depression and the social isolation that has lead too many to a devastating end.
Your child can learn the essential skills to develop resilience and coping strategies, then practise them in a supportive small group workshop with one of our Connected Education “Connected Kids Workshops”. For more information contact us or follow on our Facebook page for upcoming workshops in your area. We are always looking for new locations! https://connectededucation.com.au/connected-kids-workshops/