Childhood Anxiety: The Prison of Your Mind and the Way Through

Anxious student at Chrysalis School in Montana being supported by staff and peers as she works her way up and through her fears and self-limiting beliefs.

Research on childhood anxiety is clear: The most effective treatment for our kids is parent training. Parent training in the right way; offering tools and perspectives that strengthen and support our children, without weakening them through over-accommodating their anxious behaviors.

All parent want to help their children feel better. But the ways in which parents (and caregivers) are wired to protect their children can unwittingly reinforce a child’s own self-limiting beliefs. When our own nervous systems are hijacked by our children’s anxiety, we can do and say the wrong things. And in doing so, we signal to the child that their imagined threats are real. This is what encourages, accelerates, and perpetuates a child’s anxiety.

Spring Washam a noted meditation teacher, recently taught me more about how we can be “imprisoned in our own minds”: a mind-made prison created by self-limiting beliefs from our own unique wounds of childhood. Unexamined, they limit our reach and connection to our children, especially as they struggle and meet obstacles. Ms, Washam teaches, among many other topics, on the life and strength of Harriet Tubman. Known for her leadership and bravery with the Underground Railroad, Harriet was also a champion, role model and teacher of freeing one’s mind of self-imprisonment. In effect she voiced “They may try and break me, they may lock me up, but am I a slave? Hell no. I am free.” Nelson Mandela spoke of this years later.

If we want to unburden and free our children of anxious thoughts and beliefs it’s crucial that we examine our own beliefs and triggers about what our children are capable of and when and how we protect. With therapy and/or training it’s vital we explore the anxious parts of our own minds and hearts, which are often triggered when our kids are struggling and in anxious distress.

Resources and references:

“Over-Accommodating a Child’s Anxious Emotions Can Backfire”

Spring Washam

Chrysalis School, Montana

Waypoint Academy, a program for teens and young adults with anxiety:

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
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