I have recently been giving a great deal of thought to anxiety. It appears to be increasingly common among our young (and sometimes very young) people. I will go as far as to say that it is even taking on a life of its own whereby it’s a buzz word, a diagnosis and a reason to withdraw from one’s life.
My current understanding and experience leads me to believe that the greatest remedy for feeling anxious (or worried or nervous or concerned or overwhelmed) is feeling competent and capable. So, how do we raise our children to grow up feeling competent and capable?
I think the answer lies somewhere in asking questions, curious and specific questions that give us more information about our children’s experience of the world around them. It’s all too easy, as a parent, to think we need to have all the answers. May I suggest you forget the answers and ask lots of questions?
When we ask curious and information seeking questions of our children, I think a few things happen automatically.
Firstly, it demonstrates that we are curious about their experience and want to better understand them. I have yet to meet someone who does not like to feel important and validated.
Secondly, it suggests that we may not have all the answers and that our experience might be different than theirs. People are very different; different in their beliefs and how they problem solve, different in their values and priorities. When we can hold space for these differences, we open up more possibilities for ourselves and have more tolerance and kindness for those around us.
Thirdly, it implies that they are the masters of themselves and that when dealing with their feelings or experiences - they are the best source of information there is.
Guess what? That builds capability and competence!
Here are some questions that I think are useful. I’m sure there are many, many more:
How does that make you feel?
Why do you think you feel that way?
How do you know that?
What could you do about that?
How would you rather feel?
What would you like to do about that?
What do you think you should do now?
How could you make this better?
What could we do so that doesn’t happen again?
What could we do so that it’s like that every time?