- Remember that kids change. Remind yourself that kids grow and change and develop and mature. Trust this natural process. What you see now is not necessarily what you’ll see in the future. Kids need guidance and direction, but proper guidance comes from clearly seeing what they need todayso that they can do better tomorrow. James Lehman says to act “as if” with your child. What this means is that you act “as if” your child is behaving responsibly. Start expecting that of your child, and you might see a change in their behavior. Stop your own imagined fears and projections from running over you so that you can see your kids and parent them from clear lenses.
- Be careful not to assign meaning to the behavior you are seeing. The interpretation might be more about you than the child. Ask yourself, “What do I see and hear, what is in front of me, what are the facts?” versus imagining, worrying and projecting. Remind yourself that kids are works in progress. Rather than being anxious about why they are doing what they’re doing and putting meaning to it, instead remind yourself they just haven’t yet learned the repertoire of skills that will help them to do better. Knowing you can provide those skills for them can help you calm down and do something productive. You can guide them to make better choices with consequences, boundaries and limits, rather than spending your time worrying about the poor choices they make and what that means for their future.
- Know the difference between what is versus what you think or imagine. Learn your own history well enough so that you know yourself. This will help you to know when you might be projecting something about yourself onto your child versus when something is actually about the child. For example, if you know that you come from a family that was always anxious about sickness and health issues, you will be better able to know if you are holding your child back from participating in certain activities because of her own vulnerabilities or because of your unresolved issues in your own family.
- Worry is futurizing. Understand that worrying is futurizing. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole, stop and ask yourself these questions:
- What is the likelihood of that happening? Is this realistic?
- What do I actually see and hear, not what am I afraid of seeing and hearing or what I’m imagining all this means.
- Why am I worried about this particular thing? Is it more about my own resolved issues or more about my child? If there’s something there, then how can I cope?
- Am I jumping to conclusions, over-generalizing, mind reading, projecting? What are the actual facts that I need to pay attention to?
By pausing and doing an inventory of what’s going on inside you, you’ll have a good chance to stop worrying and start focusing on how to problem solve the task at hand.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. Include in your life the things that will lower your anxiety and help you to live in the present. You might take a walk, pray, do yoga, or just sit in the sun for a moment clearing your head. This will not only help your personal growth, it will help you to know where you end and where your child begins. Defining yourself and being securely planted in the present will allow you to raise kids who will thrive in the future.
Staying in the present, not worrying about the future, and knowing what belongs to us—and not them—helps us see what our children actually need now and then we can provide it. After all, that’s all we have control over. Staying firmly planted in the present helps you see if you are reacting to something your child actually said or did, something you imagine your child said or did, or something you fear that your child might say or do in the future.
You will better know where your child is coming from when you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the present.