Last night my son had an anxiety attack like we hadn’t seen in years. Anxiety for my son shows up as anger and aggression. Patterns of yelling profanities, pushing me away, spitting on me, threatening to hurt himself and us, to crying desperately. Before these emotions would hurl me into my own disregulation only escalating the problem. Last night was able to talk him down, but it took the entire night. I wanted to share here what I did to help anyone whose child goes through this as well. It’s not easy in any way.
The number one thing we as the adults can do in any mental breakdown our kids experience is:
Manage your own emotions
Our emotions create theirs. When we can keep it together we hold a safe space for them to feel all their emotion no matter how large, they will be able to find calm much faster.
Don’t seek to change their behaviour or fix the problem
his only makes them feel misunderstood. They need to know we really care about how they feel before we can do any kind of reasoning. Avoid expressing your frustration saying things such as, “What’s wrong with you?” Or “Why are you so…..?”
Realize that there’s something underneath anxiety that they are feeling
Anxiety isn’t the real culprit, something else is. Empathize with the anxiety: “this must feel so hard for you right now.” I find this helps me discover what’s really going on a lot faster than asking questions. Questions overwhelm a disregulated mind. Empathy opens communication and gets to the root.
For my son, he was facing a new challenge he didn’t think he could do (#shame). Once he was calm I reminded him that I will be here to help him get through his challenge. The definition of mental illness is demanding life adapt to us. I need my son to push through, but youth like him who experience anxiety can’t do this alone. They need us to be their cheerleader through the the hard stuff – notice we don’t rescue them from their challenge – but instead be their safe space.
Are you struggling with your child’s anxiety or depression? Not sure what to do or where to turn to? I would love to help. I coach parents who are in this place and give them tools like this that work to help your family find freedom and health again. Reach out to me here.
There’s so much hope. Don’t do this alone.