One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.
It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.
But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.
So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.
I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.
One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.
There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.
I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.
The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.
There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.
I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.
As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.
Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x
Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?
This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
Earlier this week I wrote a gratitude post to share on my personal blog and I was really struck by a tweet someone sent me in response. It said “what an inspirational post, I need to do more good in the world” and it really got me thinking. We all need to do more good in the world. You only have to watch the news to realize there is a lot that needs doing but I think I might be preaching to the converted here as the crux of World Moms Network has always been to pull together mothers from around the world to share their experiences of parenthood and fighting for social good and human rights.
You never know though, there could be a mother reading this who has a real passion for the poor, is gifted at befriending or wants to ensure equality for all people but hasn’t yet had the opportunity or confidence to step out and do something practical. So this post is for you, to challenge you and to encourage you. Becoming a volunteer might not be the easiest thing you have ever done but I am totally sure it will be one of the most worthwhile.
This last week I have worked on a voluntary basis six days out of seven for four different charities. I’ve worked in reception and bookings for a Christian conference centre, sorted food at a warehouse and packed bags of supplies at the local Food Bank, coached a young boy who is on the cusp of exclusion from school and cooked breakfast at the homeless shelter. How many of these things are related to my day job or the work I trained to do? Very few but here I am doing them anyway.
It’s not usual for me to do quite so much voluntary work in one week and I’m certainly not advocating that you start out doing so much, it is just the way it worked out this week and they all fitted around my children being at school or my husband being home with them. That is one of the big benefits of volunteering, it is so flexible. I don’t have to give a full day, it was enough to do two hours at the night shelter this morning, that meant twenty men and women had a hot breakfast before they went back out into the freezing cold today.
A sense of satisfaction
“But why?” You might ask. “You have three school-aged children, paid writing work to complete, two blogs to manage, church responsibilities to take care of, friends to see and a house to upkeep Michelle, why do you need more?” The simple answer would be that I don’t, there is lots in my life but I love to be busy and I have a very strong work ethic. It is totally the right thing (for my family) for me to be available for the kids out of school but forgive me, it doesn’t always stretch or fulfill me in the way that paid out-of-the-home work used to so this was the initial reason I got into volunteering.
I’m giving back
Also since becoming a Christian fifteen years ago I have a heightened awareness of just how blessed I am to live in the UK and to have a comfortable life with great family and friends. I truly believe that all people are equal and therefore it goes without saying that I just can’t stand the inequality we see in the world.
I desperately want to change things and be able to feed all those starving across the world but actually I don’t have the skills to do that so I have to make sure I am taking my small footsteps and joining together with other generous and compassionate people to make ripples that can longer term become waves of change.
It challenges me
Not just change elsewhere in the county or world though, there has been change in me too, both in terms of my skills and also my mind-set. I’m ashamed to say that before I started volunteering with the Food Bank a few years back I had no idea just how difficult life is for some people. It is easy to assume that those living off our British benefits system want to be doing so and might even be milking the situation. Over the last couple of years I have learnt that I cannot judge anyone, we all have different journeys and you are only qualified to comment when you have been there.
If you, like me are a mother taking time out of your career right now to be more family orientated then volunteering is a wonderful way to continue with your personal development. Most industries now want to see evidence at interview that you have been keeping up to date and developing your skills. Through my volunteering at the food bank and night shelter I have increased my compassion, ability to talk to anyone and my willingness to do the grotty jobs. Then my work at the conference centre has helped with my patience and working with characters who may not share the same views as me and my volunteering as the coach coaching a vulnerable child has helped with my own parenting in regards to having fun together, really listening and setting boundaries.
I’m sure you can tell I love my voluntary work and there is so much out there that you can do. My heart is for the poor and that is the reason I undertake most of my voluntary roles but you might be passionate about animals, wanting to help those you are bereaved or on fire for protecting the environment. I just urge you today to take ten minutes on your computer and see what local volunteering opportunities there are that might suit you.
Go on, I think You’ll enjoy it! Mich x
Do you volunteer?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell who can normally be found writing at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
It’s a very different world that my children are growing up in now than when I was a child in the 1970’s and 80’s. As a young teenager I would be sat in my room with walls covered in posters ripped out of Smash Hits magazine and I’d be listening to the radio or maybe reading a book. If my friends wanted to chat to me they’d call the family landline and I’d take the phone on a long wire out into the hallway and sit on the stairs and gossip away for as long as my parents would let me.
Nowadays, my 13 year old son JJ could be watching a movie in his room whilst playing a game on his iPad, and chatting to his mates via Whatsapp. He has no need for posters from magazines as any image he wants to see can be called up on his computer at the touch of a button and he rarely speaks on the phone. Everything is instant and access to information is super easy.
So easy that when JJ meets a new mate and they decide to become friends on Facebook his mate can now see much of my profile on FB too and especially all the posts JJ is tagged in. If his friend wants to dig back a few years he might find a picture of JJ in the garden in the paddling pool or uncover one of him with crazy hair from a fancy dress when he was 6, and what I’ve really been pondering just recently is if JJ wants his new mates to see all this and if it is appropriate that I have shared his life online?
This isn’t an easy topic to explore, it is very emotive and I know that everything I have shared has been done because I love JJ, and because I thought whatever he was doing was cute or funny. Surely I’m just being honest and telling my story, the story of parenthood and the joy it brings me?
But now that JJ is becoming a young adult does he want his digital footprint already established from before he could even type? Was this really my story, or was it his and not mine to tell at all?
Children of JJ’s age are the first to be growing up in this new era, this time of instancey and easy sharing. My first serious boyfriend when I was 16 was only able to see my childhood images as my Mum got out the photo album and I sat next to him and cringed as he looked through, but this still gave me an element of control. JJ’s first girlfriend can befriend him on Facebook, or read my blog, or follow my Instagram feed, check out Google + or any of the other social media sites I use as a successful blogger.
Because that’s another thing, as a family lifestyle blogger I’ve shared a lot about each of my children and never with the intention of embarrassing them. Always with the aim of creating a family treasury of beautiful moments and adventures together and sometimes with the hope that I can help another struggling parent but will JJ want his future girlfriend to know that we started to have him assessed for Asperger Syndrome when he was about 6 years old? Maybe not, but as I’ve been blogging since he was four and my girls were less than one there is a lot of information about them out there for all to see.
Thank the Lord I have always been honest with my children and they know about my blog and they realise that when I say smile and hold up my iPhone the chances are that photo will make it onto my blog or social media in some form. This means they have the opportunity to say no and sometimes they do, they say ‘not today Mum’ or they feel off colour and don’t want to be on show, and that is fair enough and I respect their decision. But they couldn’t make that decision when they were a toddler or pre-schooler as they weren’t competent to do so and that was when I made the decision to share for them and now I’m left wondering if I did the right thing?
So now I’m at a cross roads and I am being much more discerning about what I share about my kids. Their health issues don’t get shared, their fears don’t get shared and their struggles in life don’t get shared and whist on the one hand I think this is such a shame as parents need resources to go to where they can feel reassured that it is normal that a teenager still has bed wetting issues (mine doesn’t I hasten to add) or that a nine year old girl has started to become a woman (no, not mine either). On the other hand it is more important to respect their privacy and allow them the dignity to live their lives in peace and to share who they wish to tell their personal secrets and struggles to.
From now onwards the story I tell via my blog and social media really will be my story and just mine. Of course they will still play a part as I’m a parent and that is probably the biggest part of my life right now but I can’t share as openly as I once did as I now know this could negatively impact their future relationships, decisions and confidence, and that is the last thing I’d want to do.
What about you? How much are you sharing of your child’s life online and have you had the conversation with them to see if they are happy about it?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found writing at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
It would have been so easy to judge these young mothers in Ethiopia but they were doing a phenomenal job of mothering
As parents there are so many things we want to teach our children. Of course we want them to grow up to be well-rounded adults who are kind, compassionate, humble, resilient, loving, fun and display sound judgement but each of these traits takes time to develop and serious modelling from us, as parents.
If we are to be role-modelling these positive attributes then we need to have developed them too and realistically some are much easier than others. It is so simple to show love and affection to your child and in doing that helping them to take this skill into adulthood, the same with fun but what about a trait like resilience, humility or judgement?
These skills are much harder to teach and we have to have learned them ourselves first to even be able to consider passing them on. We also have to be willing to take a risk and allow our child to see us in a vulnerable state, when we are admitting that we made a mistake, that life doesn’t always go to plan and that it is wrong to make snap judgements.
It is far too easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements about another person. We see them or a situation and within a split-second we could have made a judgement about who they are or how they live their life but that’s not a good thing. Yes, it might be perfectly natural and until our brains are trained we all do it but that doesn’t make it right. We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response in a situation that scares or worries us and judgement is part of that. Have a read of this short scenario –
We see a very cute, small dog tied up in the street and go over to pet it. Crouching down and chattering away to the dog as you get really close, offering your hand first so as not to scare it. It starts to bare its teeth and snarl, all of a sudden snapping at you and pulling the lead taught. Well, my judgement was off there you think to yourself, I wonder what the dog’s problem is. Then as you turn your back to walk away, you see the owner come back and it is a woman, much like you, same build, blond hair and she shouts at the dog and then hits it and you see this formally brave pup start to cower and whimper and all of a sudden you understand. You represented a risk to that poor little creature, you looked like the woman who mistreats it.
This scenario remind us that we never know the story or a stranger, be it a dog or a person and that is why it is so important that we learn to use judgement in the right way. Of course we still have to make judgements every day and keep ourselves and our families’ safe but we can drop the judgemental behaviour, the looking down on other people and the words and actions that can isolate and even devastate another.
What I’ve found is that the amount we judge others normally equates to the way we feel about ourselves. If we are 100% happy with our lives then it is unlikely that we will take the time to find fault with the way someone else looks or dresses but when we feel down on ourselves then it is so much easier to justify our own failings by picking theirs out too.
It is therefore impossible to drop the judgemental attitude without working on some other fundamental character traits like humility and contentment and of course it isn’t always easy at first when we want (or know we need ) to change. It can be painful but it will be really worthwhile.
Here are some tips to help us teach our kids (but first ourselves) not to judge –
- Be mindful – catch your own thoughts and realise what you were thinking, negative judgements may still pop into your mind but push them away and replace them with positive affirmations
- Pause and then think before you speak or act – such a simple one but really necessary. When you catch those thoughts, don’t let them turn into actions or words, remember how they are likely to wound someone else.
- Think the best of people – look for the good in everyone, it is there. Even your neighbour that drives you crazy has some redeeming qualities and when you choose to focus on them you will shift the whole balance of your relationship.
- Depersonalise – When someone says something that you don’t like or agree with, let it go. They are just expressing an opinion or living life in their way, it is not all about you.
- Look for the connection – One of the things I have discovered whilst travelling to new countries in the last few years is that even though on the surface situations might look so different, we are more alike than different. At the end of the day all the mothers I have met just want the best for their children.
- Fight the fear – when you judge it comes from a place of fear but when you seek to acknowledge and address the fears you can be free from them
- Get involved – in initiatives that open your eyes to what is happening in your neighbourhood. I volunteer at the local food bank and winter night shelter and it would be so easy to judge the people who come into the food bank with smart clothes and a pristine iPhone but then I might find out their house burnt down and they didn’t have insurance, so yes they really do need the emergency food parcel.
- Stop judging yourself/ Feel good about yourself – Life is so much easier when you are kind to yourself. We are all fallible humans and we make mistakes, life isn’t perfect and you will fall short of your own expectations at times but that is OK. No-one ever became the best they could be by beating themselves up. Admit the mistake, look for the learning point and move on.
Being content and free of negative judgement is an absolute blessing and I think Brené Brown sums it up well: “If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
If this is an area you have struggled in and worked through then I’d love to hear any tips that you have that might help others too.
I’m sharing today a letter to my daughters but not just to my daughters, to all your daughters as well. Come on Mums and join me in being the antidote to the norms and expectations of our society. Please make sure you celebrate your girls for who they are and not how they look. Let’s commit to sometimes going without make-up, to never talking down to ourselves and to often making a fool of ourselves in the name of fun. Only when we lead the way can our young daughters know it is OK for them to be truly comfortable in their own skin and to be able to say “I am beautiful and accepted just the way I am”.
Dear beautiful girls,
You are nearly nine years old, still young, still with so much life ahead of you but sadly already you want to be grown up. To be able to go out alone with your friends, to have your ears pierced, to wear high heels and to dye your hair.
I know it is fun to think about how life will change as you mature and to picture what a future boyfriend, house or car might look like and that’s OK. We can all dream, it is good to dream but it is also good and right to enjoy the moment. To be content to be nearly nine, to take the time to cherish playing with your dolls, going on bike rides, crafting treasures and making camps.
My heart bleeds when I see you try on an outfit and look at yourself in the mirror and then take it off and throw it on the floor as you feel it doesn’t look good. You see it hug your beautiful little fleshy tummy which is just part of how your body is changing as you grow. It must be so hard to be only eight but to have the height and body of a twelve year old. I understand where the discord comes from but I want to assure you, that you are beautiful just the way you are.
God made you in His image and He doesn’t make mistakes. Each one of us is unique, we come with our own gifting’s and looks and that makes the world a really rich place. I know it is a cliché but honestly, it would be boring if everyone was the same. What I need more than anything, girls, is for you to be sure of who you are. What makes you you? Let’s figure that out and then cling to it. Hang on to your sense of self for dear life as the trouble, the downward spiral comes when you get sucked into the media lies that there is one prescription for beauty.
Over the years this perception of the perfect woman has changed: in the 50’s it was all about the hourglass figure, by the 80’s we had the Amazonian supermodels and today the desire is to be size zero. You do not have to follow the trends, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. You tell me I am beautiful and you know I am far larger than the average woman, you adore your Nan but also talk of her ‘crinkly’ face and one of the most beautiful woman I know has a massive scar on her face but her sunny disposition and kindness shines through.
Let me just assure you that it won’t be make-up, hair colour, tanned skin or a slim body that mean you are beautiful; it will be the traits you show that make up who you are and what you are about. Miss E your desire to protect your twin, your creative streak, your dry sense of humour, your love of snuggles and your hunger for what is right are just a few of the things that make you truly gorgeous.
Miss M, for you it is your passion, your willingness to challenge authority, your soft vulnerable side that you don’t often show, your generosity and your sense of fun that draw people to you. Those things are beautiful. They are the things that make me proud to say I am your mother and because I’m Mum I sometimes have to make myself unpopular and remind you that you can’t buy those shoes or wear that very short skirt as it is my job to keep you safe and to help you enjoy your childhood.
So yes girls, sometimes you are going to think I am the worst mum ever and you might cry and you might scream at me as you think you are old enough to make your own decisions and to follow what the world is saying is current right now but for me what will always be in fashion is you. The authentic and true spirit of my special little girls. When you choose to be true to yourself and perhaps step outside the crowd you are beautiful.
I couldn’t be more proud of the wonderful young women that you are growing into.
Love you so much, Mummy xx
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Michelle Pannell from the UK, who blogs at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.