Let Your Child Be Your Teacher

Raising a child with anxiety can be a tough ride, but it can provide a valuable insight into your own life.

Our son has struggled a lot with anxiety in his short life, particularly coping with new situations he is presented with.

We are extremely grateful we discovered The Emotion Code and we have seen massive leaps and bounds in his anxiety levels and removing some of the fear he had over new situations.

We don't know where we or he would be without The Emotion Code sessions.

When new situations arise, we often ponder whether we’re making the right decisions. Do we nurture our child to help them avoid the breakdowns, overwhelm and fear surrounding situations, or do we throw them in the deep end and let them figure it out for themselves?

Our biggest fear for him is that if he struggles to face the new situations now, what sort of life will he have as an adult?

We don’t want to shelter him from every situation that makes him feel anxious because there is no room for growth, but on the other hand we don’t want him to be paralysed by throwing him in the deep end and hoping he gets through ok. 

We learned pretty quickly that trying to push against it was getting us nowhere fast and we were trying different strategies to help with his anxiety but we didn't feel like it was making a significant difference. Since discovering The Emotion Code we have been working to release emotions that contribute to his anxiety. 

A few weeks ago, was our son's school athletics carnival. When we arrived at the athletics carnival a couple of the teachers told us that our son's been a bit clingy this morning and feeling anxious about the day.

We had no expectations from him. If he ran great, if he wasn’t ready then that was ok. 

It’s not his job as our child to please us by running a race.

The first event was the 100m race where they wanted all kids to have a go. He wasn’t keen on running but a teacher managed to convince him line up on the starting line and was going to run with him.

We’d seen it before in kindy, two years ago, he made the starting line for the cross-country and stayed on the starting line. His mum ended up running with him.

This year's cross-country, same again. Made it to the starting line but didn’t start. Fear and anxiety got the better of him.

The starter gun went off for the 100m race, he made the starting line but didn't run. 

As a parent you have to admit it’s frustrating sometimes to watch all the other kids just waltz to the starting line and run without drama, because you just really want to see your child feel comfortable and just enjoy themselves.

Sometimes I see some parents get really angry at their child because they see it as their child just being ‘silly’ to get attention. Deep down they can feel their child’s behaviour is a negative reflection on themselves, and they don’t want to be judged by others because they have the ‘overly sensitive cry baby child’.

After the 100m race was over, our son slowly walked over to us and we expressed how proud we were of him having the courage to stand on the starting line. We focused on the positives. We want him to run because he wants to, not because we are pushing him.

Half an hour later once all the 100m races were run, they announced they would be running the 200m races.

The kids got the choice whether they wanted to run or not and our son said he wanted to have a go. We’d heard it and seen it before so we weren’t holding our breath whether it would actually happen or not. 

His mum walked over with him to the starting point as the teachers got organised for the race. 

I was at the finish line as I promised, ready to film the race for him to watch back later and to send to his grandparents.

Watching from afar the teachers pointed him to his starting point in the lane second from the outside. 

He was on the starting line again, in a stance like he was ready to take off.

The teacher yells ready, set, go!

And he ran!!!

I was so proud of him for having the courage to run, but after 50-60m he was at the back of the field.

Sometimes we’ve mucked around at home in races and as soon as he knows he can’t win or he’s behind he’ll stop and his emotions get the better of him.

But to his credit he stuck with it and ran the entire 200m without stopping. I could see on his face the last 20m was tough. 

He looked like he wanted to give up but he pushed himself right through to the finish line. 

As parents we couldn’t be prouder of his courage that day. We had been working on releasing emotional energy that was contributing to his anxiety. In a situation where he would normally be crippled by fear and not participate in anything, he had the courage to have a go. Not just have a go, but do it with a sense of confidence and belief in himself. He even went on to complete the 800m later that day! 

On reflecting on his achievement and growth that day the life lesson hit me hard.

How many times in my life have I got to the starting line and been too scared to take off?

It happens in different ways almost daily in each of our lives.

In my life, I’ve had many ideas and situations come up that I’ve avoided or haven’t followed through because of fear of failure or judgement. 

What he’s taught me is that it takes a massive amount of courage to step out of your comfort zone. For me as the parent, he's taught me that I should never ever judge him for not having a go when I was doing exactly the same thing just in a different context.

Most of us step up to a starting line daily and fail to get off the line. It’s called procrastination.

I don't have time to eat healthy and exercise, I’ll wait until things slow down.

I don’t have enough money to start that business, I’ll wait until I have enough money.

I’m not capable enough to get a promotion, I’ll have to learn more before I apply.

Time, money and capability are just an excuse. 

The real reason we don't get off the starting line is a fear of failing or fear of being judged. 

Next time you criticise your child for not having a go, or for being hesitant to try new things, take some time to reflect on your own life and see whether it’s valid.

Kids aren’t silly. You may be the one that is setting the example for them to follow. They might be picking up on your emotional energy and how you approach new situations.

I certainly was the example he was following.