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Negotiating with Your Child’s Anxiety

By October 31, 2016Blogs

Children who suffer from intense fears are often in a unique conundrum because of their age. They lack basic trust in their environment, along with the privileges and freedoms to shape it like adults, who often take it for granted. The child is left feeling helpless in a world that terrifies them. Their solution is manipulation, in hope of creating the safety they seek. This manipulation is not about using others out of selfishness, greed or ruthlessness, but out of an overwhelming fear and lack of trust in others to create safety. This gives the child the illusion of control over their environment and their lives. But, it also prevents them from having to work through their fears, anxieties or other complications that keep them from just being a happy kid.

In what ways will children manipulate us and their environment to seek safety? Often, they will throw tantrums until expectations of them lessen, or give different people contrasting information to cause distractions from the issues. They also may bargain or negotiate to assert control over the situation. Our natural inclinations as caregivers or parents may be to appease the child to relieve the distress. This is intuitively heartfelt though incorrect.
Our job, hard as it may seem, is to create clear and reasonable boundaries, while removing ourselves from their means of bargaining. The more we play into it, the more we not only strengthen their fears, it confirms to them we are not trustworthy. So, it is prudent to create and enforce clear boundaries. A child may hate us at first, but when we are firm and consistent in our approach we become trustworthy on a deeper and more implicit level. And, we are seen as being reliable in a world where nothing appears safe.
Do not give into their tantrums or dramatics brought on from anxiety. Do not bargain or negotiate. Endure the inevitable migraine and show the child you are an anchor in a hectic storm. The frustration will turn to pride and your child’s fears will lose their strength over them. We’re all in this together.