Worrying is hard not to do. If you worry, as many of us do, then you are probably modeling this behavior to your children. A colleague of mine has a high level of anxiety. When I mentioned it might be beneficial for him examine his reaction to everyday circumstances, he said he didn’t think it mattered and it wasn’t hurting him any. A few weeks later, he spent a long weekend with his mother and suddenly saw his anxiety in the light of hers. During this visit he not only understood why he might be anxious, but he also realized that maybe his behaviors were impacting him more than he realized.
What causes us to worry? Fear. Fear is a natural reaction to what we perceive the future might bring. More times than not, our very active imagination (or as some say, Monkey Mind, Gremlin, or Committee on the Brain) will paint some very dreadful pictures about what could happen. Once we begin this line of thinking, it’s hard to see the situation in a different light. We find ourselves creating bad story line after bad story line. Mark Twain is attributed with saying: “I am an old man, and I’ve lived through many trials and tribulations, most of which never really happened.”
Does your child tend to over worry? Maybe your child becomes excessively irritated or talks about the bad things that could go wrong. If your child is a worrier, you probably know the identifying behaviors. If you are unsure, then start asking questions when he or she is dealing with potentially stressful situations. This will help you understand more of the child’s thought processes and if assistance is needed to tame Monkey Mind thinking. Knowing that most people are dealing with Gremlins on a regular basis lets you know that your child will probably benefit from learning more about how to tame that beast. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but there are ways to become aware and then learn how to respond more positively. If you also struggle with this, then maybe the tips will be helpful for you as well.
1. To move towards making change, you must first be aware of what you are doing and identify when your Monkey Mind is rampant. The best way to do this is to make a concerted effort to examine your behavior for one or two days. Actively pay attention to your thoughts. How often are you thinking worrying thoughts? What are you saying to yourself? Ask your child to do the same thing.
2. Once you are aware of your behavior, then you can begin to change it. The next time you notice that your mind is conjuring up fear-based outcomes, focus on redirecting it. Use your logical mind to redirect your thoughts to what is actually happening and then if you want to project into the future, use your energy to envision a positive outcome.
This takes practice and effort. Help your child by carrying on a conversation with him—anytime he seems to be projecting fearful outcomes. The more you do this with him, the better able he will be able to train himself to redirect his thoughts.
Fear is like a pain: useful as a warning system, but once acknowledged the best thing is to let it go.
Allyn Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thealertparent.com