Before I had children, I already had my whole life planned out. I knew they would be dressed perfect everyday. The precious little dresses I was going to place my little girly girl in, and the adorable little cargo shorts for the boys that would match their daddy were already picked out in my head. With my degree in Sociology, starting out teaching little six year olds, and reading every parenting book available, I had parenting figured out. My children would be the best behaved, most respectful, and have no issues in any way because I would have it all figured out. How funny is this now?!
When life decided to show me the truth, details were not exactly how I had pictured in my dream world of parenting. With three boys in our house, there are not any precious little dresses except the ones in my closet that do not fit. The boys are loving, they are respectful, and most of the time they behave, but let’s be real y’all. There are some things you can not change about your children. The love I have for my boys is immeasurable, but the pressure I put on myself when things are not going well fit very close to that measurement.
Listing my son as one of my biggest resources when it comes to parenting would have never been something I considered in my pre-parenting years. That has changed. We have learned more from him than any book we’ve opened. Our middle son is diagnosed with Severe Anxiety. He has struggled with this from the time he was a baby. There are times we have cried with him, held him tight until he fell asleep, and listened to the stressors that are circling through his head. As his parents we go out of our way to make life better for him, however no matter how awesome our parenting could be, we do not have the ability to cure his anxiety.
The following are the top five components of his anxiety we work with on a daily basis. These are statements we make to him and reiterate through our actions. This is a continuous cycle of validation, communication, and securing his trust.
- You are good enough.
We are a family of positive reinforcement. Our son is told continuously how well he does. He’s given compliments about his work at school. He has fabulous reaffirming teachers. We reaffirm his actions at home when we see the questioning look on his face. The words, I love you, are normally spoken at our house. However, when his therapist asked him last week, he could not answer, “Are you a good boy?”
2. We will not leave you.
Our boys have never been left alone. From the time he could speak he’s had a fear he would be left. If we would walk around the corner, he would mumble, “Don’t leave!” To this day, he still has a fear we will leave him. We make a point to say, “we’re walking into the living room, or I’m going to the bathroom.” We make sure he does not feel alone.
3. Mistakes are okay.
He scores above and beyond in every subject at school. He still fears for mistakes. We constantly remind him, it’s okay. We all make mistakes, and mistakes help us learn for the future.
4. It’s not your fault.
If one of his brother’s gets hurt, he takes the blame. When mom feels sick for the day, he takes the blame. When his friend is not able to participate in a party, he takes the blame. We remind him life happens. Everyday is a new day, and there are things we can not control.
5. We’re not upset with you.
If I had a dollar for each time our precious son has said, “I’m sorry,” to us in his life, his college would already be paid for. His heart feels he’s made mistakes, and we are upset with him. He reads our exhausted end of day faces as frowns towards him. We have come up with code words as reminders for his answers. Remind him all we need is an okay….not an I’m sorry.
His heart is kind. The love he has for others is beyond what others his age can possibly understand. Watching him for the last nine years has given us a new view of the life of Anxiety. We must approach life in a safe way for him. We can’t avoid all of his stressors, however we can safely approach them as a team. Doing this will allow him to understand he has the ability to discuss his fears, show his emotions, and continue growing.