During my divorce, my anxiety level was at an all time high. It wasn’t until I talked with my doctor that I realized my symptoms were the result of anxiety, triggered by extreme stress! This stress was also triggering anxiety in my kids, however, because of my own issues, I wasn’t aware of the impact it was having on them. The great thing about awareness is that once you become aware, you can choose to do something about it. So I did.
I am acutely aware that anxiety is not something we usually think about or assess, in ourselves or our kids. Typically, it is not until something significant happens (usually negative) that we put our attention to it. Anxiety is usually triggered when we focus on the future – on things we can’t control – on the unknown.
Let’s face it, right now we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Life is anything but “normal”. We are swimming in the unknown and dealing with the impact of social distancing and increasing isolation from life as it once was. Politically, we have been experiencing chaos and uncertainty at an increasing rate. All aspects of our current circumstances are contributing in one way or another to rising levels of anxiety.
As parents, now more than ever, it is important that we check in with our teens. When we dare to be curious, for the sake of just being curious – not forwarding our agenda and trying to “control” or “teach them something” – we allow them the space to reflect more fully on their own state of being. When we check in with our teens, we are inviting them to check in with themselves and to become more self-aware. Increased self-awareness is one of the keys to being able to make healthier, more positive choices for our life.
Not sure how to start that conversation? Open-ended questions are a great way to begin, like:
- Hey, how are you…really?
- What do you worry about, or think about, most often?
- What are you watching on social media these days?
- What concerns you the most about what is happening in our world right now?
- If there was one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
- What’s working in your life? What’s not working in your life?
The choice that I made, once I became aware of my own level of anxiety during that tumultuous time of my divorce, was to talk about it with my kids. I was able to share (in a responsible, age-appropriate way), that I was feeling anxious. They were given a chance to ask me questions and share what was going on for them. We strengthened our relationship and continue to have these kinds of conversations anytime difficult things come up for us. While the divorce was one of the most painful experiences of our lives, it gave us permission to talk about the hard things and figure our way through together. The gift is that the quality of our conversations increased because of the pain that we shared and talked about together.
I have been reminded by my friend, leadership educator Anne Harbison, to “never waste a crisis” (www.anneharbison.com). There has never been a more opportune time to use what is happening in our world to deepen our relationships with those we love the most.
Dare to be curious, open yourself up and give your teen permission to talk about stuff that’s going on in their life. Ask them one of the questions above and listen. Just listen…and then ask more questions. Please reach out to me if you have a question or need further help!
We are all in this together.