It’s probably no surprise that I’m anxious about my daughter being anxious.
From the varied media that I’ve consumed on the subject matter, the common consensus seems to be that my children are more likely to suffer anxiety compared to the norm. If it doesn’t slip through via genetics, then they will probably pick it up through learned behaviour anyway. Great.
I’ll admit, I’ve been watching her like a hawk over the years, keen to pick up on any telltale anxious-child signs. I have heard all my life that the sooner you pick up on it, the easier the management, so I’m watching vigilantly (ok, so maybe somewhat neurotically. Go figure).
I’ve noticed my daughter is quick to say “I can’t” and give up when she can’t do something perfectly. (These two words are probably the most common words that go around inside my anxious brain alongside “not possible”, and “never”). Uh oh – is this a warning of things to come with my daughter?
She also tells me she feels shy. While I’m super impressed by her emotional intelligence, I do worry about her shyness at times because I fear she experiences anxiety alongside this shyness. In new situations involving other children she will often tell me “no one likes me, mummy”. Maybe I’m being paranoid but these words seem more significant than “typical three year old stuff”. Uh oh. I think she is already worried about what other people think of her.
Noticing these things about her, I’ve decided to add two anxiety-busting tools into our bedtime routine. Tools she has started to absolutely love, without knowing my hidden agenda. Sure, they might be a bit new-age, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to fighting anxious thoughts and building firm foundations in terms of self-esteem.
(1) I’m happy for…
This “game” is basically a gratitude list. I demonstrated how to do it for a few nights, but after that she took to it with gusto! It’s not so much about what she is saying, but THAT she is saying it. It’s a subtle reminder before she goes to bed of the many positive things in her day. It puts her into a calm and happy frame of mind before sleep. And hey, if she is happy for “our big garage” and that “she touched a lizard!” then that’s just grand! (I love having a window into the inner workings of her mind when we do this game!)
(2) The repeat game
I start with some basics, as she repeats her name, her age, where she lives. I then launch into some positive self-worth stuff – easy affirmations for preschoolers. It sounds like this:
You’re great at somersaults.
You are an excellent soup maker.
You love cuddling your baby brother.
It’s funny, but she always calls me to task on any affirmations that are inauthentic. Her corrections are beautiful and evidence of self-awareness. “No mummy, I don’t love cuddling my brother. I love kissing him. On his tummy. Not on his eyes though”. (Ok, good to know then!)
I always include the famous lines from The Help somewhere within our ritual:
These are some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard, and I think they’re so important for our daughters.
I must admit that I also tell her she is beautiful as part of these affirmations, but I stress that being a beautiful isn’t as important as being nice. I incorporated this lesson after feeling irrationally upset when my daughter casually mentioned she wanted to be Elsa because she was the prettiest one (of all the princesses). I wanted to get into that brain of hers nice’n’early and tell her about what really matters!
These affirmations and gratitude lists are now every bit as important in our bedtime routine as the book reading and song-singing, and I hope they are doing some good in terms of creating a calm, happy, and healthy three year old mind.
I might not be able to prevent anxiety in her life, but I will do my absolute darnedest to help her manage it!
Do you do any affirmations or meditation with your kids? Tell me about it!