An Effort to Stop Generational Stress
Today I started listening to this audio book on helping children with anxiety and the opening sections of statistics blew my mind. I won't go into what they are, but let me just tell you that the level of stress, anxiety and overwhelm for kiddos is high. So, I went in to work with my 9 year-olds and started by asking them questions.
The first question I asked was, "Do you experience stress on a day-to-day basis?" Every single hand shot up. Then I asked, "Do you know what anxiety is?" They all started speaking up at once telling me their individual experiences of anxiety. I quieted them down and asked them to raise their hand if they experience worry. We then spent the next 15 minutes talking about the different things that cause them to have unpleasant experiences, daily. They were things like: "when I have a test my parents tell me I have to do good on it and that causes a lot of pressure," "Anytime I have a test it stresses me out because I want to do good on it/I'm afraid to fail," "I think things like maybe no one will be my friend," "when my parents argue I get very worried," and this one broke my heart, "when my parents say they need to talk to me and they start the conversation by saying whoever it is they are going to talk about, in that moment that they say the name I begin shaking, because I am thinking about what bad thing has happened to them. I feel like that every time they tell me they have to talk to me about something."
What was amazing is they had no problem sharing some very private things, they lit up when I asked them to expand on their stories and thoughts about them, when someone said something about their experience and they weren't sure what they were saying, they genuinely listened and nodded because they understood and had empathy. In that moment, listening to those kids tell me their painful stuff, they were alive. It was like no one had asked them those things before and taken the time to listen. For the rest of our time together I caught them looking at me and when I looked at them they looked me in the eye. It was as if by giving them the space to express themselves we had a new understanding of each other and it bonded us.
I then told them that what I do for a living is teach adults how to overcome anxiety, stress, worry and overwhelm and they said, "Are you a counselor?" I told them that what I do sometimes is a bit like counseling, but what I mostly do is teach people strategies so they don't have to have these experiences over and over again. Then I said, "Would you like me to teach some of these strategies so that when you have a stressful situation come up you will have a way to feel better?" It was a resounding YES!
What's so exciting to me is that I can teach these kids, at a young age, how to navigate their unpleasant feelings so that they don't have to go throughout their life feeling bad. I can't think of a better way to spend my time here. I am so very grateful and overwhelmed by this opportunity I could spit (that's a southern way of saying I'm so excited I nearly peed my pants! I'm really getting into being in the south ;)
In case no one has told you, you are a beautiful human and you deserve to enjoy your life!
Erin "experiencing all the feels" Mac