Saturday, October 22, 2011

Separation Anxiety

life empty of attachment is actually the opposite of true independence
~Steve van Bockern

It is very painful to see your child suffering from separation anxiety. Some children cry every time mom or dad leaves. This can go on for many years, making the parents feel like their poor child is being repeatedly traumatized, or that they have done something wrong to make him feel so insecure. But this is not usually the case. It is more likely that the child has a very secure attachment to parents and caregivers (this is why he does not want them to go), but that he has developed the bad habit of reacting to a situation in anticipation of an evil that never actually comes. After all, he survives the separation. He is not abandoned. Mom and dad return. Every time. Moreover, the daycare worker or teacher reassures you the tears last about 5 minutes at most.

So what is going on exactly? Why does he keep reacting this way?

Your child is facing into the fear of being alone. It is not so much that he is still emotionally dependent on you (on the contrary, children only ever feel this anxiety once they have acquired some measure of autonomy), but that he has become exquisitely aware of his own separateness, his existential solitude so to speak. This is all the more pronounced in a shy child for whom the distinction between himself and the world is felt more acutely.

There is nothing you can do to alter the reality of what he experiences, so it is no good trying to persuade him there is nothing to be afraid of. For him, there is. Never sneak away either, as that really is abandonment and will simply breed mistrust and insecurity. Instead, for every new separation, make a reasonable plan, a departure routine, and stick to it. Be loving but firm. And encourage your child. Tell him how proud you are because you know it is so hard it is for him and he is so brave. Remind him that he has survived the fear before and will survive it again. Before and after the separation, emphasize your child's courage. Help your child feel and celebrate this. Do this also when your child takes the initiative in other situations that he finds challenging, like letting go of the side of the pool for a bit when he is learning to swim. But never push a child or throw him into unpredictable situations over which he has no control. This will simply overwhelm him.

Your child may always be an anxious or timid child. But by anticipating and facing into fear, again and again, and by enduring and surviving it, your child will build courage. Courage is not fearlessness; it is endurance in the face of fear.

Finally, be proud of your sensitive child, who is feeling the raw emotions that make him a human being. And be proud of yourself as parents that have raised a child that can still feel this vulnerability.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Teachers, you are my mirror

When you get angry at me, I see myself as annoying.
When you lose patience with me, I blame myself for being too slow.
When you laugh at me, even kind-heartedly, I hold myself in derision.
When you evaluate my work, I measure my value by the grade you assign me.

Teachers, you shape my self-image daily. Be generous. Be kind.
The more you encourage me, the more I will thrive. Naturally.
You are the key to my learning self-acceptance, self-respect and self-love.
Teach me those and you will have unlocked my world more than any book ever could.

Enseignants, vous êtes mon miroir.

Quand vous vous fâchez contre moi, je me vois comme fâchant.
Quand vous perdez patience avec moi, je me blâme d'être trop lent.
Quand vous riez de moi, même gentillement, je me trouve dérisoire.
Quand vous évaluez mon travail, je mesure ma valeur par la note que vous m'assignez.

Tous les jours vous façonnez l'image de moi que je me donne. Soyez généreux. Soyez doux.
Plus vous m'encouragez, plus je m'épanourai. Naturellement.
Vous êtes la clef de mon apprentissage de l'acceptance, du respect et de l'amour de moi-même.
Apprenez-moi ça et vous m'auriez ouvert le monde plus qu'aucun livre n'est capable de faire.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why Are You So Angry?

Not long ago, I wrote a blog post about some of the social taboos attached to the expression of anger and I am not going to review them here. But I would like to talk about why people get angry or, rather, why some people are inclined to be angrier than others.

Angry people seem to have a combination of low levels of tolerance mixed with high levels of expectation. That is why temper tantrums are so common around the age of two: the terrible two-year old has zero tolerance and infinite energy. It is one frustration after another! The combination is similar for kids with ADHD. They usually have lightning-quick minds and feel thwarted by the slowness of the uncooperative world, beginning with themselves and their own limitations.

Angry people also tend to be idealistic and set their sights on outcomes that may be unreasonable. This leads to chronic anxiety. They stew, fretting over minor glitches that your average person dismisses without so much as a second thought. They may pace and cogitate, sit and cry, or wring their hands. Either way, they are pretty ineffectual problem-solvers and they know it.

Finally, angry people tend to be emotionally immature or naïve. They may fail to realistically anticipate the unfolding of a situation or their own reactions to it because they get overwhelmed by feelings that short-circuit logic. They seem not to know how to prevent a bad situation from getting worse or be able to walk away from a fight, even when it's a losing battle.

Angry people don't get a lot of sympathy from their friends and families. They possibly get the least amount of sympathy from their lovers who feel terrorized by their outbursts and may end up tip-toeing around their partners for fear of tripping a mine. But angry people are not mean people.

Hug an angry person today.