One of the hardest things to handle lately with Michael is when I make a mistake or do something he does not like or finds uncomfortable, and he thinks I am purposely trying to upset him. Yes, I am usually consistent in what I do and how I do it. Yes, I am clear and do my best to avoid making errors, but alas I am human, so mistakes will happen. This is hard for Michael. Any kind of imperfection is hard for him. He is hard on himself when things don’t go as planned, and when he makes mistakes, and he is hard on me.
The thing is it was something small. I apologized, fixed it, but then came the, “but will you do this again? it really upset me.” Usually I am better able to handle his uncertainty and anxiety. Usually I do not take personally his needing repeated reassurance that yes, I am sorry. I will not do it again. But tonight after a long day, dinner clean up waiting, a long conversation about one of his passions that was one more sided, (me listening, him talking and me needing my quiet time big time when dinner was done) I blew up.
After we both took much needed quiet time to calm down and talk about things, I realized what I needed to look at in myself when handling Michael’s anxiety about my imperfections and other people’s;
1) Stay calm myself. There is nothing worse for an anxious child if a parent becomes anxious and tells them to calm down and that their anxiety is no big deal even if it is something small. Mea culpa here tonight.
2) Help your child come up with a mantra, strategy for them to use when they see they are triggered. I realized that had I had something at hand to remind Michael to do (or better yet HE had it) this may have helped ease his anxiety enough to trust and hear clearly what I was saying to him.
3) Talk about mistakes and share personal failures with your child: During times when your child is not anxious, share moments when you messed up, made mistakes and how they made you stronger and able to learn more about yourself.
4) Make sure you don’t take your child’s criticism personally: It’s very important to see your child’s trust issue as one with themselves, not you. This is most often the case with anxious children. Once you see that it is not about you, but about them, it will easier to be sympathetic and help support them when you are both calmer.
Exceptional Parents, how often does your anxious child overreact to a small event or misunderstanding? Realize that with your support using one of those 1-5 scales of little to big problems, you can help your child learn how to handle stress, regulate their emotions, and take charge of their stress. Along the way, you will learn to do the same with yours. Until next time.