3 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

3 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

3 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

A parent or caregiver can help an anxious child learn coping techniques for better anxiety management


All parents have experience dealing with an anxious child from time to time. But for children and teenagers that struggle with regular anxiety,  it can take on its own life and impact everyone in the family. So how can you as a parent help your child with anxiety?


3 Parenting tools to help your child with anxiety

1. Help your child feel safe


Anxiety shows up as a lot of different behaviors. From asking ‘what if‘ over and over, catastrophizing, refusals and avoidance or controling behavior and really rigid thinking, they can be difficult to handle.

But regardless of how your child’s anxiety appears, it stems from them not feeling safe. And related to this, the idea that they will not be okay. So if you want your child or teen to let go of their refusals, rigidity and control they must first feel safe in their environment.

So how do you do this?

Use baby steps to show your child success and address their fears.


Maybe your child throws a tantrum at the mere thought of going to school. No matter the object that causes anxiety the key is to start with something small. In this example, the first small step is simply driving past the school (make sure you tell your child this is what you are going to do ahead of time).

Once your child can drive past the school without resistance, add on driving into the parking lot area. Next have your child get out of the car and stand there for 5 counts. Slowly extend the amount of time they are standing outside of the car until it is about 20 seconds. Then you have your child walk to the steps of the school. And later to the door. And finally through the doors.

It takes time, practicing each step several times until your child can do the task without becoming overwhelmed. Don’t rush your child onto the next step too soon or they will pull back and you may have to begin again from an earlier step. But depending on your child’s anxiety level, they may go faster or slower with the steps. The key is to follow their lead when it comes to the pace.

And resist the urge to add on one more thing when they are successsful. Because moving the finish line on your child can make them resist trying again. So stick to doing what you say you are going to do. And when your child is able to do it, let them feel the success. Because that is what adds to their feeling of safety.

Along the way make sure you provide encouragement, letting them borrow your confidence. Also, talk to them about their progress as they continue to build up their stamina. It’s all about showing them what they can do and that they will be okay. The important thing is to keep them focused on trying, even if it is uncomfortable and slow.

You can also use positive language toward your child while acknowledging their anxiety. Say things like ‘I get it. This is really scary for you. And I believe you can handle this’. If you show your child you believe in them, they will start to believe in themselves.


2. Pull back on accommodations and practice coping instead


Almost every single parent who has a child that struggles with anxiety knows their child’s triggers. You know what situation is likely to make your child spin into a tantrum and so you make changes and accommodations to avoid these explosions. And you are quite loving to do it, but you may actually be making it harder for your child to learn how to cope effectively with their anxiety.

You might be wondering why accommodations are bad, after all they can save you from major tantrums. But what accommodations can do is make home or being with a parent feel like the only safe place. Which unintentionally increases a child’s anxiety.

So you can help your child or teen struggle less wiht anxiety and learn to cope better when you ditch the accommodations.


Does that mean you immediately throw out all accommodations?

Absolutely not! That would be a monumental meltdown no parent or child should have to experience.


But you should begin to think about how you can start scaling back your accommodations to make your child stretch their ability to handle their anxiety. This may be painful for all involved in the beginning, but if you can stick with it consistently for a few weeks it will have long term results.

To start, choose one very specific situation which causes your child to become filled with anxiety. A common one is needing to talk to someone they don’t know well (like a restaurant worker, sales person, librarian, etc.).

For example, if you would normally be the one to place your child’s order at a restaurant you give your child advanced warning you will no longer be doing this, that you believe they are capable of this task and even offer to have a few practice conversations with them, where you pretend to be the wait staff. Then take them to a restaurant and remind them it is their responsibility to order for themselves, if they choose not to order then they simply will have to wait to eat until they get home.

Will your child possibly go hungry for an hour? Yes, possibly. Will your child have a meltdown in public and make you uncomfortable and embarrassed? Yes, possibly. But keep your eye on the prize. You are stretching your child so they can succeed and function in life independent of you.

Reassure your child you believe they can do this. Tell them they will be okay even if they are scared and uncomfortable. And while you are at it, tell that to yourself.


3. Reframe your child’s anxiety


Anxiety is often viewed as a bad thing, something to be avoided or something you need to get rid of. But in reality, anxiety itself is not bad. It stems from a part of the brain that is trying to keep you safe, which is a good thing if you are actually in a situation where you could be in danger.

This means “getting rid” of anxiety is not likely, especially in a child or teen that tends to have a lot of anxiety. So instead you must reframe how your child views their anxiety. Because that is the first step to learning how to manage anxiety.

To do this, start by talking to your child about worry’s “job”. When talking to kids, it can be helpful to give worry a persona, turn it into a character (yes, this even works for teens). Have your child picture their anxiety in their head or even draw it out on paper. Explain how worry’s job is to keep them safe and to help point out when things don’t seem safe.

Next, explain to your child that sometimes worry gets overexcited and starts pointing to everything and saying it is a danger, but that your child has the power to help keep worry from getting too carried away.

Then have your child practice how to talk to their worry. Have them tell worry ‘it’s not that bad, I can handle this’ or ‘I know you are scared, but I know I can do this’ or even ‘I know you are trying to help, but I am going to be fine’.

Two things are at work here when your child gives their anxiety a persona.

One is your child or teen is learning how to recognize their worry is sometimes not accurate and how to try to reset themselves.

The second is that research shows ‘I statements’ and positive affirmations can have a significant effect on attitudes, actions and behaviors.


Final thoughts on how to help your child with anxiety


Your child’s anxiety can feel overwhelming to both you and your child. And while you may not be able to get rid of your child’s anxiety, you can take significant steps to lessen the impact of anxiety in their lives. And that should be your ultimate goal; to help your child learn how to manage their anxiety.

Now it’s time for action! Pick one of the above tools and commit to using it with your child consistently for the next 4 weeks and see the impact it can have on your child’s anxiety.

If you run into roadblocks or need further help implementing these strategies, reach out for a  free 30 minute consultation and I will tweak things to get you and your child back on track.

Phone: 612-440-1477
Email: connect@HappyParentingAndFamilies.com
Address: 2700 Louisiana Ave, #26614, Minneapolis, MN 55426

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Failure to Launch: Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Failure to Launch: Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Failure to Launch:

Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Parents can help their child who is failing to launch by making this one change


Is your young adult struggling with adulting? When your young adult is experiencing a failure to launch it can show up as regular forgetfulness, avoidance or refusal to do necessary tasks.


What causes failure to launch?


As teenagers grow into young adults, their bodies and brains are changing significantly. But just because the brain and body are making big changes does not mean a teenager feels like a young adult. Sometimes, they get stuck with the uncomfortable feeling of ‘now what do I do’?


As parents, you expect your older teenager and young adult to be responsible for managing their daily life. But for a young adult this responsibility can create a lot of anxiety and fear.


We all fear the unknown. We like routines and knowing what to do. But for young adults most tasks they do fall into the unknown category of life. It may be the first time they have to do something on their own. They need to learn to set appointments, apply for an apartment, register for classes, file taxes, etc.


Some young adults can take these new challenges in stride, with minimal stress and anxiety. But some teenagers and young adults struggle because they have no idea what to expect or what is expected from them. And this leads to a lot of uncertainty and feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. This can lead to your young adult or teenager putting up a wall or shutting down to avoid the unknown. This can show up as “forgetting” to do things, avoiding a task or flat out refusing to do something.


What exactly is happening?


Young adults who are failing to launch, are often struggling because of a fear of the unknown. They don’t understand the process or what to say or how the other party is going to react. All these unknowns prove to be too overwhelming and so they tell themselves it is safer if they don’t do it.


Even if there are consequences, it is not necessarily enough of a motivator for action. Why? Because the consequence is generally known. Fear will usually make those struggling with action choose the known. Because it is often viewed as less dangerous than the unknown they are facing.


So what can you do as a parent when your young adult experiences a failure to launch?


Go back to the basics. As parents, our main job is to teach our children how we expect them to act. So just because your child is a teenager or young adult does not mean your teaching days are behind you.


Ask your child what feels hard about the task. What are they worried about? Listen to their answer and then offer to do the task with them, like they are your shadow. This way they can see an example that takes away the unknown. Let them see how a business call goes, how to fix an error on a bill, how to talk to the bank about their account, etc.


Once your child sees what they have to do, most will feel relieved and ready to do the task the next time.


If your young adult indicates they still have fear, then practice with them again. For the second time though, let your child take charge and you be the shadow. This will give them the security of knowing they have backup. But at the same time it will give them the experience of how to handle the situation.


Final thoughts on failure to launch


As a parent, you may sometimes forget what it was like to be a young adult launching out into the world. And truthfully, launching into independence in today’s world with social media and teh gig economy is very different.


Fear of the unknown can lead your teenager or young adult to question their capability. This in turn can result in them avoiding life. These feelings do not usually go away by themselves. Nor do they disappear because your child now looks like an adult.


Fight the urge to do the task for your child. Instead, teach your child they are capable through practice.


For those parents that are reading this to prevent a failure to launch:

You can set your child up for success through chores beginning at an early age. Sprinkle in bringing them along for errands or listening in to calls with businesses. Modeling how to do adult tasks will make them more confident as they grow.

Modeling is one of the best ways to teach a child, so let your child see what you do!

Phone: 612-440-1477
Email: connect@HappyParentingAndFamilies.com
Address: 2700 Louisiana Ave, #26614, Minneapolis, MN 55426

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Copyright © 2024 Happy Parenting and Families LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Phone: 612-440-1477
Email: connect@HappyParentingAndFamilies.com
Address: 2700 Louisiana Ave, #26614, Minneapolis, MN 55426

Privacy, Cookie & Terms of Service Policies
Follow us:
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Copyright © 2024 Happy Parenting and Families LLC, All Rights Reserved.

How To Get a Toddler to Listen: Proven Parenting Tips for Improved Cooperation

How To Get a Toddler to Listen: Proven Parenting Tips for Improved Cooperation

How To Get a Toddler to Listen:

Proven Parenting Tips for Improved Cooperation

Tips to get your toddler to cooperate more provided by a certified parent coach

Parenting a toddler can be filled with parental frustration as you try to figure out how to get your toddler to listen to you, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out these parenting tips to get your toddler to cooperate and listen better.

Start small, with clear simple instructions


It is important to only give one instruction at a time and to stay close to your toddler to ensure compliance in the beginning.

When your toddler is beginning to learn how to cooperate and listen, avoid giving directions when you are on the move, distracted or in a hurry. Instead, make sure you are giving instructions when your child is an arm’s length away or less. Once your toddler grows and learns how to listen, you can work your way up to 3 instructions at once, but remember, they must remain simple.

If your toddler struggles with more instructions or go back to not listening, do not be afraid to drop back to only one instruction at a time and work up their stamina over time. You can also increase your distance from them, but if they regress to not doing a requested behavior then you need to go back to being close to reinforce their need to listen.

Limit distractions


Toddlers are not made for multitasking so make sure distractions are limited when you are giving your instructions. This means your child’s head is not buried in a screen or they are not immersed in their play when you are talking.

A toddler’s play is their work and just as you need to get to a good stopping point so you can switch tasks, so does your toddler. If you need to gain your toddler’s attention, make sure to give them a warning about the need for their attention and get down on their level. Visual timers, like from Time Timer*, can be a great way to help toddlers transition to listening or to a different activity.


Make demands mean something


If you want your toddler to listen, make sure you actually want them to do what you are asking. Meaning you care enough to take the time to follow-up and make sure they complete the task. Otherwise, if you request your toddler do something and then later back off and do it yourself or you give up and let it go, you are sending them mixed signals.

For toddlers, consistency is the key. They need to learn that every time you make a request you expect them to complete the task, not sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. So once you have made the decision that you want your toddler to do something, stay firm to ensure compliance.

This requires you to show them exactly how to do it until they have learned the expected behavior. If they refuse, make sure to break down the task into smaller tasks that are easier to complete. So instead of ‘put your toys in the box’ you might first say ‘find the box’.

Extra parenting tips for transitions


Calmly tell your child to take their time with the task, that the next fun thing on the agenda (like reading a book with you) can wait until they are done.

If a child is playing it can be helpful to play with them for a minute or two before transitioning them to the new activity you are requiring.

Make sure to preview what the next activity and expectations will be before making the demand.

Be clear about what you want


Toddlers feel more secure when they are told exactly what to do. So instead of telling your child to get ready to go, try telling them ‘put on your shoes, then put on your coat’.

Keep the instructions as a requirement, not a ‘would you like to…’ or ‘how about you…’ as those words make it seem like the toddler has a choice in the matter. If there is no choice to what you want your toddler to do, using choice wording will invite conflict and refusal if your toddler does not want to do it.

Offer limited choices


Sometimes offering your toddler a choice can help with non-compliance. For example, ‘You need to brush your teeth and use the potty. Which do you want to do first’. Make sure you are offering choices you can live with and limit the choices you offer to two.

Understand your toddler’s resistance


Sometimes we don’t like what we have to do. Toddlers are no different. If your toddler starts to have a tantrum or meltdown reflect back your child’s feelings. Repeat they do not want to stop playing, wear their coat, leave, etc. Restate back to them that they are mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Acknowledging their feelings by reflecting them back, will help your toddler transition through their feelings faster.

Once they have calmed down offer them a hug, but remain insistent in the task being completed. That may mean you need to help them start the task or break it down into smaller tasks. It can also help to reaffirm your family’s values when enforcing the required task by stating “This is what we do in our family”.

Help your toddler learn


Toddlers learn best through mirroring and modeling so in the beginning, do the tasks along side your child so they learn how you expect the task to be done. Over time you will be able to remove yourself from participating once your toddler has learned what is expected.


Do you ned more support to help to get your toddler to cooperate and listen better?

If you need help putting any of the above parenting tips into practice or you have other parenting questions, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute consultation so I can customize parenting solutions to fit for you and your child.


*Happy Parenting & Families does not receive any compensation for recommending this product.

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

Parent Coach Jen Kiss teaches you how to build decision making skills in your children and teens


Allowing kids to make decisions can help grow their independence. It can also give them confidence to handle new situations. Because decision making helps develop a lot of executive functioning skills. And once these skills are developed, they can be transferred to new situations. This not only leads to more confidence and better decision making, but it also reduces anxiety.


When is a good time to start letting your child or teen make decisions?


It’s good to start letting kids make decisions early on in life. And this can begin when your child is in their toddler years.This way they can practice on things with small consequences while they build their decision making skills. This allows them to be ready for the added challenge that comes during the teenage years; when peer pressure gets layered in along with bigger consequences.

When kids are young, they need more structure and firm rules. So the decisions they will be helping to make will not be anything big. But even young kids can build up their decision making skills through practice.

The decisions a child is included in and the impact their decisions create should grow as your child grows into their teen years to ensure the are continuing to build executive functioning skills. So along the way as your child grows, ask your child if their decision takes into account outside factors, other’s feelings and potential consequences that may come from their decision. This helps to build their skills for independence.


How do you begin?


Give your child a choice between 2 things within your set boundaries. This is a good way to introduce decision making by creating a structure they can work within. Offering only 2 choices allows for some autonomy, but helps keep things from becoming too overwhelming by introducing too many possibilities. 

To be clear, the choices you provide should not interfere with your parenting or your child’s safety. Providing your child with choices is not the same as letting your child do whatever they want. Nor are you letting your child make big decisions that are not appropriate for their age, such as deciding which preschool they should go to.


Next Steps


Once you are in the habit of giving your child small choices, add in follow up questions. Ask, ‘what made you choose that’ or ‘would you choose that again’. This helps children develop critical thinking skills as well as reflection. It can also help your child realize mistakes they may have made without attaching shame to it. This allows your child to learn from past decision making mistakes in a supportive environment.

You can also use decision making to help grow empathy in your child. When you give your child a choice, after they make their choice ask them ‘how does your choice impact others?’ or ‘how might others feel about your decision?’ This helps your child learn to think about another person’s perspective. And how to think about the impact they have on others when making decisions.


Decision Making for Older Kids


As your child gets into their pre-teen and teen years, it’s time to begin shifting your parenting style. From providing lots of firm rules to more flexibility and negotiable rules. These new rules are ones that should integrate your child’s decision making skills more.




If the rule is that chores need to be completed by the end of the week. Leave the decision making up to your pre-teen or teenager about how and when they get their chores done. If your child struggles or makes a poor choice, such as leaving all chores until the last 4 hours of the week, your job is to become a guide. Help your child realize what went wrong and how they think it can go better the next time. Mistakes and bad decisions should be expected in the beginning.

Avoid This Parenting Pitfall


Telling your child what decision they should have made does not build executive functioning skills. Nor does removing the chance to make decisions.

Instead, you want to help your child recognize any mistakes they have made. Not from a critical or shaming perspective, but from one of curiosity and problem solving. By acting as their guide and asking questions, it helps develop their problem solving skills. And that’s how they learn to make better decisions in the future.

Of course still expect some poor decisions. And the need to re-learn lessons as they continue to figure things out. This is normal for the age and the stage.


When Your Child is Struggling With Making Good Decisions


If your child is consistently making poor decisions or not following through with the decisions they make, pull back on letting your child have more flexibility. Repeated poor decisions are a sign that more growth and supports are needed.

In those cases, go back to more structure, like the 2 choices within your boundary. Or telling your child they need to do 1 chore a day, but they get to decide which chore to do each day.

Because sometimes your child or teen needs more accountability and practice before they can function more independently. But continue to offer flexibility from time to time. This way you can gauge how your child is growing in their decision making skills and if they are ready for more flexibility.


The Teenage Years & Decision Making


In the teenage years, kids should be more and more involved in the decisions that impact them. Let your teenager take the lead in the discussions and in trying to problem solve. It is great to express your viewpoint as a parent because your guidance in these years is still critical. Just be careful that you are not dominating the conversation. Or removing the opportunity to problem solve from your teenager.

Your job as the parent is to help them see all the different options and consequences. The best approach is to ask questions to help guide your teen to think about these possibilities. So if your teen wants to go to a party and you are worried about drugs and alcohol being present, instead of forbidding them to go, ask them if you go and there are drugs or alcohol present what is your plan? Do you know what to do if the person you are going with has too much to drink? What kinds of things are you going to do to keep yourself safe?

Teenagers don’t respond well to being told what to do. Impulse control is still being developed and peer pressure can have a lot of weight in their actions. But by asking them questions that make them think ahead of time about their decisions, they are better prepared to make a good decision when the time comes. Additionally, they will be more confident in their choice because it will feel familiar.

And sometimes your teen will surprise you and make the decision you wanted them to make all on their own. Because they had the chance to figure it out for themselves. This will give them confidence in handling situations and allow them to do better in new situations. Because the executive functioning skills they are developing can be transferred to new problems and situations.


What if I haven’t been giving my child a chance to make decisions?


Don’t worry, it is never too late to begin developing these decision making skills in your child or teen. You can begin to give your child more decision making opportunities at any time. But you still want to walk them through the above stages. You don’t have to spend years doing it, but the length of time you spend should allow them to master each step.

Decision making is a skill. One that needs to be built upon in order to learn how to do it well. So if you have a teenager and have been the one making most of the decisions, don’t throw them into the deep end by skipping straight to the teenage stage. Just because they are a teenager doesn’t mean they have the executive functioning skills needed for good decision making yet.

In short, you can’t expect your child to make good decisions if you don’t first give them the right tools.

If there haven’t been enough chances to practice, your child may feel more anxious about making decisions. Or try to avoid it all together. Because as they get older, the consequences that come with decision making tend to be bigger. And if avoided, this can lead to more significant issues later in life, like failure to launch, anxiety or depression.

So help your child succeed through practice and going through these stages. Because everyone makes more mistakes in the beginning as they are learning a new skill. And decision making is no exception.

And if you need help growing independence in your child or changing your parenting to better support your child’s executive functioning skills, reach out to me for a free 30 minute consultation and we can talk about solutions tailored to your child.


Navigating the Unique Journey of Parenting a Neurodivergent Child

Navigating the Unique Journey of Parenting a Neurodivergent Child

Navigating the Unique Journey of Parenting a Neurodivergent Child

Parenting special needs children takes a different set of parenting tools.

If you are a parenting a neurodivergent child, you know it can be a hard road. You deal with challenges other parents do not need to face. You know typical parenting does not work, but you may not know what you should do instead. Parenting special needs children requires special parenting. With a little observation and work your parenting can become easier.

4 Tips for parenting your child who has neurodiversity or trauma

1. View neurodiversity and trauma as a culture

You would not travel to another part of the world and expect them to act like an American. Nor would you be surprised when the people in another country acted in very different ways. You would automatically assume the difference was due to culture. In fact, you might even adopt some of the behaviors and language to try to fit in or show respect.

Neurodiversity and trauma are the same as visiting a new country. They should be treated as a culture. Neurodiversity and trauma both come with their own way of doing things. Both behave in a way to meet their needs.

And just as you would try to learn about a country’s culture, you should learn more about your child’s culture. Each neurodiverse child and child who has trauma is unique. How they react in different circumstances and their personal challenges are unique. But it does not mean that you cannot learn how to best interact with them. Learn what accommodations are the most helpful to them and what their limits are.

Often our children who are neurodiverse or have trauma are expected to fit in to our typical culture. Challenge yourself to meet your child half way. You will both be a lot more successful and you will have less behavior problems from your child.

2. Learn how your child communicates

Get curious and find out what is their why. Why do they act the way they do? It may seem like quirkiness or out of the blue, but all behavior has a reason why it occurs. Here are some examples for why behavior occurs.

Many children with neurodiversity or trauma struggle with eye contact. For children with neurodiversity it may be too distracting or intense. For children with trauma eye contact can feel too vulnerable.

Does your child have repetitive movements? Remember, these are things children do to cope and self-regulate in their environment. It’s what they do when they are feeling overwhelmed. If you want your child to reduce their repetitive movements you must first understand what is causing them stress. Changing the environment to better meet their needs can lead to less of a need to self-regulate.

Does your child have an intense need for movement? Movement and learning are intertwined in all of us, but especially in children. When we try to separate them, some children can’t figure out how to stop the motion while keeping their brain engaged. So they either need regular movement breaks or a way to stay moving while engaging.

By figuring out the why for your child’s behavior, you can better adjust your expectations. This will lead you to understand what your child can or cannot do. You can also plan in advance to help your child be more successful.

3. Learn how your child shows you their love

Neurodiverse kids and kids with trauma may have big and extreme behaviors. This makes parenting especially difficult because we tend to take the behavior personally. Especially when their behavior is extreme and includes physical violence or destruction.

But when things are calm, do you know all the ways your child shows they care for you? Take this week to write down when you notice your child being kind to yourself or another family member. Did they do something without being asked? Did they climb into your lap to be close? Did they do something that made your life a little easier?

Their big behaviors may eclipse the good times. They may not show their love in neurotypical or non-trauma ways. But that does not mean it is not there. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to look at their love from their eyes.

4. Understand your child’s need for rest & recovery

When a child with neurodiversity or trauma experiences an intense or prolonged activity it can be exhausting. And this exhaustion can lead to meltdowns or withdrawal. Even if they enjoyed the activity.

This result is because participation in the activity required them to use a lot of mental effort. They may have been masking, dealing with sensory input & overload, having to do more manual processing of data and emotions because of how their brain is wired, or navigating a heightened state of stress, just to name a few.

So this may mean your child needs lots of breaks or they need big resting periods after an activity. It might also mean that there are some activities that your child cannot do because they are too taxing. Not knowing the mental effort needed for an activity or the need for rest can result in meltdowns and withdrawal.

Keep a record of what activities your child can handle and which ones are a no go. If it is a no go, don’t try to force your child to do it. If you absolutely need to do it, then have a plan for bailing when your child indicates they are done.

It is also important to find your child’s activity to rest ratio. This will keep you from over scheduling your child and help prevent behavior issues. You can also help your older child take notice of what they respond well to and what they do not. This will help them learn to advocate for their needs.

Triggered by Your Child: Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

Triggered by Your Child: Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

Triggered by Your Child?

Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

When your childs challenging behavior triggers your rage_parent coaching can help solve difficult behaviors

Are you a parent triggered by your child?


No one can push your buttons the way your child does. But for some parents, interactions can feel more overwhelming because your child not only pushes your buttons, but triggers uncontrollable reactions in you.

When a parent feels triggered it can come out as anger. It may feel like you have a shorter fuse and that you explode more or become aggressive. Sometimes it comes out as avoidance. Feeling like you can’t stand to be in the same physical space as your child or interact with them. And sometimes it comes out as giving in or giving up. Feeling like you can’t possibly win. Feeling so exhausted you question if you can do anything right so you simply chose to do nothing.

No matter how you react, the end result is the same. You feel like you are failing as a parent. Like parenting is incredibly hard and frustrating. And often times it leads you to feel like you don’t want to be a parent to your child.

And then you have the guilt for your thoughts and your actions. And you feel alone because no one else seems to have these struggles like you.


You are not alone


I know that feeling because it is a feeling I used to get a lot when my eldest was young. For me, my child triggered my anxiety. Whenever they began to spiral I could feel my anxiety rising. And as a result I would try to control the environment to keep my child from becoming triggered. Because it was the only way I thought I could keep myself from becoming triggered.

Because when I became triggered I became angry. And when I was angry I was not the parent I wanted to be. And my child, who was struggling with their own anxiety and overwhelm, could not have access to the regulated parent they needed in those moments.

I knew I was not helping my child and that I was hurting our relationship. But I couldn’t figure out how to not get triggered by my child. And for me, I felt very upset and defeated after I was triggered. Because before I had my eldest I was laid back and handled pressure well. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten to this point of dreading my child’s reactions or how to break the cycle.

So what did I do? Well it took some time to recognize that my child was actually a trigger for me. That it was more than just getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons. They were causing a very intense, uncontrollable reaction in me. And that because of that reaction and how much I dreaded it, I was doing a lot to try to avoid or minimize my child’s triggers. But what I did not discover until later was that all the work I was doing was acutally making things worse.

Once I realized I was being triggered I needed to reflect on how I wanted to live and parent. I took a hard look at how I was parenting. And I realized that I was putting a lot of effort in, but not getting the results I wanted. In short, I was doing a lot of accommodations, but still being triggered a lot of the time.

That caused me to realize that if I wanted something to be different I was going to have to do something different. Because what I was doing was not working for my child or for me.


A place for hope


Being triggered by your child does not make you a bad parent. But it does make parenting harder. A lot harder. So if your child is triggering you, you are not alone. And while it can be a good idea to work with a therapist or counselor to discover why you become triggered, this article is about the things you can do right now to break free from being triggered by your child.

These things all take time, so give yourself some grace and understanding. Behaviors don’t change overnight. Just keep showing up and doing the work. That is how you make changes.


Breaking Free of Being Triggered By Your Child


1. Understand your body’s reaction – it is not just in your head


Your body is having a biological reaction to your child’s behaviors. When your child has a big reaction, or you have an intense memory of how your child reacted the last time, your fear center becomes triggered. This is a normal reaction anytime you experience someone’s anger or when you feel threatened.

When your fear is triggered, you react in a very biological way. Your survival instincts kick in and that means your thinking brain shuts off. So you have a harder time regulating yourself. Meaning you are much more likely to escalate up right along with your child who is upset.

So how do you interrupt this biological reaction?

You need to remember to practice coping techniques. If you are becoming triggered you need to take care of yourself first. Regaining your calm is necessary to be able to effectively calm down your child. Try taking deep breaths, removing yourself temporarily from the room if it is safe for your child, or naming your feelings.

By practicing coping techniques you can regain control over your body’s reaction and bring your thinking brain back online. Once you are able to think again it becomes easier to problem solve solutions to help your child as well.


2. Understand it may not be your child who is causing you to be triggered – it may be you


When your child hits certain milestones or ages, it is natural for you to remember your childhood at that age. Depending on your experience, your family interactions or how you felt at that time it may cause old feelings and trauma to resurface.

And what a lot of people don’t know is that trauma can be caused by both big and small events. And it varies from individual to individual. Trauma can be caused by invalidations or criticisms that get repeated over and over, often without anyone being aware that any harm was being done. In short, trauma is based on your individual response to an event that you found overwhelming and that you could not fully process. So it is not uncommon for your parenting to bring up trauma that you did not know existed.

That is why when our child behaves a certain way or reminds you of when you were young, your childhood feelings reemerge. And the tricky thing about trauma is it blends time together. What happened in the past and how you felt gets mixed with what is happening now and how you feel now. Making it hard to realize your emotions and triggers are coming from the past.

So how do you move past a trauma you didn’t even realize you had? This is where mindfulness, yoga or Qigong can help. Each of these tools helps you to breathe and focus on the present moment. And when you can breathe and bring awareness to how your body feels in the present moment you can begin to separate out the past from the present. Yoga and Qigong can be especially helpful if your body needs movement in order to focus on the present.

By practicing a form of mindfulness you are creating space to notice and question your feelings. What are you feeling? Why might you be feeling this? And when you can answer these questions you can then make an intentional decision about how you are going to proceed. And that ability to be intentional has the power to change your interactions with your child and their interactions with you.


3. Instead of avoiding being triggered, work on interrupting your triggers


It is easy to get into the habit of trying to avoid your child during certain time periods or events. Or to bend over backwards creating accommodations in hopes that your child will not trigger you. And it is easy to say you are doing it to keep the peace and make things easier for everyone. But it’s time to ask yourself if it really is easier.

Chances are your avoidance is leading to more behavior issues because kids tend to escalate behaviors if they feel they are being ignored. Or you are actually spending a lot of your time and energy on making accommodations, with little results.

So what can you do?

Practice the STOP mantra. When your child is escalating and you feel like you are going to escalate right along with them 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe what you are feeling and 4. Proceed with intent.

The importance of breaking the avoidance habit is because avoidance is not a long term solution. Emotions that are not dealt with do not go away on their own. They usually resurface later with more intensity. The key to moving past your emotions is noticing what you are feeling. And moving past your emotions is critical to forming new behaviors for you and your child.


4. Choose to practice empathy and compassion for both your child and yourself


When you become triggered as a parent, parenting gets 10x harder. So acknowledge your struggle. Tell yourself that this is really hard right now. And tell yourself you are doing the best you can right now. Practicing this kind of self-compassion can help you shed any guilt or shame you are piling on top of yourself. It also lets you experience a little kindness when you need it most.

But don’t forget about your child. It may be hard to do as your child is triggering you, but remember they are a child. They are not trying to make you upset. They are trying to communicate they are struggling and that they need help. It’s just neither of you are at your best right now.

Remind yourself of these things and you will find you are able to be more empathetic to your child. And empathy leads to connection, understanding and patience. All of which help resolve behavior challenges faster.


5. Work on repairing your relationship after you have been triggered


No parent is perfect. All parents yell. All parents have said something to their child they later regret. What happens during an escalation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after the event.

Repairing is the act of acknowledging your actions and making amends for them. In order to do this, you need to acknowledge your part in the escalation. This means you let your child know how you were feeling, why you reacted the way you did and how you could have done better.

Repairing is critical. Not only does it teach your child valuable relationship skills, but it helps you put your emotions and reactions into context so you can recognize and learn from them. It helps to create awareness and accountability, which can help you change your future responses.

Repairing also helps protect your child from trauma because it gives them a chance to process their feelings and emotions about an event.

Final Thoughts


Parenting is never easy. Especially if your child triggers uncontrollable emotions in you. But becoming triggered is something you can change.

If you are triggered by your child and need help or support, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat to talk about how parent coaching can help support you and your child.