I was one of the lucky ones. Ever since I was in grade 6 I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I vividly remember watching what we used to refer to as a “Sunday night social worker movie” that year. The storyline was about some children who were living in an unsafe home and needed to be placed in foster care. This “made for tv movie” of course depicted the social worker as a hero/saviour - a story line that would now have me rolling my eyes at the very least. At that impressionable age however, I was clearly moved. I told my mom that that was what I was going to do when I got older, replacing my previous fantasy of being a veterinarian. That year I did my speech at school on child abuse and my passion never faded.
I didn’t become a social worker. While I was in university, I heard about a new field that at the time was called Child Care Work. This area of study was much more focused on children and youth than social work. It was a perfect fit for me. Now referred to as Child and Youth Care practice, it is a profession that has changed greatly since its early days and is a vocation that I am truly proud of and which has always been my calling.
Okay folks – time to remove the stigma from this! Feelings and experiences of anxiety have just become common place – period – whoever you are. What is important to keep an eye on however, is the degree to which it is disrupting your life. It is one of the top reasons for referrals at children’s mental health agencies despite often being overlooked by diagnosticians. But this is not the end of the story.
As anxiety has become more and more widespread, it also became a huge area of interest for me. It made me wonder, who doesn’t feel anxious these days and what’s their secret to managing it? As I began learning more about neurodevelopment, the mind-body connection and the power of relationships, answers started to emerge. As a result, I also began training helping professionals about understanding anxiety in those they are supporting but also to be able to recognise how it impacts them personally in their practice.
What has also become clear more recently, is that the anxiety epidemic seems to be getting worse. In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Harari (2018) asks “how can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformation and radical uncertainties (p. 259)?” Adolescence, by nature is a time of uncertainty but factor in the climate crisis, threat of nuclear war and rapid changes in technology - including AI and biotechnology, we can speculate as to why young people are more worried about their futures than ever before. More on this in my next blog along with some suggestions to help parents and caregivers support their children in becoming more resilient and able to cope with distress.
Focusing on your breathing
If I had to choose the best one because of the limited space in this blog, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that everyone should learn to focus on their breathing. I know this sounds cliché and it’s not a new one - but it is a good one. It’s foundational – the best place to start.
Learning body awareness
More importantly, they will be learning body awareness which is crucial these days. If we learn to listen to our bodies, it will tell us whatever we need to know about regulating our emotions.
Learning to observe and notice things about ourselves is a very important step towards self-awareness and self-confidence and ultimately, resilience. A lot of anxiety, for adults, youth and children can be managed when we understand how it happens. Current research tells us that we can learn to be in control of it rather than allowing it to hijack us. I also know this from personal and professional experience. More on this too in future blogs.
Interested in learning more?
I will be offering a workshop for parents/caregivers of children and youth who experience anxiety entitled Landscapes of Anxiety: Meeting Your Child Beyond a Diagnosis. It will be held in Toronto on September 21, 2019. This workshop helps parents in understanding anxiety, their child’s and their own. It can also be useful for helping professionals.
For more information and to register, please go to the events page of my website or click here:
In the mean time, consider this:
“In fact, research shows that merely assigning a name or label to what we feel literally calms down the activity of the emotional circuitry in the right hemisphere.”
― Daniel J. Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive