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Raising you Anxious Child

By Debra Kissen

Today has been a loooooonnnnnggggg day, filled with parental ups and downs, with more downs than ups.

The downs:

  • Alexandra crying for mommy at camp drop off
  • Alexandra getting frustrated when she could not tie my hair in pig tails (which, combined with the glossy pink lipstick she globbed on my lips, was quite a glamorous look)
  • Alexandra getting frustrated when her little brother was playing with her make up supplies

The ups:

  • Alexandra snuggling into me, while watching tv
  • Alexandra and I discussing how to handle ourselves when other people annoy us (we cant control what other people do but we can control our reaction to them)

When parenting a highly emotional, complex child, you must constantly assess what is working, what is not working and introduce new strategies. So, here goes our new initiative to assist lovely Alexandra in learning how to better regulate her emotional world. Alexandra has 14 more days of camp left. Each day Alexandra has the opportunity to earn an “earring point” (since turning 5, Alexandra has informed us that the only thing that she wants, in the whole wide world, is to get her ears pierced). Throughout each day Alexandra will be getting √s for effective coping and Xs for when she loses control. At the end of each day, at bed time, we will do the math and determine if it has been a √ day or an X day. Over the next 14 days, she needs to have at least 11 √ days to earn the reward of getting her ears pierced. The goal of this new initiative is to give her the motivation to do the super tough work of more effectively managing distress and tolerating frustration. This is not an easy task for a highly emotional child like Alexandra. When she is working on an art project and her little sister comes over and rips the page, she immediately feels a chemical reaction from her brain and experiences the signal “this is intolerable”. In contrast, if my son Asher were in the same situation, his brain would barely register the event, let alone sound an alarm. So, it is my ongoing job, as a parent to my lovely, complicated, Alexandra, to help her to more effectively manage life’s less than perfect moments. I will keep you posted on how “The Earing Initiative” unfolds…

Dr. Debra Kissen is CEO of Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center. Dr. Kissen specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)...

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