Love in Love out: A compassionate approach to parenting your anxious child by guest author Dr. Malie Coyne.

We live in a modern world of pressure, a “perfect storm”, and parents are trying their best without a road map. Whilst they can dream about growing a resilient child, they don’t quite know how to get there. Having been an anxious child myself, and through my work as a clinical psychologist seeing parents’ difficulties in responding to child anxiety, I wrote this book to offer very practical, accessible and heartfelt advice for parents.

It is not commonly known that a parent’s response to their child’s anxiety is a deciding factor in how they will cope. Because parents play a crucial role in helping their children to regulate their emotions, it follows that during their most anxious moments children look to their parents for help in evaluating the threat and in restoring their sense of safe.

Inhaling love in and exhaling love out reminds parents that if they give themselves warmth and understanding about their own anxieties and the parenting challenges they experience, this paves the way for a sensitive, calm and compassionate response to their child’s anxiety.

A “compassionate approach” to parenting is about the parent slowing down to see what lies behind the child’s feelings and behaviour, and recognising their own feelings in response to their anxious child. Inhaling love in and exhaling love out reminds parents that if they give themselves warmth and understanding about their own anxieties and the parenting challenges they experience, this paves the way for a sensitive, calm and compassionate response to their child’s anxiety.

Children don’t have access to the reasoning part of their brain when they are anxious. A parent’s compassionate response has the power to calm a child down during their anxious moments and gives them essential access to their reasoning brains, which enables them to manage daily threats and build resilience over time.

One of the reasons I wrote this book is that I had not come across many resources which tapped into the needs of anxious children using a compassionate approach, which compliments how their brain takes in information. It is about finding the balance between helping children feel safe and empowering them to test their fears. To find this balance, I developed the four steps of the S.A.F.E. Chain of Resilience to support parents in navigating their child’s anxiety (Self-care; Anchoring; Feeling Felt; and Empowerment).

Beginning with self-care, parents are encouraged to reflect on their own emotions and self-care needs, so they can check in with themselves before responding to their child’s anxiety.

Through the quality of the child-parent relationship, the parent uses relaxation and stress reduction techniques to anchor their child back to safety in times of stress.

Feeling felt is about a parent helping a child feel understood by connecting to their emotion, following which the child is calm enough to explore solutions.

Once the first 3 steps have been worked on, the child is then able to use empowerment strategies like play, cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness and kindfulness.

Using case examples throughout, I want to translate the knowledge and experience I’ve gained as an anxious child, as a parent and as a clinical psychologist into something really meaningful and practical which offers hope and compassion for parents and children alike.

Published later this month, you can pre-order Love In, Love Out on our website

Dr Malie Coyne is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychology Lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway and sits on the Mental Health Advisory Panel for the A Lust for Life charity. With her considerable experience of working with children and families, Malie is fast becoming one of the leading voices in compassionate parenting in Ireland. Through her advocacy work, public speaking and print, radio and television contributions, Malie shines a light on mental health issues and promotes wellbeing throughout our lives. Malie lives in Galway with her husband and two little ladies. See www.drmaliecoyne.ie

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