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Are you over accommodating your teen’s anxiety?

What does over accommodating your teens’s anxiety mean?

Imagine you have a child that’s afraid to go to school. They say the hallways are too crowded. As you listen, you imagine the sea of chaos. Your child says people throw things, bang lockers loudly, and run into each other. Sometimes they even start fights or hit each other with objects. Your child says one day they vomited in the bathroom toilet because the hallways were so loud.

So, with the help of the school counselor, you start having your child leave five minutes early from class to get to their next class early. The hallways are clear at this time. Great intervention!

This works for about a week. Then your child says people have started making fun of them for getting to leave early. The bullying takes place at lunchtime. They start complaining of panic attacks in the class right before lunch, texting you furiously at work, and now you start picking them up at school early. Pretty soon they are upset about what they’ve missed. People are now making comments anytime they show up to an afternoon class like, “Wow, you made it.”

Then you enroll them in an online school.

Now, they can’t organize all their classwork and they say they can’t focus because the dog keeps barking, social media and their video games call to them, and they feel so lonely. They say the teacher in their online class, “doesn’t really teach” and “expects us to teach ourselves.”

At some point, accommodating their anxiety becomes over accommodating their anxiety. Should parents accommodate their child’s anxiety? Absolutely. You make a few adjustments. You listen. You help correct anxious thoughts like, “Nobody likes me” or “Everyone is looking at me.” You definitely get the school to deal with bullies! 

But then you ask them to try to use the new coping skills they’ve learned like, “Most people are too focused on themselves to be looking at you” or deep breathing in the hallways. If they no longer have the opportunities to use their new coping skills, they won’t learn that they are capable of handling their anxiety.

If you start over accommodating, they won’t be learning anything anymore except how to avoid uncomfortable situations by coming up with an uncomfortable thing that keeps happening so that they can get out of it.

I’ve seen parents over accommodate to the point the teen started refusing to go to school at all. Then the parents have said, “I can’t force her to go to school”. When parents keep accommodating after a certain point, the child learns how to push the parent’s buttons to get even more accommodating out of the deal and the parents might just blame their child’s anxiety.

What can you do instead?

In Hakomi therapy we have something called JOOTS. JOOTS means, “Jumping Out Of the System”.  We write down, in detail, what your current system is for handling your anxiety.

What does your system look like?

First, your child tells you about their intolerable anxiety in the hallway.

Then, you panic and your heart rate starts going up. Your stomach hurts.

Next, you start coming up with a solution to fix it.

You make an accommodation or get the school to do it.

You then make more accommodations at home like you start making the child’s bed and cleaning their room. Maybe you even start finishing their homework for them.

Your child starts generating more things that make them anxious.

You start panicking more and making more adjustments.

Now, your child is barely functioning because of their “anxiety”.

WHERE COULD YOU JUMP OUT OF THIS SYSTEM?

You could implement a three week rule. Your child says the hallways are intolerable. You come up with a solution like them leaving class early to get to their next class. Then you tell them you’ll re-evaluate in three weeks if it’s helping or not. You aren’t making any more adjustments for three weeks.

You could make a decision that you are just going to listen and not make a change that accommodates until your child has brought up this issue at least three times.

You could ask them to come up with an accommodation themselves and implement it, rather than you do it. You make sure to ask them about it and if it’s working. But your role is just “listener”.

You could introduce an accommodation like journaling, deep breathing, mindfulness or even medication but not stopping school attendance or making a physical accommodation.

You get the idea. You’ve jumped out of the reactive, physically over accommodating cycle. 

What are some other ways you could be over accommodating your child’s anxiety?

1. You ask that they not have to do any school presentations in front of the class.

2. You ask the family to be really quiet so they don’t set them off. Now, everyone’s on eggshells.

3. You drive them to school rather than having them take the bus because the bus is too loud.

4. You allow them to miss any kind of extracurricular event the minute they say they are too anxious.

5. You allow them to eat in their room alone because they say they can’t handle the sound of people’s chewing.

6. You don’t make them go into a restaurant to eat or allow them to order their own food because they say it makes them too anxious.

7. You let them do rituals that make the whole family late to events like doing excessively long handwashing.

8. You don’t go anywhere anymore because of the anxiety.

Try writing down your system. What does your reaction to your child’s anxiety look like? Be descriptive about every part of it. 1, 2, 3, 4. Now – where could you make a new choice?

If you need help, we can help you brainstorm for solutions. 

Click the link below for a list of our team members who are trained to help with things like JOOTS, your anxiety, your child’s anxiety, collaborating with schools, or other anxiety coping skills.

Give Your Teen an Opportunity to Use Their Anxiety Coping Skills

 

A free clear mind is the first step.

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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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