We can join our children and recruit them in creating metaphors that help them identify, investigate and “unmask” anxiety. Using the language of personification and action verbs, we can map anxiety’s sphere of influence on the child.
What effects does anxiety (which the child can rename) have on the child’s behavior, her emotions, how she feels physically, and her attitude toward herself, her abilities and her life?
Conversely, what is the child’s influence on the “life” of anxiety?
What strategies or tactics does anxiety use to thwart the child’s efforts?
What makes anxiety stronger or weaker?
What does anxiety find irresistible? Toxic?
What are the voices of anxiety? Anxiety may say, “You are stupid. You can’t do this. You will make a fool of yourself and fail.”
By helping your child identify a moment or an instance when he felt comfortable making a presentation and anxiety did not have negative effects, we can discover how he coped and identify his effective strategies and tactics for challenging anxiety. We can help reveal competence and resourcefulness he may have been unaware of, harness the ideas, and help him expand upon this knowledge and these skills for the future.
Who stands with anxiety and who stands with the child against anxiety?
What makes the child more vulnerable to anxiety’s unreasonable requirements and demands (for example, being tired or being unprepared)?
What helps the child “outsmart” anxiety, resist its power and refuse to be tricked or pushed into paralysis or misery?
How was she able to give anxiety the slip (for example, reminding herself that she finds the subject matter interesting and that she survived the last test, and telling herself that even accomplished teachers make mistakes reciting poetry)?
How was she able to resist anxiety’s attempts to make her forget what she knew?
How was she able to slip under anxiety’s radar screen?
In what ways does she think these discoveries might affect her attitude about herself going into the next test situation?
By engaging in externalizing conversations, you can help your children revise their relationships with anxiety and re-author their lives.
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