A highlight from It's Hard to Feel Compassion for Unreasonable Emotions


Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to unruffled. Today I'm going to be responding to an email from a parent who is concerned that her three year old seems to have entered a stage of constant frustration and anxiety. That's a stressful situation for both of them. And this parent, she has a theory that's disconcerting to her about what might have brought this on with her daughter. And she's looking for ways to help them both cope in a healthy manner. Okay, here's the letter I received. Hi Janet, my daughter just turned three. She's always been full of passion and drive, but lately it has turned into near constant frustration. I know that this is age appropriate to an extent, but it has begun to control our days and leave me having a hard time being compassionate. I always make sure to acknowledge her feelings and be present with her while she feels them, but they're always accompanied by screaming, crying, and whining, which is hard to listen to so very often. The bigger issue, though, is that I'm becoming increasingly concerned about her ability to deal with frustration in a healthy way. Her reactions are escalating in both frequency and intensity with triggers from, I dropped my raisin to, I don't want you to stop peeing, mommy, I have a hard time knowing what to do and I feel guilt, both about this and the fact that she saw me dealing with undiagnosed postpartum anxiety disorder for the first 18 months of her life. I worry that I modeled this behavior for her and that she has her own anxiety issues and that my compassion has begun to turn into frustration. How can I help her cope with her frustration in a way that's healthy for both of us? Please help. Okay, wow, I feel for this parent and one of the things that I hope to do in this podcast is help alleviate her concern and the guilt that she says she's feeling. Because that's not called for it all in my opinion and it's the last thing any of us need to be getting down on ourselves for what our children are going through. Especially to blame ourselves for things that were completely out of our control like anxiety or depression. And I see a very clear way to shift this situation. parent is sharing with me is a dynamic that I admit I find kind of fascinating actually. It's sort of been one of my consulting secrets. And that is when a parent has a concern, big enough concern for them to want to ask me a question about it or consult with me, there's one thing that I can deduce for sure off the bat. Well, almost for sure, because of course, nothing's for sure between parents and children and the dynamics that go on. Those are individual situations. But I can be fairly sure that the child is aware on some level of the parents concern. The child is feeling it too. The bigger the concern, the more likely that the child is aware of it. Now, that doesn't mean that child's aware of every detail of the specifics, but they're picking up discomfort or fear or anxiety or even just a particular focus around an issue. They feel their parents thrown off by it. So then what commonly happens is that something that was maybe a one time action or behavior or just a little phase a child's going through that's just impulsive or maybe just an expression of a child's temperament, the child feels their parents concern around that particular behavior or that theme of behaviors in this case that the child is overreacting and getting frustrated about these tiny things. And then the parents consider that they're picking up, gives it this sort of increased power that can tend to cause it to develop into more of a continuous issue. It's as if our child is feeling my parent who sets the tone for how I feel about everything isn't on top of this. They aren't comfortable. They're worried and they're upset by my behavior. And they don't quite trust themselves or me in this situation.

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