Healing Hugs: Responding to Anxiety in Our Children

Sometimes a hug makes all the difference…

We had a full day of fun ahead and only one hour before departure. I made the mistake of hitting snooze twice instead of getting up and moving. I was in the middle of preparing breakfast when my little woke up and she was not a happy camper.

She knew we were going to the farm.
She knew we were going to the beach with friends.
She knew it was pizza and ice cream night.
She even knew her responsibilities and was really excited about our day.

So I didn’t understand why she was so sad and she didn’t know I was already rushing in my mind with all I had to do before we walked out the door.

I snuggled her and welcomed her to the day as I always do. I gently reminded her of our fun plans and of the expectations in order to leave on time. She reluctantly got started, but 10 minutes later when she was sorting through Legos, I knew we were NOT leaving on time. So I firmly reminded her of what needed to be done.

When she argued back, I used my “mom voice.” You know the one we all have. The one that shames our kids into getting them to do what we need them to do because we are on a time crunch… for their fun thing!

“I don’t want to start this day arguing. We are supposed to be having fun and are going to do all sorts of things YOU wanted to do, so I don’t understand why you can’t do a few simple things to contribute so we can leave on time. It’s very selfish to expect me to do them all. If you don’t want to help, you can stay home, and I’ll go.”

upset child in need of a hug

Well as you can imagine, that didn’t get the results I intended. Truth be told, I should have responded in love. My bed-head beauty lost herself at 9:15 a.m. in a full-on, crocodile tear meltdown.

I wanted to be annoyed because we had way too many things to do in order to keep this day moving. But after 18 years in a classroom, 20 years of boy bonus-momming, and nine years as a girl mom, I knew what this was: anxiety.

Anxiety rears its ugly head in many different ways. We think it looks like being worried or scared, but it can present itself as apathy, defiance, and a general feeling of malaise in our children.

I took a breath, stopped what I was doing, and went to my sweet girl. I pulled her to me and sat down on the floor hugging her. She squeezed me back and we had a chat about what was so sad about this morning.

The excitement of what was coming, combined with the expectation to make it happen, was a bit much for her little 9-year-old brain upon waking up. But, I wasn’t going to do it for her. I gave her some juice for her blood sugar, grace for her sassy back-talk, and helped her channel her grit. We chunked it out and made a quick list for her to accomplish while I got breakfast ready.

And guess what?? We made it out of the door ON TIME! All she needed was the difference a healing hug could make. 

How do you respond when your child is having a strong, emotional reaction?
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