The Worry-Free Parent

Living in Confidence So Your Kids Can Too

Sissy Goff, M.Ed., LPC-MHSP

Author, counselor, and child therapy expert, Sissy Goff, recently sat down with Family Life Radio to discuss her latest book, “The Worry-Free Parent.” In her book, Sissy shares practical methods parents can adopt to help overcome the weight of worry and move into confidence. Check out her conversation with Family Life Radio’s morning show.

Please enjoy #3 of 5 things true about anxiety from an excerpt of Chapter 1, Understanding Worry and Anxiety..

     3. Worry plays tricks.

One of the first things I do with kids who come into my office with anxiety is have them give their worry a name. It’s one of my favorite tools, and one we’ll talk more about in the “Help for Your Mind” chapter. I had one girl who named hers Princess Worry because she said she was the Queen and could boss the princess around. I have had several girls who named their worry Bob – go figure! With younger girls, I typically start out calling it the Worry Monster, or Worry Bug, if they’re afraid of monsters. My colleague and friend David Thomas has young boys who call theirs the Hulk because they often get angry when they get worried.

In my book for teens, however, I called it the Worry Whisperer. That’s what it feels like . . . even for those of us who are adults. Worry whispers things in the back of our minds that feel like truth. But, spoiler alert for the rest of the book: They’re not. He uses those whispers to play tricks on us. In fact, I told the teenage girls there are two primary tricks worry plays on them. He tells them,

1. Something is wrong with you.

2. You’re the only one who feels this way.

For you, I’d like to add a third primary trick he plays on you—or lie he tells you. We could certainly call it either.

3. You’re a failure as a parent.

At this point, I have no idea how many thousands of parents I have sat with in my counseling office. They’re parents of kids of all ages and all circumstances who have come for help. I believe every single one of those parents has one thing in common: At their core, they’re anxious that they’re failing as parents. It’s not a fear of failure, like spiders or snakes. It’s not even a worry about failure that hangs around a little more often.

I believe it’s an anxiety that undergirds every late pickup, every forgotten school note, every blown temper, and almost every normal day in between. And I would guess the same is true for you. The anxiety may not even be a conscious thought, but it’s likely one that lies just under the surface and is tapped into all too easily.

Anxiety plays tricks, remember? And the tricks it plays are insidious. Its primary goal is to consume our thoughts in a way that defeats us—that keeps us from being present to our lives and with the kids we love. So the worry loops around the very things we’re most afraid of. In fact, we could do a timeline from the age of onset right up through adulthood.

For younger children, anxiety often loops around something bad happening to one of their parents, which is the scariest thing they can imagine happening at that age. They get a little older, and it’s getting in trouble or even getting a stomach bug. A little older, and it might be a fear of getting a bad grade or getting on an airplane. A little older, and it’s performing poorly in a track meet or embarrassing themselves socially. A little older (like today, for you), and it’s being a failure as a parent. Worry is wise to target our fears right where we live, or think, with enough power to consume our thoughts and make us truly feel like a failure.

Let’s dispel that lie right here: You are not a failure as a parent. Even the fact that you would read a book about your own anxiety rather than just that of your children means that you are intentional. The fact that you deal with worry and anxiety means that you care deeply, you’re trying hard, and you’re getting a whole lot more right than you are wrong. We’ll come back to that idea later too. But for now, I want you to trust me. You’re not a failure.

Nothing is wrong with you, and you are certainly not the only one who feels this way. I hope that truth is starting to sink in. But I also know worry’s well-worn tricky pathways, and the shame that treads upon them can be deep.

Sissy Goff, M.Ed., LPC-MHSP, spends most of her days talking with girls and their families, with the help of her counseling assistant/pet therapist, Lucy the Havanese. She has worked as the Director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee since 1993, with a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. Sissy speaks to parents and children’s ministers across the country, and is the author of twelve books, including the bestselling Raising Worry-Free Girls, Braver, Stronger Smarter (for elementary school girls) and her newest book for teenage girls, Brave. Sissy is a regular contributor to various podcasts and publications, including their own podcast called Raising Boys and Girls. You can find more information and resources at www.raisingboysandgirls.com. Follow Sissy on Instagram @raisingboysandgirls and @sissygoff.

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