When my daughter was young, she was terrified of escalators. Terrified. I’d easily get my 10,000 steps in on a trip to the mall because we would always have to walk around to find an elevator.
It really frustrated me. I wanted to tell her to just do it. Just get on the escalator. I knew the steps wouldn’t eat her. I knew she wouldn’t fall. So, I wanted her to just get on it.
I had to stop myself and remember: She doesn’t have the confidence to know she will be okay. She’s hyper-vigilant and on the lookout for danger. That’s just the way her young anxious brain works.
To help her work through her fear of escalators, I had to activate empathy.
As parents, we have to remember to use our whole brains. Our brains have two sides: the emotional side and the rational side.
When we only use our emotional brain to parent, we tend to become caught up in worry or panic, which can create more distress in our children.
If we only use our rational brain, we tend to become overly focused on logic and tasks. We can become rigid in our thinking and responses.
When I allow the two sides of my brain to work together, this is how it might look: I squat down to her level, empathize with her fears, and then hold her hand to infuse some of my own confidence into her.
That’s what I ended up doing and yes, we did it.
(If you want to read more about this topic, I highly recommend The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel. He breaks it down even further.)
As you come up against challenges, decisions, and big feelings this week, take a moment to check in with yourself.
Is your automatic response overly rational or emotional? Just becoming aware is a huge first step!