Anxiety Hack for Your Kids: Open a Window



I think a lot about how much we have complicated life, how with all of our modern advances designed to make life easer, we have unwittingly created a world of chaos. While I am very grateful for all that makes our world safer and more pleasant than it was in the middle ages, for the sake of parenting, I know the chaos is real. We are overthinking how we raise our kids and this overthinking is negatively affecting them and us. It is for this reason I love to share the simple stuff, the things that I have seen make a positive difference, however slight. You can look for the aha!, big change, overnight hacks, but in the absence of a magic wand or Mary Poppins, I have come to understand the only way to make big changes is to focus on the accessible things you can do to make small ones. If we are lucky, the journey is long and yes, the big goal is to raise a great person, but we can’t overlook the more attainable, more easily ignored goal of enjoying the ride. Often the advice I offer is basic to the point of being dumbed-down. If you listened to either of my two Audible Originals on parenting, you likely had lots of moments of, “Of course, I would never do that,” or “Awesome, I’m already doing that.” The problem we too often face though, is not that we don’t know in our gut what the best thing is for our child, we can’t hear our gut because there is just so much noise coming at us from every direction. It is drowning out our common sense.

You may find this obvious, but take a few minutes to let the idea really soak in and file it away for a time when you need it. I promise you will need it.

Open a window. Not literally of course. Although, if you have a kid who runs hot or if you are in menopause, actually doing this could definitely help. But other than that, what do I mean? Open a window and throw out your kid? No, though there have been times I wish I could’ve done that. Open a window and threaten to throw them out? Possibly short-term effective, but definitely long term counterproductive.

When your child is struggling with a specific situation, open a figurative window. Here’s the why and the how. First, why? Feeling trapped in a situation is a sure fire way to compound negative feelings. When we add a negative feeling to a negative one, the result isn’t linear. One plus one does not necessarily equal two. Sometimes it compounds the feeling to the point of anxiety or paralysis. Think about your life and about a time when you felt you only had one choice and that choice was making you unhappy or stressed. Maybe when you felt you had to stay in a job you hated, or had to go to an event you really didn’t want to go to, or even simply, had to make dinner. You likely felt stuck and resentful, which made the task at hand that more more unappealing. But, if you took a moment to accept you could just order a pizza, or you didn’t actually have to go to the event, or even that there are other job openings out there, the pressure in the balloon deflated just a little.

When my oldest Madelyn was around two, with her limited vocabulary, she would often yell, “I’m stuck,” even if she was not actually stuck somewhere. I don’t remember how it started, but if she needed help of any kind, a boost to reach something, assistance with her shoes or a spill, she would tell us she was stuck. It was her way of saying I can’t do this next thing on my own. This feeling of being stuck or trapped creates fear, stress and emotional pain. When our children are feeling this way, we can help so much by just letting them see there may be another option. Unlike Madelyn’s toddler complaint, more often than not, our kids aren’t going to just announce when they are feeling stuck. When they are stressed or overwhelmed, I always just assume part of it is because they don’t see a way out.

So, I open a window. This has come in handy in very big situations, and in really minor ones.

Minor problem: “I don’t feel well and I’m so tired. I can’t go to school today,” the window might be as easy as, “If you still don’t feel well after second period, go to the nurse, and I’ll come get you.” No one has ever called, because if they were sick enough to come home, I would know it.

Major problem: The college application stress is rising, and I can tell she is starting to really stress. We have a serious conversation and discuss the very real, not at all terrible option, of taking her foot off the gas, staying home for a year and taking classes at community college.

Larry and I don’t toss out these options in anger. For example, if one of our children is moaning about going to a sports practice, we don’t yell, “Well, then quit,” but we may say something like, “Well, you should go today because your coach is expecting you, but when you get home, let’s have a real talk about not signing up next season.” Of course there are times when even the most avid young athlete doesn’t feel like hitting the field, there are days I moan when getting out of bed, but in all these years, I think we have only had to have that conversation one time.

Like a caged animal, feeling trapped elicits fear and anxiety. Showing your kids a realistic way out, even if that way isn’t necessarily the option you would want them to take, is like letting a little air out of a balloon that’s about ready to pop. It allows for space to breathe, to take a step back and almost always, to get a little more comfortable with the task at hand.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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