WALKING ALONGSIDE YOUTH - AN ONLINE ANXIETY COURSE
the youth’s identity, experiences and family traditions
Often, those caring for youth with anxiety are given a laundry list of things to “do.” Honouring is instead about coming to see, know and honour the youth before you, just as they are, including the unmet needs underlying their anxiety.
When we focus on honouring, we are meeting a youth’s most essential need for togetherness by conveying to them that they are fully invited to exist in our presence—exactly as they are. This invitation contradicts established approaches to anxiety that focus on changing an anxious youth’s emotional state, thoughts and behaviours. These more direct approaches to treating anxiety often have unintended and unwanted consequences. Youth can start to believe that how they feel and who they are is problematic and needs to be fixed. This in turn can lead to an escalating cycle of alarm and anxiety.
One of the most powerful things you can do as a caregiver is to convey acceptance of a youth exactly as they are, regardless of how messy, noisy and troubling their behaviours are. Emotions are contagious, and young people living in care are experts at reading the emotions of the adults responsible for them. Even a tiny bit of alarm and worry that a youth senses on their adult’s face can provoke more anxiety and worry.
Becoming aware of tone, body language and facial expression
Humans are like wireless devices, constantly sending and receiving signals. These signals tell us whether we are safe and are invited to be in the presence of another. Youth who have been wounded emotionally tend to see danger where there is none and can be quite reactive. One of the simplest things you can do as a caregiver or care provider to make a youth feel safe and welcome is to become aware of your tone of voice, body language and facial expression:
Soften your voice,
soften your body language, and
soften your face!