Q: My wife struggles with anxiety. I try to help her, but it's wearing both of us down. I get to the point where I don't know what to say, and sometimes I think anything I do say will be wrong. Do you have any advice?
Jim: We all occasionally experience times of worry. But when someone suffers from full-blown fear and anxiety, it can be a daily, almost crippling way of life for that individual and everyone around them. Admittedly, this column isn't the best venue to address this question in depth, but here are a few ideas from our counselors to keep in mind.
First, don't be dismissive of the person's fears, no matter how irrational they may seem to you. Our counselors say that minimizing someone's feelings will make them feel isolated and alone, which will only intensify their anxiety. Also, don't give in to the notion that talking about the fear will make it worse. That's not the case. In fact, open conversations can actually defuse fear by acknowledging it and bringing it into the open.
And don't underestimate the importance of faith, either. Most fears are caused by the knowledge that many situations in life are beyond our control. That's why a deep faith in Someone greater than us who is in control can bring peace.
Finally, seek help from a professional. Fear and anxiety often have deep roots -- and reassurances from family members, no matter how well-meaning, will offer little comfort. Fortunately, talk therapy (and appropriate medication in certain situations) can greatly reduce the power of fear in a person's life.
To speak with one of our counselors, or to find one in your area, call 855-771-HELP (4357) or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I'll admit that I often get impatient with my children. How can I improve in this area?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: You're not alone. In a recent study of 2,200 parents, 60 percent said they wish they had more patience. Forty-seven percent wished they were better at controlling their emotions and reactions. Yet in this same study, 91 percent said parenting is their greatest joy.
While parenting is our greatest joy, it's generally driven either by (A) our empathy and desire to help our children manage their emotions and decisions, or (B) our own internal emotional turmoil: insecurity, pain, loneliness or difficulty managing stress.
Fatigue, stress and interpersonal conflict (with friends, coworkers or your spouse) can all deplete your patience throughout the day. One of the keys to addressing this problem is to prioritize unconditional love with your kids. It's important to stop and get some perspective. Your child probably doesn't have insight into what is impacting you.
Unconditional love means putting your own "stuff" aside for a moment and being present with your child. Notice the word "present" can also mean "gift." You're giving of yourself as a gift to your child; they don't need to earn it from you.
Try these three things to get yourself present with your child:
Pause your mind, take a deep breath and look into your child's eyes -- what do you see? Look carefully.
Take inventory of your life. What are the demands, stresses, pressures, etc., that are depleting your patience? What do you need to do to manage those things?
Ask questions to gather more information and truly understand what is going on in your child's life. Do you initially see your child as a nuisance or as a gift? That initial perspective makes a big difference!
Unconditional love helps you build a strong foundation for a healthy parent-child relationship that can bring peace even amid chaos.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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