At our latest Keeping in Touch session, we welcomed child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Giaroli, via Zoom, to talk to parents about how to help their daughters manage anxiety.
Parents across London joined the first of our virtual evening sessions: an open forum to help parents understand how unhealthy levels of anxiety can establish themselves, how to prevent this from happening, and how to help their daughters to cope if it does.
Dr Giaroli began the evening speaking about the pandemic and its multifarious impacts on mental health. Being in lockdown this year meant a lack of control, a lack of group dynamics and a subsequent confused sense of self-identity for some – especially for adolescents.
With ‘anxiety’ being both a lay term and a condition, he clearly outlined the differences between the natural, essential emotions (which can be positive) and the pathological condition – when anxiety tips over and becomes debilitating, overriding healthy, everyday functions.
Defining the fight/flight/freeze mechanism, he explained the innate biological and physiological human responses to stress. He clarified how a degree of anxiety can be beneficial – helping us to compete, to meet deadlines, to improve alertness and boost performance. As parents, he suggested we can help our daughters to distinguish what is normal and what is problematic – and identify when to seek professional help.
Parents were reminded of the essential role they play: “It is important to rationalise and to reassure – but not to overdo it or overanalyse. Sometimes it can be helpful to simply sit with your daughter, to remind her that a degree of anxiety can be natural, and to reassure her it will pass.”
He also advised parents to be mindful of managing their own anxieties first. “Anxiety can be very contagious; it’s important for parents to be able to clearly recognise and vocalise their own anxieties. And it can be helpful for our children to know we are not perfect. Share your stories. Being honest and humble can help reassure them.”
You are your child’s car, driving ahead of her in the fog.
In the Q&A session, Dr Giaroli went on to discuss the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and meditation, explored self-esteem and confidence, and provided tips to encourage an open dialogue with your children.
“If your daughter doesn’t want to open up to you, don’t force it. It’s important to be truly present, to be available to listen. But don’t take it personally if they don’t want to talk. Sometimes, just sit with them… sit with their emotions.”
With many certainties eroded by the pandemic, parents asked how they can help their daughters look to the future: “Focus on the positives, but be honest. Don’t fabricate a future or give false hopes.”
He advised that by helping our children to learn to sit with the unknown – albeit uncomfortably – they will be better equipped for the future.
A recording of the session has been shared with parents via SchoolPost. Our pastoral team host regular Keeping in Touch talks for parents on age-relevant issues, often mirroring the topics that the girls are learning about at school.