This blog is for educational purposes only.
This article is our October gift for you and your family!
Let us introduce Aimie!
We often hear the message, “Befriend your emotions.”
“But what does that mean?”—Ask me many kids and adults.
In our book, Parent-Child Guide to Coping with Anxiety, my young daughter and I developed a language to help kids talk to their emotions in a way that promotes self-compassion and self-acceptance.
I wrote this book for eight years, mainly in the evenings and on the weekends. My daughter happily helped, and we brainstormed many times how to explain to kids and their caregivers what it means to build a friendship with their emotions and to encourage them to develop self-compassion and self-acceptance.
When my daughter was about four years old and showed her first signs of anxiety, I helped her create Aimie—a character representing our Amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for human emotions (fear, anxiety, anger). Little by little, we designed our self-talk to speak to anxiety and other big feelings. This specific self-talk is one of the unique points in our book!
We felt validated that our main message to the readers was well-received:
“Describing anxiety as the product of a “Super-Protective-Aimie,” the book effectively destigmatizes fear, encouraging children and adults to see stress as a normal—even positive—hormonal response, which can result in happy outcomes.”--Kirkus Reviews
Some books on emotions in children present anxiety or worries as a monster, alien, or a bully and urge kids to talk back to their worry gremlin or beast. This approach might be helpful for some kids. I often received feedback that perceiving our worries as a monster makes some people angrier at themselves for experiencing anxiety.
Being frustrated with oneself for experiencing intense emotions activates the harsh self-critical voice inside ourselves, invalidating our vulnerabilities, causing shame, and prompting us to disown them.
I have learned over the years that this negative attitude toward anxiety may exacerbate people’s tendency to self-deprecation and self-blame and, in some cases, might even lead to self-harm. And all this affects self-esteem and weakens people’s sense of self.
Many of my clients wanted to find ways to perceive and respond to their worries differently that would work better for them. Therefore, in collaboration with my daughter and taking my clients’ feedback seriously, we crafted compassionate self-talk to our emotions.
What is people’s typical relationship with their anxiety?
Kids and teens are sometimes advised to talk back to their fears or make fun of them. One typical response is to get annoyed, anxious, or upset about feeling anxious, mad, or sad. This attitude might work for some in the short term but not in the long term.” In fact, talking back to anxiety with anger, resentment, and contempt and treating it as a “bully” makes it an unwanted emotion and contributes to maintaining the worry cycle. It also undermines cultivating self-acceptance, an essential ingredient for people’s physical and psychological well-being.
How to develop a new, more friendly relationship with anxiety?
We suggest the following way of relating to fears:
When we respond to our worries with self-compassion, we nurture our self-acceptance.
Living in line with our values energizes us and keeps us grounded. This, in turn, drives our motivation to face fears with balanced courage fueled by our value-driven life course and a sense of purpose.
Developing a different relationship with our emotions is a process that takes time and practice and brings fun along the way. This process has the following simple steps:
“To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn
2. Name your emotion and focus on your breathing
3. Allow your emotion to happen. Sit with it, focus on your breathing, and observe it non-judgmentally and with a sense of wonder. You can say to yourself:
4. Tell yourself that you can handle the emotions triggered by a situation, memory, or person.
5. Learn to talk to your emotions and anxious thoughts in a way that makes them an integral, valuable part of your experience.
Finding the right self-compassionate self-talk that works for you in the midst of a chaotic, emotional rollercoaster is a process that takes time. It’s worth the investment of the time to reflect on, and craft the powerful self-talk affirmations or mantras as integrating self-acceptance into our sense of self disarms the harsh inner self-critic.
Compassionate and validating self-talk nurtures self-acceptance and transforms our vulnerabilities into a powerful energy that facilitates the paving of meaningful pathways in our lives.
Our book, Parent-Child Guide to Coping with Anxiety, provides step-by-step guidelines on developing this compassionate self-talk with specific examples from my insightful daughter.
You will learn to appreciate the what, the why, and the how of your emotional experiences and integrate them into a self-awareness journey, enabling you to pave your values path courageously. On this path, we encourage you to sprinkle the practices of self-acceptance, self-compassion, self-growth, and joy to help you move forward in moments of pain and self-doubt, enjoying the togetherness of this journey with your family, friends, and community.
Our book explains the process of experiencing strong emotions in more depth with many child-friendly illustrations, examples, and easy-to-do mindful daily practices.
You can check it out here: Bookstore - DR. DESSY & LORA MARINOVA (drdessy.ca)
Lora and I wish you a fun and mindful journey of learning to accept and befriend your emotions and love and accept yourself just the way you are!
Lora and Dr. Dessy
Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT. New Harbinger Publications.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness And Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion.
Marinova, D. (2022). Parent-Child Guide to Coping with Anxiety. FriesenPress.
Neff, K. (2011). Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. HarperCollins.