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Confronting the New Anxiety - Page 12


"I know you don't mean badly and want to tell your story," I continued, "and maybe I'm doing something that makes you feel I'm not getting it. But it really is too much for me when you get that close."

Mandy was quiet for a minute. "You sound just like my parents. They say the same thing to me." I asked if she ever noticed anybody else shrinking away from her. "Oh, no, never."

"Well," I suggest, "maybe you could just watch and see if this happens at school."

The next week, Mandy again started to stand up as she got into her story, but this time, she saw the look in my eye, caught herself, and sat back in her seat. "You know, I did notice that I get right in kids' faces--and talk louder and faster. It makes me very nervous when I think people aren't listening."

As it turned out, I discovered that Mandy's mother was also a "close talker." When Mom felt Mandy needed to know something, she stood over her daughter and delivered high-decibel lectures. I worked with her to establish a more user-friendly style of communication, emphasizing simple, basic techniques: when Mandy needed to know something, tell her in a calm tone of voice, make it short, and then leave. Of course, like all of us, parents often fail at first-time assignments, so a little family-of-origin work (and eventually, some cognitive testing for Mandy) became part of the treatment.

Both of these situations required a number of interactions to get the point across. But teens take honest feedback to heart. Its directness pales in comparison to what they're used to hearing at school or at home. And the chance for kindly discussion is a true gift. Developing regard for an adult's experience increases kids' awareness of the world and lessens the out-of-control feelings that engender anxiety in so many of them.


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