Clinical Therapist * Mental Health Specialist * Media Expert


Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 2nd – 8th. We will be posting a special series of articles to #GETLOUD about mental health & youth. 

When children are anxious, they can be prone to both being bossed around and being bossy – the former arising from a loss of protective instinct and the latter from a disconnection from their feelings for others. Parents describe to me how hard it is to see their children led about in the playground, at times playing the most humiliating of roles. For children held hostage by their own anxiety, the terror of speaking out can easily override their need to stand up and say, “No, I won’t be the dog again and I don’t want you to pull me by a pretend leash” or “Stop running away when I try to play with you. I feel really upset when you do that.” It’s easy to interpret bossiness, bullying and cruelty to others as children’s urge to control. Recently, experts have come to view the problem more deeply; we now know that when children become desensitized to others’ cues, it is often because they feel disconnected themselves. Their controlling behaviour is a veiled and misguided attempt to feel they matter to others, and their aggression is often an attempt to get close to a certain child by alienating another. Whether our kids are being bossed or being bossy themselves, the vulnerability at the core points to a need for us to provide unconditional attachment, healthy limits and some social coaching when required.


At times, we may need to act as our children’s translator, letting other children know why ours are having a tough moment. Saying, “Kim would rather play inside because there are lots of bees out today and they make her uncomfortable” or “David feels more comfortable sleeping at home. Maybe you could come sleep at our house instead?” can create a bridge of understanding between children and may even open up a discussion about how each of them experiences fears. Better yet, we can help our children to practice explaining their fears themselves in a way that feels comfortable for them. The more they’re able to practice talking about their powerful feelings, the more inoculated from those fears they will become.

Whether or not our children decide to tell a certain friend about their anxiety depends on many factors: their age, how well they know the other child, whether the child has shared their own personal information in the past, and whether they tend to gossip about other friends. Children with anxiety can be reticent to share their feelings because it leaves them feeling vulnerable and exposed, and they fear receiving insensitive reactions. Children who already feel different don’t want to be seen as different, so gently encourage opening up to others, but let kids take the lead on when and to whom. Here are some words we can give our children to describe what they’re going through:

  • Sometimes I worry a lot – it’s like my brain gets stuck on a worry channel and the remote won’t let me change it.
  • It’s like my brain tells my body I’m in danger when I’m not – my heart goes really fast and I feel really scared even when there’s nothing wrong.
  • I get these ideas in my head that something bad is going to happen and I can’t convince my brain that everything is okay. It makes it hard to go on sleepovers, but it’s getting better.
  • It’s like a false alarm goes off in my brain and I have to try and turn it off so I feel okay again.

Extract from Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, by Michele Kambolis. 

CHI Kids teachers are empowering children all across Canada as they help them build resiliency tools for life. Be a part of the movement by taking the first step towards CHI Kids teacher certification.

As a CHI Kids teacher in training you’ll be immersed in the fundamentals of positive psychology, interpersonal neurobiology and cognitive behavioural science, learning the many ways these skills serve as the foundation for the social and emotional intelligence and mind body health of children. You will be shown how to help children monitor and modify energy and information, including thought, sensory and emotion regulation.

Taking place at the beautiful  Granville Island Hotel on Friday, May 20th,  this training will be taught by leading child and family therapist and parenting expert, Michele Kambolis.

Who can teach CHI Kids classes? – This certificate is especially valuable to parents, teachers, clinical counsellors, psychologists, yoga teachers, child focused coaching professionals and other mental health/wellness practitioners and nurses

REGISTER NOW and be a part of expanding the movement to empower children everywhere.



Leave a Comment