While some deal with stress and crisis by using Anxious Coping Strategies, some go in a different direction still, and use more withdrawn coping strategies.
People with withdrawn strategies are able to compartmentalize and bury their feelings deep inside, so much so that they may come across as preoccupied and emotionally vacant. They are likely to get very busy with something tangible that keeps them away from relationships and from any feelings. They may focus on things that give them a sense of control. If you ask them how they are doing, they might seem overly bright, positive, and encouraging because they are so far removed from their feelings that they think that everything is just rosy. They are unlikely to want to talk about any feelings related to this crisis. I think about a loved one who would likely say “Nothing is going on”, or “I’m fine” if I inquired about how they are doing.
If you are parenting a child with a withdrawn strategy you are likely guessing how they are doing, or you’re thinking that they are just fine. The distance that they put in their relationships is helpful for them to keep intensity and feelings at bay. You don’t have to feel something that you aren’t experiencing after all.
So how do you support someone then when they’re using these withdrawn strategies to cope?
- Let them be – give them space, respect that talking about it and feeling it makes it worse for them.
- Let them stay busy in ways they choose to do so – give them tasks, focus on things outside of themselves like games, chores, work.
- Focus on thoughts instead of on feelings. If you need to talk about your feeling and vent, keep it short and sweet, or contained.
- Keep things simple, superficial, less intense. If you need to talk about something serious do it while walking or while cooking, or while playing a game.
- If you need to communicate something personal and serious, consider doing it in a text or an email. This way they have space to consider it without feeling the additional pressure of answering you in the moment.
- Give then opportunities to be successful. Try asking them to strategize and to fix something.
- Be specific about what you need help in. Those who use this strategy especially like to get things right, and to be helpful.
Hopefully diving into these three most commonly used coping strategies this past week will be useful information to better know those you love – and utilize these tips when communicating and dealing with especially stressful situations. As you know, everyone handles things differently, and knowing how to approach a topic and what best soothes your loved one, can make all the difference.