Sure, nobody likes shots. But your child goes ballistic at just the mere mention of shots. Their fear of needles is so intense that it takes a small army to hold them down and get the job done. You find yourself just avoiding the whole thing if possible. But even if you decide to avoid shots altogether (which is not the subject of this episode and let’s not make it that), there are still medical mysteries that only our blood can reveal. Our blood that is trapped behind layers of skin. Skin that has to be poked to figure those mysteries out.
So how do you help kids who have a fear of needles? Here is where to start…
Anxiety is not always visible. It is not always obvious. Sometimes it is silently attacking your child from the inside out. It makes itself cozy in a child’s mind that is already filled with doubt and insecurity. Intrusive thoughts are confusing to kids. They are scary to kids. Heck, they are scary for parents. So how do you help your child deal with them? It is the opposite of what you may think…
Your child stands there with their arms crossed. This is dumb. This is stupid. I don’t want to go. You never. She never. I never. It’s not fair. You’re not fair. Life is not fair. I hate this. I hate her. I hate you. It is as if someone hijacked your sweet child and replaced them with a ball of negativity. A ball of black darkness that you want to run and hide from. A ball of bad attitude that has the power of permeating your house and everyone in it.
Child anxiety and OCD not only overwhelms a child, but it can sour a child. It can suck the joy out of everything, leaving behind a child who is so miserable, they rarely see the sparkle of life anymore.
Parenting a child with anxiety or OCD can be confusing, overwhelming and lonely. If you have a child struggling with anxiety or OCD, you most likely have read one of Dawn Huebner’s books. Dawn Huebner is an anxiety expert and best selling author of What to Do When You Worry Too Much and What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck. Her new book Outsmarting Worry offers kids a wonderfully in-depth approach on how to beat their anxiety and/or OCD. Listen in as I talk to Dawn Huebner about her insights on how to parent kids with anxiety and OCD.
Your child is standing there, white-knuckled and pale as a ghost. “I can’t do it,” they whisper. “I’m scared.” You are about to offer words of encouragement when your partner chimes in. “Stop playing games and just do it!” You feel your stomach drop. You give your partner the death glare, but it has little effect as the tirade continues. “I’m tired of this! Just do it or you are grounded.” You stare at your child, wide-eyed and paralyzed with fear. You have two problems. A child with debilitating anxiety and a partner who doesn’t believe in anxiety disorders. What are you supposed to do with that?!
There were three words that would stop me dead in my tracks as a kid – We. Are. Moving. I didn’t handle change well and unfortunately my parents didn’t handle stability well. It was a bad combination for an anxious kid like me. I also felt silently overwhelmed when our family dog died, when I changed schools, when my parents got divorced and all the life that happened in between. So, how should parents help anxious kids deal with such big life changes? I can tell you what I tell parents in my therapy practice and privately what I wish my own parents would have done as well.
My daughter stands over the balcony. “I’m scared. I can’t sleep.” I look up at her little body. “Brave face!” I encourage. She sighs and then strikes her brave face power pose. Her head held up high, her arms on both hips, her lips pursed and eyes ready for battle. “Good!” I say. “Now what do you need to tell yourself?” She holds her pose and says the words I was hoping she would say, “I am safe in this house! We are all safe in this house!” And with that she is off to go try again.
It is past midnight. Your child is still refusing to go to sleep. “What are you scared of?” You ask impatiently. Your child just shrugs. “I don’t know.” You child refuses to go to school. “Why don’t you like going to school?” You ask for the hundredth time. Your child stares at you blankly. You know your child is feeling anxious, but you don’t have any clue as to why.
Unfortunately, it is hard to beat anxiety when you don’t know exactly what you are trying to beat. The thoughts behind feeling anxious are critical in arming your child with the necessary tools to overcome their anxiety. So how do you even begin to unravel this mystery of what causes your child’s anxiety? You can start by asking them these questions…
I wake up and reach for my phone. Breaking news headlines scream for my attention. Not again, I think. How many tragedies do we need to witness? How many mass shootings and bombings do my children need to live through? It doesn’t help that I have three anxious kids. Anxiety feeds off these headlines. Thrives off these dark moments of time. It has the power to ruin any progress a child has made crushing their anxiety .So how do we handle the situation? Do we tell our anxious kids what has happened? How do we minimize the impact it has on their already fragile view of life’s dangers?
We can’t ignore these life events, but we can frame it in a way that minimizes the long-term impact. Here’s how…
You are in the car trying to coax your child to go to school. You are in their bedroom trying to help them calm down. You are at the dinner table, negotiating what they will eat. All the while, little eyes watch from a distance. They watch as they are late to school. They listen as they wait for you to come into their room. They silently eat as all eyes are focused on the little mouth that refuses to eat. They quickly move out of the way, when angry, anxious fists come flying in their direction. Having a sibling with child OCD or anxiety can be overwhelming, confusing and scary.
She’s been in school for two hours. An hour longer than yesterday. I reluctantly answer my phone. “Mom,” I hear her say. “I’m feeling really sick. Can you pick me up?” My daughter doesn’t have the stomach flu. She doesn’t have the latest virus. She has emetophobia, a phobia so intense it is actually making her sick.
Anxiety likes victims. It likes followers. Anxiety likes to bully, dictate and control every thought, action and decision. Anxiety… completely sucks. So how do you help your child who is genetically doomed to live life in the shadows of anxiety? How do you teach them that there are other options – that being a victim isn’t the only choice. How do you empower your child to fight anxiety?
As parents, we have a big role in empowering our children to fight anxiety. We can inadvertently teach them how to be anxiety’s victim or how to be anxiety’s slayer. I opt for the latter. How about you?
Your child is balled up on the floor – again. She has been like this for hours. Nothing you do or say seems to penetrate her wall of pure terror. You remind her of all the tools she’s learned in therapy, but the words just drip off her limp body. It looks like another school day will be passing her by. How long can this go on? When should you start considering anxiety and OCD medication for her?
You are at your wit’s end. Your child’s mind is spinning out of control. It is waaay past her bedtime. “But what if…” you hear her little voice start to say. “Enough! Just go to bed!” You shout, feeling guilty before you even finish your sentence. How can you get that little mind to stop? What can reduce anxiety in kids?
Maybe I can help? I am a big fan of teaching kids to tackle their thoughts behind their anxiety. But once that is done, kids need a go-to distraction. One of my favorite approaches is teaching kids how to make, what I call, a world. It is a great visual imagery tool that can be very effective!