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!
“No!” He screams at the top of his lungs. “I’m not doing it!” You look at his red, sweaty face and you know what is about to come. You have seen that lost look many times before. You hold your breath and wait for the inevitable. He rages. He destroys. He brings chaos to the entire family. And then…he is done. Exhausted, no more fight left in him. A wake of destruction left in his path. Everybody wants to tell you your son has issues with oppositional defiance, but you know under all that rage is an anxious, scared boy.
It seems like just yesterday you were wiping her bottom and picking up Cheerios off the floor. And now you are scrolling down the grocery aisle going through the list of school supplies, trying to find an 8 pack of washable markers. When did this happen? When you look at your daughter she still looks so young. Is she ready for the stream of kids and chaos school will bring? Is there anything you should be doing to prepare her for the first day of kindergarten?
It’s bedtime and instead of winding down, your house is winding up. “I’m scared,” you hear. “I’m too scared to sleep!” You hear over and over again. Your child pleads. Can they sleep with you? Can you sleep with them? Can they sleep on the couch next to you? You’ve tried everything. Threatening, negotiating, sympathizing…nothing works. Are you doomed to a life of sleepless nights or can this be fixed?
Your child clings to you for dear life when anyone even glances her way. Trying something new is a major event. Your shadow is 3 ft tall and calls you mama. People tell you she’ll grow out of it. Your relatives whisper in silent judgment. But your gut instinct is telling you this isn’t your fault. Your gut instinct is telling you this isn’t right. Should you turn a blind eye and hope for the best or should you face this problem head on? What can be done for anxiety in young children? Can young kids even get anxious?
Yes, they can. Anxiety doesn’t have to be about life events. Sometimes it is about genetics. Anxiety is thought to have a strong genetic basis and can be passed along, just like blue eyes and blonde hair.
It’s bedtime. You are arming yourself for battle. You muster up all your energy. It’s going to be a long night. You are already running on fumes from the frequent interruptions in your sleep the night before. How long can you function like this? What on earth can make a child so afraid to sleep? Especially a child who has experienced nothing but security and stability?
“You’re going to be okay honey,” you say for the hundredth time that hour. Your words drip off her deaf ears. Why won’t she believe you? She asks you to tell her again. You take a deep breath and offer her more reassurance. It is like pouring water into a bucket that can never be filled up. Is this how you are supposed to help children with anxiety and OCD?
You would think that offering reassurance would help anxious children, but in reality it isn’t helpful at all. Sorry to burst your bubble. But parenting children with anxiety or OCD is like trying to write with the wrong hand. Everything you typically do as a parent just won’t work. Reassurance is the enemy of anxiety and OCD and instead of putting out the fire it is like pouring gasoline on a blaze. It’s just not a good idea.
Some kids beg their parents for a pet. Some kids love to dig for bugs. In your home, dogs and bugs are what keep your child up at night. Play dates are dictated by the size and existence of a friend’s pet. A relaxing day by the pool can be ruined by a traveling bee. Is this going to pass or will your child have a fear of animals and insects their whole life?
It’s dinner time. You prepare for battle. You put the spaghetti down and find yourself tensing up. It doesn’t take long. One slurp. One fork scraping teeth. The screaming begins. The doors get slammed. Dinner is over. This happens every night. But, it’s not just dinner. There are many other sounds that cause your child to rage out of control. Misophonia has been destroying the peace in your house. Misophonia triggers are everywhere.
Misophonia triggers aren’t about noises being perceived as too loud (hyperacusis), it is about pattern-based noises triggering the limbic system, causing suffers to instantly feel rage, disgust and anxiety when exposed to certain noises.
Your child is paralyzed. She stares at the bathroom door unable to go through. She grabs the door handle with her shirt, fumbling to get it open. You’ve watched her wash her hands until they are raw. It seems like most questions that come out of her mouth are about germs. What is going on with her? This new fear of germs is taking over her life. How can you help?
Your child is doing another “quirky” behavior. It seems like it is always something. You remember the time she had to twirl as she entered a room. And then there was the time that she had to blow on her fingers. You stare as your daughter is tapping the kitchen table four times with each finger. What do these behaviors mean? Once a well-intentioned friend suggested it was child OCD. You had scoffed at the idea. She obviously didn’t know your daughter. Her room looks like a bomb hit it and don’t even get you started on her hygiene. But if it isn’t child OCD, what is it?
So many parents dismiss the possibility of childhood OCD because they don’t understand it. OCD isn’t just about germs. OCD isn’t about being neat and orderly. Sure, those are two components in some OCD themes, but what about the thousands of other themes?
Your child is refusing to get out of the car. “What’s wrong!” You ask, growing more impatient. “I don’t want to go.” Your child pouts. “But why?” You beg, glancing at the time and wondering what excuse you’ll tell your boss this time. “I just don’t want to!” She screams at you. You’ve done this dance many times before. You wonder, how are you supposed to help a child with anxiety when they won’t even talk about it?