To the Mother with the Anxious Child,
When many others only see your child throwing a fit, I see the woman struggling behind the chaos.
I see you at the store, at swim class, hovering at the kindergarten fence. I see you – because I have been there. I am there.
Having a child with anxiety is a private battle. A battle that plays out at home, late at night, at mealtime and all the times in between. A battle many people don’t understand. A battle people blame on the child, on the parent – or both.
It is hard to raise a child that can crack as easily as an egg – that feels they are being judged with every stare. You want to swoop in and shelter your child from a world that is too harsh for their sensitive skin. A world that sometimes feels even too harsh for you.
Looking back now – there were early signs. Struggles with new foods, with falling sleep, with potty training. You told yourself she would grow out of this. Her tight grip on your hands would loosen and she would learn to fly on her own.
But with each new age, came new challenges. Your child’s mind filled with fears of dying, of losing a tooth, of making friends. Questions like, “Will I die?” and “Will you die” make a simple car ride turn into a minefield of well crafted responses.
A woman at swim class turns to you and comments at how carefree your child is – as you both stare at her jumping into the water. You have flashes of your child being so fearful of swim class she would have diarrhea. No, you think, she isn’t carefree – but she is a fighter. She is brave.
You think of all the victories she has had. That you have had. Victories that other parents may take for granted. Like the move from her nurturing pre-school to the harsher terrain of kindergarten – with drop off lines and a sea of children. You think about all the victories that trail behind her – like her fear of pooping, of choking, of dogs, of the bath. She is more than her anxiety – she is a warrior.
You have gotten used to her loaded questions. Like, “What would happen if our tires fell off as we are driving?” You now recognize these questions as a little peek into her worried mind. A worried mind that is constantly churning. A mind that often needs your help.
She is starting to surprise you. Like when she had to give blood – and you were afraid to tell her. You were sure she’d be up half the night – like she had been in the past. You were sure you’d have to entice her with dollar store treasures and ice cream treats. But, after her initial worry – she said she was “good.” You waited for the predictable screams and the call for extra staff. But she was wearing her warrior expression – and you knew she had this.
You are raising a fighter, not an anxious kid. Others may not see her battles, but you do. They may not celebrate her victories. But, you do. You no longer worry about her worries because you believe in her, but more importantly – she believes in herself. And that, you realize – is going to get her through this. Going to get you through this – one day at a time.
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Natasha Daniels is a child therapist and a mom to three brave warriors. She is also the author of How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler, available on Amazon.
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