5 Tips on Working with an Anxious Child

Anxiety. Mood disorder. Special Needs. It’s all fine within your own household, you see we learn to deal with our children in a way that works for them. Society, on the other hand, has zero tolerance for people who don’t fit their mold of what they think to be the norm. I am at the point where I am about sick of being stared at every single time my child is having a difficult day due to either a medication change or simply just having an off day. When my son has an off day, it’s unlike my other two children because he has a mood disorder and anxiety; this makes an off day for him closer to the end of the world mentality. It’s normal for him, it’s not so normal for others. With that being said, there are simple ways to work with a child who has anxiety, and yes people, anxiety is a real disorder that sometimes keeps people from going outside of their house because it’s too painful to go outside of their comfort zone.

I was that person. I have anxiety and every day, even at age 32, it’s still a struggle to get out and mingle with society without having first prepped my brain for it. I have to literally talk myself into going out in public some days and while it’s become my norm at 32 years of age, it wasn’t always my norm. Talking yourself into being part of society when you suffer from major anxiety takes a lot of strength and determination as well as motivation, all three things my seven year old may have but not with a true understanding of how he works best. With that being said I decided to create this list of ways to work with an anxious child …. to help you work with an anxious child at a level that makes sense for the child and will help them blossom in time.

5 Tips to Work with Anxious Children

  1. Be Firm, Yet Understanding – Remind your child that you understand and feel for what he/she is going through, allow their feelings to be validated but be firm in your tone, not stern, so that the child realizes “this person means business” but doesn’t feel more anxious & overwhelmed with the demands from said adult.
  2. Encourage but Do not Force – As my son’s counselor told me, “there is a fine line between encouraging and forcing”. It’s vitally important for the growth of an anxious child to encourage them to continue on in life as is their norm without the anxiety attack. Do not allow anxiety to take over your child, but also don’t drag them kicking and screaming if encouragement doesn’t work. It’s not the end of the world if anxiety has overcome your child to the point that he/she doesn’t want to partake in a certain situation and forcing will only increase anxious feelings. Try again next time.
  3. Don’t Use Logic with an Irrational Thought Pattern – Anxiety is a completely irrational fear of society or situations, therefore you cannot try to use logic or rational reasoning with a child who is having an anxiety attack. They are in a different place where, in their own mind, their fear in this moment makes sense to them. 
  4. Listen to The Child Speak – This is a very important tip, you should listen to an anxious child speak fully. Allow the child to explain to you exactly what they are thinking and feeling during their anxiety attack. This helps two things; it helps you understand what is going on inside of their head so you can better assist them in moving forward and it helps them get whatever they are feeling off of their mind allowing them to have a better chance at overcoming this anxiety attack.
  5. Prepare The Child for What’s to Come – Anxious children really like to know what is going to happen next, most times children will automatically assume that x,y,z is going to happen. When x.y,z doesn’t happen in that order or doesn’t happen at all, then they are bound to have an anxiety attack. Anxious children like to have a routine and a schedule, while they are adaptable to changes in their routines, they must be prepared for those changes. Do your best to prepare an anxious child for their “what’s next” on the agenda, so as to avoid a full blown anxiety attack.

 If you follow the 5 Tips on Working with an Anxious child above, I firmly believe that you will be on your way to greener pastures with your anxious child.

“Image courtesy of cooldesign/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

That Lovely Thing Called Anxiety

One of the things I have noticed with my first born is that she exhibits signs of anxiety like I have, however, she is going through a lot that she is unable to “fix” because well she “isn’t old enough”, which I think is out right ridiculous because at age 10 she is pretty right on with being realistic in what she needs to have a stable, well balanced life. I am not so sure I would have been that able to be so realistic about things at her age, but she is. The issue with having so much on her mind that she is not “allowed” to fix to be a better way, is that she ends up with major anxiety. Sometimes this anxiety can go into what appears to be an anxiety or panic attack. That is when I get nervous because her heart will feel tense or achy after she has been having anxious feelings over something.

Having anxiety myself and being able to relate to children on an amazing level that allows for friendship and trust, I am able to calm my daughter down when she is having an anxiety attack, usually before it hits that point. Case in point; last night my daughter forgot she had to make paper planes for science class. To me this was no big deal, she remembered, even if she remembered at bedtime — she remembered before being in school the next day! Instead of simply working to get her paper airplanes made and finished so I could tuck her back into bed, she went into this intense “what if this and what if that” mode. It was insane. It was like talking to a wall; she was convinced she had no clue how to make paper airplanes and parents were not allowed to make a demonstration of an airplane, the kids had to make this 100% on her own.

Since Ki was over tired, she was not thinking straight which only made her anxiety and ability to be realistic and think clearly more difficult. I was frustrated as a parent, watching her butt heads with all of my creative ideas, tips and suggestions on how to move forward in making her airplanes. No matter what I said to her, she was simply not having it. In tears, heavy breathing, looking all over tired and sad, I stepped away leaving her with the words of “why not wait until the morning since you are clearly over tired, all worked up and cannot think clearly at this moment. In the morning, you can make the airplanes and test them while I am making your breakfast, we can laugh, smile and have fun with it” Of course Ki was being so over tired ridiculous that she just couldn’t even handle that idea, she had 100 what if’s behind why the morning would not work either, but stated that time of night didn’t work for her either. It was seriously to the point where, as her Mom, I had to tell her what was going to happen on the topic of these dang airplanes.

She was to go to sleep now and we would talk, laugh and smile in the morning while I watched her make her airplanes. For now, she needed her sleep so she could think clearly. I stepped away from her bedroom to let this statement sink in, after all sometimes people need a few moments to collect their thoughts when overwhelmed. or over tired.

Next thing I know Ki is laying in bed, all ready for sleep but crying because at this point her chest started to hurt. She was too worked up to calm herself down, so in my best calm mommy voice ever I sang her our personal mom/daughter song “You are My Sunshine” and before I left her room, I knelt down, whispered in her ear – now think of that song, of me singing it to you, and that is all you need to think about right now. Thinking of Mama’s sweet voice, calmly singing you are my sunshine should help you to pass out.

As I walked away my daughter says “I love you  Mama. Thank you.” And then she passed out snug as a bug in a rug.

Kicking Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Taking Names

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when my daughter was a baby, she is almost 10. They put me on lexapro and I was about so numb that I could have seriously just cut my thumb off and not even cared. Can we say “too much medication?” … so I worked to wean myself off of the lexapro for two reasons; lack of insurance & the thought I could kick anxiety in the butt on my own. Yes I am stubborn and extremely strong willed…

Let me start by saying if you have major anxiety I don’t recommend just weaning yourself off and doing what I did, but if you don’t have medication and suffer from anxiety maybe my post can assist you in some small way.

I realized that anxiety sucks, but so many doctors use diagnosis as a tool to over medicate people and I happened to be one of those. I knew my anxiety may have been more of a mind over matter ordeal, I lived a some what sheltered life; meaning I didn’t travel other than one time to Florida growing up and we didn’t go to any far away events like my kids get to experience now.

The thought crossed my mind, if I can just learn to love who I am and be confident then it would make sense most of my anxiety would slip away. Face my fears so to speak and so I worked my butt off at getting to know who I was inside, what it is that made me tick so to speak and what fears I had to overcome in order to kick my Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the butt.

I can honesty say I still have major anxiety issues over new situations, making plans to do something is near impossible. Basically if you want me to go anywhere then you may as well come here grab my arm and drag me there, for the most part, but I will have a blast once there. It’s sort of like they say “I am shy at first but perfectly fine once I get to know you”, that’s me with any social situation.

I tend to get nervous when flying, for I just flew for the first time in 2011 and instead of letting that anxiety overcome my whole being which turns into a panic attack, I role with it. Deep breaths, calm thoughts and I deal.  I have not been on medication for my anxiety for many years and am very proud to say I have come a long way! I love meeting new people, attending new events and traveling now, all because I made a choice to not allow my Generalized Anxiety Disorder kick my butt and if I can do it so can you!

Day 4: Catch Up On Day 1, 2 and 3

I will not write a day 4 update today as I feel Days 1, 2 and 3 were very long and since Day 2 and Day 3 Went out in the same blog feed email I feel maybe everyone who is interested should take a moment to catch upon on reading my journey from being painfully shy, having panic attacks & suffering from anxiety to being the person I am today.

Get started reading and please leave a comment, I want to make sure this is helping you or that you can share your stories too!

Day 1:  This Sucks & No Body Likes Me

Day 2: Living The Best I Know How

Day 3:  Step in the Right Direction

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Day 2: Doing The Best I Know How

After having panic attacks and being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and realizing that mood disorders run in my family big time I decided there was to be something I can do about this without taking medication for the rest of my life. Due to losing health insurance I slowly weaned myself off of lexapro and decided for my daughter’s sake I would learn to be more outgoing and positive. After all she was my world and we were all we had, well except she of course had her father involved in her life very much so.

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Memorial Day 2010 With My Daughter

I worked about 30 hours a week give or take and while I was at work my daughter went to an in home daycare at a very sweet ladies house. I love that girl, she was outgoing, funny and just a totally rocking person. I must admit I miss her. All too often I would be found in silly situations with boyfriends, they would come and go, I would get depressed wondering “will I forever be single?” then it hit me, I was very needy, lonely and had a low self esteem. Just like in my high school years, I was searching for love in all the wrong places.

I finally woke up and realized, with the help of advice from my boss and others in my life, that I did not need a man to survive and it was not a bad thing that I had to work and still get state assistance {some would call it welfare}. I was doing the best I knew how to do with the life I was living. I was so painfully shy back then that I would not even go into a bank to get cash out, nor go to a store to buy a candy bar alone. I had anxiety over the idea that someone would be judging me, I would be picked on because I was a single mom. Do you know that back in these days I used to wear a ring on my ring finger to make it appear as if I was engaged? Yes, I did that for a long time!

My mother used to give me hard time about my painfully shy personality, here I was in my early 20′s and I couldn’t even go into a store alone without having a panic attack. This was seriously ridiculous, but I didn’t know how to overcome it. Late one night I recall sitting at my house thinking about what type of person I wanted my little girl to grow up being. The words well rounding, outgoing, friendly, cautious and social came to mind. In order for my daughter to be all of those things I would first have to become those things myself, as children learn from example, right?!

This was the day I woke up and realized I had been dating people to have someone around, I had been drinking when my daughter was gone to fight the lonely feelings and I thought I was happy but reality was so the opposite of what I thought. I was hiding my true feelings from the world by covering them in alcohol every other weekend and a fake smile that anyone close to me knew was fake.

To be continued …

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