Disclaimer :: I am not a medical professional, and the information and opinions presented in this article are based on my experience and personal research and not of FWM or CMC.
Childhood anxiety is never something I thought I would have to deal with when I was dreaming of being a parent. I do not think I really knew what anxiety was, until I had to. No one mentions that anxiety doesn’t always look like an overly nervous child or that anxiety can manifest as anger or even rage. No one told us that when your child is triggered that he or she may say cruel things to you and that, ironically, he or she is going to direct anger at you because you are the safe place to let out those big feelings.
I wish my child was happy every day and our relationship was easy and natural.
We had to turn our beliefs upside down, change our parenting styles often, and release a lot of control, but we are making it work. It is a struggle every day. It’s our family verses anxiety disorder. We do this so our child feels secure and safe despite what anxiety is telling them.
If you have a child with any level of anxiety, here are some things our family has found very helpful. I hope these suggestions bring you a bit of relief or help.
Routine is important because the child knows what to expect. Example: We have breakfast, then brush teeth, and then get dressed before we can watch television. Every night we brush teeth, read books, and put on lullaby music before bed. We do this every night even if we have a late night or are staying over at Grandma’s house. Routine, even if it is simply doing a few of the same things each day bring a sense of security to an anxious child’s mind.
We have a calendar or even a piece of paper with our weekly or daily schedule available for him or her to see. Knowing what to expect will help curb some of the worries of the unknown.
I cannot stress enough that sleep is so important to anxious little minds. It helps with focus, mood, and usually helps curtail stressed behavior due to being overtired.
I love surprises and giving surprises to my children. However, I now understand that the unknown is a trigger for my anxious child. So, I try to be as clear with expectations. For example, “We are going to watch a movie, but at 8:00 p.m. we are going to do our bedtime routine with no arguing.” Sticking to those expectations and setting clear boundaries is just another way we can create order for the anxious child. As much as I would love to have my child stay up late and watch a movie, the risk of it turning into a scenario where he or she does not get a bedtime routine or not enough sleep.
This feeds from the sleep tip. But I believe its so necessary that it needs its own bullet point. School, errands, after-school activities can be overwhelming for us parents, and we are just doing the driving. As parents, we really need to put ourselves in our child’s shoes. If you are exhausted, your kiddo is probably exhausted as well. Children need downtime to rest their minds and body after long days, holidays, or events that include a lot of socializing or stimulation.
Food is something you may want to take a closer look at if you have an anxious or sensitive child. Does your child have a food allergy and/ or react a certain way when they eat sugar, gluten, dairy, or any food that is known to irritate the digestive system and make his or her body feel hyper, sluggish, foggy, or just bad?
Find support! If there is a good therapist that can help support your child and your self in this journey, I would highly suggest it. Having this resource is invaluable. An outside, knowledgeable source that can support you in your parenting of an anxious child and a person that your child can chat with about his or her emotions and gain tools to help is so VALUABLE.
If your child has anxiety, it is important that you are the calm place for your child to go when he or she is feeling chaotic. If you are a sufferer of anxiety as well, you may consider getting help for yourself, so you can better help your child. Please know you are not alone and support is out there.