This is not just ANY child, this is MY child and an opportunity to open up a conversation about children and anxiety.
In the grips of an anxiety meltdown, from the outside looking as well as this childs perspective.
Imagine a little girl singing to herself, dancing and playing happily, this is her balanced state. She is strong, she is fierce, she is determined. She is inquisitive, she is imaginative and she is incredibly caring. She is funny, she is loud, she is amazing.
As her grip tightened around my hand I could tell that it wasn’t going to be a simple transition, admittedly I felt my own sudden feeling of dread. Sometimes new places have this effect on her, I immediately got my words ready.
It didn’t matter that it was her idea, it didn’t matter that we were going with friends and it didn’t matter that she was really looking forward to it. Wait, she went in….. nope she is back out, it took over. She is disappointed with herself, her face has crumpled, she looks hurt. She is breathing hard, she is holding her tummy and she is telling me that she feels sick. We have been here before, many times.
From this point we had two choices, we could run or we could sit it out and see what happens.
We sat it out.
From the outside, she could have been perceived as “wanting attention” or “being silly”, thats not what it was. Everyone was looking, which makes it worse but it was curiosity not judgement. A little like driving by an accident, there is a certain percentage of drivers who will rubber neck as they go by, which slows the process down.
From her perspective
Her tummy feels funny, we call it the “uh oh” feeling, a text book would call it a feeling of dread.
Her heart is beating faster, she is teary, she is dancing with a whole lot of thoughts and conflicting emotions. She moves through a whole host of textbook symptoms- her peripheral vision is a little off, she feels like she wants to be sick, a few minutes later it’s a bit of a headache and she REALLY wants to go home. As the time passes, it comes in waves.
The tears start again as she is internally reassessing if she wants to make that leap inside the room. She feels disappointed that she is not participating but taking that leap to get to where she wants to go, is scary.
In an amazing book written by Brene Brown called “Daring Greatly”, Brene calls it “Mind the gap”. This is when you are here, but you want to be over there, that bit in the middle is the gap. The gap is where it is hard, that is where it feels the worst and it is the turning point of taking that leap or retreating to where it is safe and comfortable. That hard bit is where growth happens, if we can get through to the other side, we open up a whole new world of possibilities.
The turning point
We were not going home. We were there for the three hours, we had made a commitment, so her choice was to sit and watch or participate. We used our previous experience and talked about what her body is doing right now, it also helps her to know that I have experienced this too, so I know many of the feelings that she is experiencing.
One hour and a half later, she went in
The relief on her face was priceless! She was so proud of herself and she had an amazing time. She felt stronger for her experience and it was another example of her getting stronger and more resilient with every day.
At the dinner table that night we discussed her amazing bravery and celebrated her leap into where she wanted to be. She was so pleased with herself.
The real learning for her came after the event, in her words when we were talking about it before bed she said “I faced my fears”.
Yes she did and it is a step closer to taming the beast that used to stop her from participating at all.
Sometimes as a parent, we struggle with these “moments”. This can be partly because we feel judged by other parents and deep down we ALL just want to fit in. There have been times that I have had to hold her little hand and do the class with her (much to the amusement to the teachers of varying classes!) These days I just concentrate on her and what I can do for her to support her, both as a parent and as her Naturopath.
How do I know if it is possibly anxiety driven?
Anxiety is camouflaged in so many different ways. How do we know if what our children are feeling is anxiety, compared with wanting a little attention from us. In this incredibly distracting world, (which I too am guilty of being addicted to, but that is a story for another day), it is common for kids to grab our attention any way they can get it. Or is the way that they are behaving their way of trying to tell us that they are actually a little out of balance.
There are so many ways of helping to curb that anxiety feeling for our little ones. I am actually presently writing an ebook on my top 5 tips for assisting our children (and ourselves) with getting through the rough patches when the dial has been turned up to full. I often illustrate it as a little like a pot on the stove top. We can turn up the dial by adding fuel to the fire, or we can remove the triggers and bring that pot down to a simmer or even tepid water.
If you are interested in jumping on the wait list for the release of the ebook, please send me an email and I will notify you when it is ready.
There are so many beautiful qualities of a child whose default setting is anxiety, they are kind, they are compassionate and they easily empathise with other children. It is important to know this as sometimes we tend to see just the dark side of the imbalance rather than the whole picture.
FREE comprehensive anxiety questionnaire for children
If you are wondering if you child is suffering with anxiety symptoms, feel free to ask them the series of questions supplied in the following questionnaire link below. After many years in clinical practise I have noticed the MANY different ways that anxiety is displayed in children. Because of this experience as well as having an up close and personal experience with my own children and myself I have decided to create an incredibly comprehensive list of ways that the body displays anxiety.
Follow the link Does Anxiety Impact Your Child below