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It wasn’t until late last year that it dawned on us that my son faced anxiety and it seemed to get progressively worse as the year went on. As his mother, I questioned myself, wondering if it was due to my parenting or maybe if we would have caught onto it earlier, if things would have been better. Towards the end of his kindergarten year, his anxiety was so bad that he did not want to go to school anymore. I will never forget the look on his face every morning as we headed to drop him off. At first we thought maybe he wasn’t getting along with a classmate, maybe there was something going on inside the school we were unaware of. But after speaking SEVERAL times with the school and to him, we realized it wasn’t anything. In fact, he would have the best time at school and be in the best mood when it came time to pick him up. So what happened to my little boy who would jump out of the car to meet up with his friends before school and the one who was so excited to turn his homework in the next day? He had never had school issues and we knew this was beyond just not wanting to go to school.
Since the school year ended last year, we have taken him to one of the most amazing therapists and she has been working with him on ways to deal with his anxiety. The first day of school was rough, but by the second day he jumped out of the car, ready to see his friends and start this new first grade year. We still deal with his anxiety, but thankfully it is no where near as bad. I am hoping I can help other parents out there who are dealing with the same issues as we were by implementing some small techniques we were taught by our son’s therapist. I know when you are at the point of having a breakdown and feel like you just can’t struggle with dealing with your child’s anxiety. I was there- still am. I have called crying to my son’s office out of frustration and feeling defeated. But just know, it will get better and I would really recommend trying some sessions with a therapist, even if you only see them a handful of times, some is better than none. In the meantime, here are some easy ways to try and help when your child is dealing with anxiety.
Help them identify their emotions:
Sometimes at this young of an age, they don’t understand what the words: anxious, nervous, frustrated, etc mean. So if you were to ask your child why they were frustrated or why they are nervous, they wouldn’t be able to give you a solid answer back. Try to help your child understand the meaning of these terms. Ask them if they hurt anywhere when they get these feelings. For my son he immediately pointed to his stomach and head when he started to feel scared. That way they can associate the feeling with the word. When asking them about their emotions, let them know it is ok to feel how they are feeling, always reassure them. Another great way to help identify their emotions is with an anger box. While, anxiety isn’t always associated with anger, it may help them to regroup themselves and in return allow them to open up about how they are feeling.
Don’t ignore their anxiety:
If your child has bad anxiety about new things, don’t avoid trying anything new with them. Instead, help reassure them everything will be ok. You don’t want to force them or get upset, but don’t cater to it. Provide support and let them know you will be there to help them through it.
Try relaxation techniques:
Sometimes all they need to help calm them down and to listen is some simple tools to help relax. Try doing a slow breathing exercise to help calm them down. Big, slow inhale, followed by another big, slow exhale. If that doesn’t work you can try counting to ten slowly. Continue until your child is relaxed and ready to talk or listen. You can also make a Relaxation Bottle and keep in your car or purse. This a great way to help relax your child, and you!
Daily Progress Chart:
The daily progress chart has really helped my son through his anxiety attacks. We printed out blank charts and with my son we wrote the months followed by the days of the week. We chose fun stickers and if he has a good day, he gets to put a sticker on that day to show he had a great day. I am all about positive reinforcement, so if he has a great month he gets a little reward. Last month we went to Jamba Juice. Something to encourage him to face his fears and let him know it will be OK.
This is so important and one I am still working on. When they are at the peak of their anxiety, it is so important to remain calm. If it helps, start doing those breathing exercises and counting techniques. It may encourage your child to start as well.
**These are just some techniques that have personally helped my son. These should never replace advice from a therapist or any other medical professional.