As a follow up to the post about fear and anxiety, I wanted to share a bigger picture of having a child with anxiety. I have spoken to several people that have children with anxiety since that post and there are many similarities even though circumstances may be slightly different. The moms (mostly moms) I have spoken with have shared how they sometimes feel helpless and/or anxious themselves because they are at a loss for what to do to help their child. We have discussed how, at times, it affects the whole family dynamic, which puts a strain on everyone. We talked about coping skills and how to get help when you need it.
When I wrote that post we were having a great day and we are generally in a good place, but I am not fooled by this. I know that it can, and probably will, come up again and again throughout her life. The only difference now is that we are more equipped and we are all more aware of how to handle the anxiety. Many times I am already thinking before hand that something is going to trigger it like a check up at the doctors or an overnight visit to a new place or even just to grandma’s. When I can be prepared I am and I prepare her as well to try to disperse some of the anxiety before it has a chance to get out of control and before her irrational thoughts take hold. But when things come up that I am not prepared for, then I try to calmly answer ALL of her questions the best I can and if I don’t know the answer I try to find out. We do breathing exercises and positive imagery too. Hey, it won’t hurt, right? And of course we celebrate the extraordinary times like winning a swim race or having a great horse show! Those are the times that I want to shout out from the rooftop! I love seeing a proud smile on her face. Even though we are always proud, sometimes it doesn’t matter what we think. It matters how she feels about herself.
We didn’t get to the place where we are at now without help. Not to be corny, but sometimes you have to ask for help. Believe me, I know it isn’t easy and not something that comes natural to most moms. At least it didn’t for me. But I am so glad we did. It helped me as much as it helped her and that can be as big of a piece as any of it. I am not an expert, but I hope by sharing information about my family, that it can help another family. Please comment and share your thoughts and feelings if you have a child with anxiety and hopefully we can help each other.
Some of you may already know my middle daughter, has anxiety. We know it. She knows it. She is doing really well right now. She actually talked to herself about her fears about Tsunamis and then verbalized why she knew it wouldn’t happen here. And she has been so much better at joining in with a group of kids playing a game. That used to be difficult even if she knew them. There are many other examples of her showing growth in this area too.
Well today she had her first swim meet of the season and last night, as you can imagine, the anxiety was on high. She was convinced that everyone had practiced more than her and she wasn’t going to do well. I asked her why she thought this since she had been swimming a lot. She kept saying she wanted to do it, but she was just uncomfortable. Which translates to “I am not sure what is going to happen and I am anxious about it.” Which, let’s face it, isn’t that normal? Don’t we all feel like this? If I had a swim meet tomorrow and I hadn’t raced since last summer, those same fears would be in my mind.
So we talked a little more about it and I told her I would be there to cheer her on and embarrass her. She smiled at that and I kissed her goodnight. I told her a good night sleep would help and she would be ready in the morning. I don’t know if she bought that or not because when I woke up this morning she was all snuggled up in our bed. I have no idea how long she was there.
Still, she got ready and gathered her towel, swim cap, water bottle and off we went. I had to drop her off to warm up and then take my older daughter to soccer camp and then get back to the pool. Now I was the one with anxiety. I was worried that she was worried. But when I got there she was warming up and she was with some girls her age and my friend was keeping an eye on her too. So all was well….. So far.
The meet was about to begin and they started with the 8 and under group, so she had to wait a little while before her heat. Waiting is the worst part. She got her cap on and stood nervously with her group. Her arms were crossed in front of her and she was biting her nails furiously. The coach asked me if I would be a runner. I said sure as if I knew what a runner was, but I quickly figured it out. My very important job was to collect the times from all the timekeepers after each heat and hand them in to “The Ladies at the Table”. I don’t know what goes on at that table, but that was not part of my job.
Finally, it was her turn. She got in her ready stance as if she was at the Olympics about to go for the gold. Nine year old girls take these things very seriously. The whistle blew and they were off!!! She swam like a horse out of the gates at the Derby! She swam well. She swam fast. She was going for it! She was doing it! She did NOT swim like an anxious kid. She swam like a kid who wanted to win her heat. She ended up placing 2nd for her freestyle and 1st for her backstroke! I was so proud of her for doing well, but more importantly, I was proud of her for taking on her own challenges and winning.
Afterward, I asked her how she felt and she said it felt good to get in the water. I thought that’s perfectly said, because isn’t that the point? Just get in the water! Just give it a try! I hope every time she gets out there to try something and succeeds in doing it, whether she wins or not, she is gaining confidence and a stronger sense of self. What a great life lesson. I could learn a thing or two from her. I hope, as moms, we can all get in the water!