While a lot of the older generation, such as my grandparents scoff at the idea that a child can suffer with anxiety, it is sadly something I have a lot of experience in given my oldest son started showing signs around the age of four.
I myself suffer from anxiety. It is inevitable then that Master L would end up with it also. It still doesn’t stop you feeling saddened and somewhat guilty when your child starts displaying the symptoms of it. It is a condition that is hard to understand, but far more common than you may realise. According to YouthBeyondBlue.com 1 in 14 children aged 4 – 17 experienced anxiety disorder in 2015.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
For Master L, it manifests itself as tantrums, fits of crying and hissy fits when he doesn’t get his own way, negative thoughts and fear of trying something new in case he fails. It has taken me a long time to learn how to deal with it, I googled the shit out childhood anxiety to find out causes (aside from genetics), treatments, supplements…anything that might help alleviate his suffering. Having suffered from anxiety my whole life and only getting a handle on it over the last 5 or so years, I know all too well the fear, confusion and crippling negative thoughts that come with the condition. A constant internal dialogue and uncontrollable bodily reactions such as a raised heartbeat, feeling ill in the stomach and sweating to name a few of the wonderful symptoms that are a daily norm for someone with anxiety.
At one stage Master L’s anxiety was so bad, he cried and told me that he wanted to die. I was heart-broken and at a loss, I never in a million years thought that I would be dealing with this so young. So, I did what I always do and researched, researched and researched. Through my research I discovered that responding to these negative comments “I’m not good enough” “I’m so dumb” “I can’t do anything right” “I’m such a bad kid” and the like actually makes it worse, feeding into the child’s attempts to get attention. The best way to tackle it is to ignore it completely. Easier said than done when your
FINDING SOMETHING TO HELP
So, more research on the google machine and I found a supplement, L-Theanine. Even better, I found it in a relatively inexpensive and nicely flavoured tablet dinosaur tablet making it easy for kids to think it was nothing more than a lolly. Although, I explained it to Master L that it wasn’t a lolly, but a multi-vitamin to help his brain. No need to make the kid feel like something was wrong with him, he has teenage and adult years ahead of him for that.
My ever sceptical hubby said I was insane, that something so cheap and inexpensive wouldn’t work. I doubted it too but had to try. I was in tears at work, losing sleep at night feeling like a was a failure and constantly feeling the overwhelming burden of guilt that I had caused my son to be like this purely through genetics and/or my behaviour.
However, I felt like after a month or so Master L improved. It could’ve been a coincidence, yes. But after running out of the product and waiting for the next shipment to arrive, I noticed Master L regress somewhat. I pointed it out to my hubby who agreed they must be having some effect. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a miracle cure but it’s definitely tamed the tiger to a degree. So, I ordered buckets of it. I would’ve cleared the shelf of their product to ensure we didn’t run out. And things seemed better. The negative thoughts almost disappeared. His anxiety was ever present but at bay and he seemed happier within himself, happier at school and a more well-balanced kid. Yay. A win to mom.
Fast forward six or so months and life being life, I began to slip. Being incredibly busy at work, having a friend stay with us who was going through relationship troubles and the general business that come with being a working mom with two kids, I became very slack at giving Master L these tablets. And it started to show. He started to act out and become aggressive. He was easily annoyed and clearly unable to handle his emotions. I didn’t twig, instead thinking it was just his age or a phase.
Then one weekend, one of Master L’s best mates wanted a play-date. We owed them one, it was our turn. With hubby
Back home and everything seemed to be travelling along nicely, barring the usual bickering about not sharing and not playing the way the other wanted to. So they head outside to the trampoline (thank christ I think, peace at last!) But soon after the boys end up in a bit of a scuffle and Master L punches his mate in the arm. I witnessed the whole thing and therefore dished out appropriate punishment, put Master L in the shower and sent his mate home.
About ten minutes later, Master L comes out of the shower and tells me he’s a “bad kid and doesn’t want to be alive anymore.” As shocking as this sounds coming from the mouth of a six-year-old, I’ve heard these words before. In my research, I learned that this can be an attention seeking mechanism. It can also be overwhelming anxiety, so much that Master L’s young brain cannot comprehend how he is feeling and doesn’t know how to express it.
At that point, I chose to ignore it, but once he had calmed down I sat down and had a heart to heart with him. I asked him what it meant to die to him. His response was “you become a person who floats in the sky and does nothing” I explained in terms of my mother’s death what it actually meant. I knew, at 6 years old, he could not possibly understand the finality of death nor the impact it has on those left behind.
As I explained to him how much I loved him and how much it broke my heart hearing him say he no longer wanted to be alive, I burst into tears. His little face twisted in shock as he asked me if I was crying because of him. His deeper level of thinking and understanding was so evident, it is no surprise the little bugger suffers from anxiety.
WAYS TO MANAGE IT
- Ignore the negative talk, you are only feeding into it if you give it any attention. As hard as it may seem, the more you acknowledge it the more your child will do it and the negative talk cycle will continue.
- Let the moment pass then sit down and talk to your child, ask them why they are so upset. This shows them you care and allows them to vent. We, as adults do it all the time right? So why can’t our kids? The issues might seem trivial to you, but they could be a massive deal for your child.
- Try supplements, they worked for me so they may work for you too! It’s worth a shot. There are plenty of natural remedies out there to try, as for my child a simple L-Theanine tablet for my son helped settle his out of control emotions. It may or may not work for your child but there are plenty of other options available.
- Research. Read. Understand the condition, especially if you have never experienced it yourself, trust me it’s terrifying at times and I’m an adult. It would be 100 times scarier for a child to try to comprehend.
Researchhelped me to understand behavioursin my son which were frightening and confronting, it gave me a lot of comfortto understand that it was all part of the condition.
- Talk to your doctor, tell them your concerns. They may think that seeing a child psychologist would be beneficial. We are in that process now, to address it further before habits become ingrained.
- DON’T bury your head in the sand. Do not think if you ignore it, it will just go away. It won’t. If you leave it until your child is a teenager to address, it may be too late. Patterns and
behaviourscan already be ingrained by this age, so the earlier you address it the better.
Most of all know you are not alone. Be there for your child and be the best mother you can be, having a mother who is their rock is the best therapy a child could ask for.