Parenting

How We’re Helping Our Child Manage Her Anxiety

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Let me begin by saying that the comments on this entry are more helpful than any entry I’ve ever written on this blog. Most of this list comes directly from those comments. But there’s also tons more over there in terms of experience and literature. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here? GO THERE. READ THE COMMENTS.

While I’m thrilled we’ve had so much help/guidance in this area, I’m sad that so many kids suffer with anxiety to the degree that my daughter does. Here is a list of some of the things we’ve tried recently, and things we plan on trying. These are things we feel like work for our situation and our daughter, if you need more ideas…seriously…read these comments. So. Many. Brilliant. Comments.

Helping My Daughter With Her Anxiety

  • Adding Extra Time To Our Mornings: I get home from my workout/boot camp at 6:30am. Ideally? We’re out of the house on the way to school/work by 7:15am. For most of this year, this meant mornings were spent with me screaming, “HURRY! HURRY! HURRY!” and the kids eating breakfast too fast and running out the door with their shoes in their hands. After the holidays? I decided to leave boot camp 10-15 minutes early and that has MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. Yes, I have to wake my daughter up earlier now, but we can enjoy our mornings. We take things easy and there’s much less yelling. I think her days go better if they start out calm. Missing the last 10 minutes of boot camp every morning is worth the trade-off.
  • Creating A Firm Bedtime. I should have known to start with her sleep issues since the day the school called me, I brought her home and she slept for TWO HOURS. She hasn’t napped in years, but the day she was put out with constipation she was obviously EXHAUSTED. So, yeah. We decided to put her on a real sleep schedule. We are aiming for 8pm, 8:30 at the latest. And this is after at least 30 minutes of “down time” to get her ready to actually sleep.
  • Calming Lotion and Daily Wrapups. Last night, I broke out some of the Baby Night Time lotion and rubbed some on her hands and feet while she told me about her day. I could tell something had been bothering her with one of her friends, and I was right. I think it helped keep her calm AND soothed her enough to discuss it rationally, which she’s not prone to do. (She cries a lot. Like her Mom.) We may not do this every night, but if she seems like she needs to hash out the day, doing it while I rub lotion on her feet seems to keep her calm.
  • Let Her Rank Her Own Anxiety/Stress. I am very guilty of judging how stressed she is using my standards, not hers. For example, last night she was stressed about her friend’s number not being in the school directory. To me? Not a huge deal. To her? Enough to throw a book and cry about. So I have to learn to NOT write something off just because it doesn’t seem stressful to me. Ideas for quantifying: Rank on a scale of 1-10, Ask “How big is the fire?”
  • Jewelry To Remind Her To Calm Down. We need to provide her with something that is with her when WE are not. Something to remind her to calm down, and that things will be okay. We haven’t gotten something like that yet, but I think it’s genius.
  • Affirmation Cards. We are going to provide her with notes to carry in her backpack, things to remind her some of the things we try to tell her repeatedly. We will love her no matter what. (She’s bad about thinking we’ll hate her about stuff) And things like that. Positive notes that will put her stress in perspective. We think this will work for her because she loves reading and it tends to calm her.
  • Worry Plan. This is a specific idea from a specific comment that has tons of information about an example of a worry plan. For us? The key will be for her to remember the things that make her happy, and to try to focus on those. And also to write us a letter about what happened that may have upset her or stressed her out.

These are just the things we’re starting on immediately. The extreme difficulty with us is that OUR DAUGHTER IS A DRAMA QUEEN. And I mean that in this way: She loves to be dramatic and LOVES getting attention for things. So it’s hard on us to figure out what is really upsetting her and what she’s manufacturing. She has already learned that this stuff is getting her extra attention (foot rubs with lotion, long talks, ect.) and is definitely taking advantage of that. So the trick for us will be figuring out the balance to being her outlet, and actually fostering the anxiety. FUN FOR ALL!

8 thoughts on “How We’re Helping Our Child Manage Her Anxiety”

  1. I wish I had someone to rub lotion on my feet and let me talk about my day! What a great mom.

    I was thinking that maybe child’s yoga might help her too? I know you’ve mentioned how competitive she is but she may really like an activity that isn’t competitive to allow her to relax some. My local studio does a child’s yoga, and it is just about the cutest thing ever.

  2. Hi, Kim — I think this might be my first time commenting, but I’ve been reading since around the time you started boot camp. I think it’s awesome that you are working so hard to help Nikki with this. I had a ton of anxiety as a kid, but it manifested in phobias instead of physical symptoms. While I was treated for the phobia my parents never made the connection with the underlying anxiety and it remained untreated until I was an adult. That you have this insight on how to help her now is so huge that I get a little weepy. Anyway, you also mentioned that Nikki is very dramatic. It reminded me of the elementary school counseling program I worked with a few years ago. It was all about how everyone has big feelings sometimes, all of our feelings are okay, it’s how to chose how we act with our feelings that may or may not be okay. There were some simple relaxation techniques (be a S.T.A.R. — Stop, Take a deep breath, And Relax) and some catchy songs. It came out of Conscious Discipline (consciousdiscipline.com). If I remember correctly the segments were pretty easy to pick and chose to fit the individual classrooms and mix of kids. Possible tools for both the parents and the child when the feelings are big. One of the lessons for me was just the importance of developing a common vocabulary for the whole class (or family). The kids would start to prompt each other to use their calming techniques at times and it laid a basis for breaking out the feelings (not chosen, always okay) from the behaviors (always a choice, some not okay, some okay only in certain circumstances). You would obviously have to tweak to incorporate the physical symptoms (not a choice, but perhaps can be better managed by making good choices). Lots of good thoughts for all of you!

  3. Oh, and one more thing (since I’m taking over your comments on my first go — sorry!), there are several really good anxiety apps available. Some of them are very text based, with written suggestions of calming techniques, but others are more visual and/or audio. Some folks I ‘ve worked with found them helpful as it kind of looks like just normal smartphone/ipad use when out and about, a very normalizing way to deal. Okay, I’ll stop now!

  4. Just catching up on your blog.
    My 8 year old son has some major anxiety issues (among other things) and we recently started bringing him to a therapist. She’s amazing. Some of the things that came out of this were
    1) The science behind anxiety. matt is a totally science nerd, and she explained it to him with illustrations. When he understood that anxiety is about chemicals in his body and that his attitude affected these chemicals he wanted to work with us.
    2) A repetitive phrase. Matt’s is “it’s not the end of the world.” He says that to calm himself down. When we hear him start saying that or when his teacher hears that phrase we know he’s at a 10 on the anxiety scale. It helps him calm down, but it also alerts us to step in.
    3) Food. This may be very specific to Matt, but much like sleep, when Matt needs to eat (he has a super high metabolism … I’m jealous) everything is worse. A timeout and an apple (or anything with sugar) often helps

    Good luck!

  5. something I have done with my daughter since she started school was have a strict bed time/get up time. I think it makes a world of difference in how she behaves and feels. When she was younger I read to her and as she got older I had her read for 20-30 minutes before bedtime. Her school required 20 minutes a day so it was part of our routine. Now that she is in middle school, she still reads 30 minutes before bed time–not required any more but I haven’t told her that 😉

  6. Being part of a family of anxious folks…..I love that you are working so hard to help her manage her anxiety…..for her the worries are very real and so any times parents don’t acknowledge a child’s feelings and worries….I absolutely LOVE the part about rubbing her with soothing lotion while you let her detox from her day!

    You ROCK!

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