Originally Posted by Storm Bride
I like the walkie-talkie idea, too. I think that falls into the "gentle nudge" category...helping her work through her anxiety, instead of either giving in to it, or pushing her through it, even though it's still there.
I guess that's the biggest problem with the anxiety issues of this type. IME, people really believe that if they just push a child "through" it, the problem is solved. But, if the anxiety is still there, the problem isn't solved at all, and the child is now even more anxious, from having been pushed too far, yk?
Yes to all this. With anxiety, it's like Linda On the Move said, allowing her child to stay in her room and never come out is not helpful for her anxiety. I have some small degree of social anxiety also and there definitely are times when I get still get anxious in a group, but taking baby steps but keeping moving forward is the way to go. Definitely don't throw them in the deep end. Even if they do manage to get "through" it and to the side of the pool the experience may well have been so terrifying that they will have a water phobia for the rest of their lives.
A walkie-talkie or baby monitor is a great "gentle nudge" for the child who is afraid to be upstairs w/o an adult. My anxious dd1 has often been afraid to go down in our basement (finished, not unfinished and scary) w/o a grown up and she would certainly never sleep down there by herself. Now that she's 10 she will go down to get her clean clothes out of the dryer, sometimes by herself and sometimes if her little sister is with her, or she'll go down to get some toys or games. She still wouldn't hang out down there w/o company, but she's taken baby steps about it and will go down there now w/o me. For a long time she wouldn't go w/o a parental nudge and I often asked her little sister to accompany her. I could have sent the dog, but I'm afraid the dog would get into mischief. A different dog would have been a good companion, or if we had a set of walkie-talkies that would have been great, too. Walkie-talkies are exactly the creative kind of nudge and baby step I'm talking about.
Avoidance is terrible for anxiety because then it builds and multiplies. The brain somehow thinks, "That was a scary thing and I avoided it and it sure was good I did because I'm safe now and if I had done it I could have been dismembered by dragons or fallen off the edge of the earth!"
For social anxiety situations, which dd1 also had/has some, I often used a "take a peek" approach. When she was little she was really interested in ballet and dancing, but terrified of the class. I said, let's just go "take a peek" and you can join if you want to. I tried not to push her into joining because that would then result in a power struggle (very strong willed kid, too), but just left her an opening to do it when she felt ready or even IF she wanted to.
I still try to do that now because she's still very strong willed. Unfortunately she will get anxious and decide, "I CAN'T DO THAT" or "I WON'T" even if it's some activity that I truly know she would enjoy if she could just get over herself. So I try to tell her to say, "I'm not in the mood right now", or "I'm not up for that right now" which doesn't write it off completely, but leaves her an out to try it some other time. She's the kind of kid who sometimes she says she HATES a certain food, when she ate it with gusto 2 weeks ago. She will paint herself into a corner if she doesn't watch out. I just try to help her give herself some wiggle room and then facilitate the baby steps approach if I can. Sometimes there aren't baby steps so much, but I try to think creatively (like the great walkie-talkie suggestion) and come up with something if I can. My hope is to teach her not to cut herself off and paint herself into a corner — to give her some more positive self-talk w/o negating her feelings, and to teach her how to create her own baby steps and nudge herself just a little bit out of her comfort zone.
DH and I are so please with the progress she has made in the past year or two. It's really amazing.
Best of luck to all who are struggling with this. Baby steps!