Dd's anxiety, any ideas? Got experience with anxiety? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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So my 7 year old dd has some major anxiety. She begins working with a psychologist in a couple of weeks, to work on learning to cope with the anxiety (and I will be learning to help her too). I have read Freeing Your Child From Anxiety, but it was awhile back and I can't seem to recall anything specific from it to help with this particular type of situation. Anyway, I'm looking for some ideas to help until we get to the psychologist. It's not an emergency, I'm just stumped by this particular thing and would like to help make it easier on my dd so I'm looking for ideas.

So, dd will sometimes say she wants to tell me something and asks if I'll be mad. I reassure her that I won't be, and I have never been angry about what she has had to tell me. What she wants to tell me usually involves something she has anxiety about, one time it was about the fact that she had picked her nose at school once and wiped it on the wall (gross, but no big deal really). She has this anxiety about picking her nose, and b/c she wiped it on the wall once and I told her not to I guess she thought I'd be angry. Anyway, what I need help with is how to handle her anxiety over whether or not I'll be mad if she tells me. She can get so worked up, so afraid to tell me, that it'll take her forever to do it and in the meantime she's getting more and more anxious. She needs to talk about it, but she's afraid to. Now, I never get angry about these things she wants to tell me though sure I sometimes do get angry about other things at other times (don't we all?). And I think for the most part I handle my anger pretty well. So this anxiety over my getting angry seems irrational-and maybe it's only partly over the possiblity that I'll be angry?

Anyway, so far I've been handling it by reassuring her (repeatedly) that I won't get angry and waiting. But that can get frustrating sometimes when it's late and she needs to sleep and she's there hemming and hawing and not telling me and asking over and over "are you sure you won't be mad?", and I want to get downstairs and I'm impatient (which I'm sure she can sense, which makes it worse). And I wonder if by reassuring her so much and waiting so long and reassuring some more, I'm feeding the anxiety-I can't really put into words why I wonder that, it's just a vibe I get. But then if I say "well, I'm going downstairs, you can come tell me when you are ready" she freaks out. Any ideas regarding how else I might handle this? How can I help her get comfortable talking to me about these things that worry her (that she clearly needs to talk about)?
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#2 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 01:30 PM
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I was going to suggest "Freeing Your Child From Anxiety" but you've already read that. It might make sense to pick it up again - who knows what you'll see this time that didn't apply last time.

Have you told your dd that NO MATTER WHAT you will ALWAYS love her? She might do things that you don't like, but you will ALWAYS love her.

In some ways, telling her that you won't get mad might be lying to her. She actually might do things and tell you and you might get mad. But telling her that no matter what, you are ALWAYS on her side means that she CAN tell you things that she really does think will make you mad and that she can trust that you will love her - no matter what. Just a thought.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#3 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 01:49 PM
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I work with a few different kids with extreme anxiety issues, and it seems like each one has a very particular way of working through it. It varies a lot from child to child, so I'll list some things that have worked for me with differnt children.

-One girl I know can work out of some situations with humor. So for example, she might ask me a question that she already knows the answer to, just for the reassurance. If I always answer the question, this will never go away, so to wean her off it of I make up a silly answer. The first few times it really caught her by surprise, but then she got to the point where she could joke along with it. Now she doesn't ask anymore.
"Where are the kids in the other class?" she always asks
I used to say
"In their classroom, 240." the answer
then I switched to
"I ate them" or "In my shoe"
and she'd laugh and say
"NO! in their classroom!"
and now she doesn't ask anymore.

humor works better for things on the lower level of anxiety..... not very high stress situations, of course.

- the same girl in very high stress situations needs to NOT be talked to in the moment. "Get a tissue, take a break in the break area." If I engage her at all in the thing she is worried about, she will melt down for at least an hour. If I am very matter of fact, she works out of it within a few minutes and we can talk about it at a MUCH later time.

- another girl I work with cannot be left alone in high-stress time, her anxiety needs to be very carefully worked through with talking. She needs empathy, she needs to hear that I have felt those feelings before too, and I have found a way to work past them. It usually takes a 15-20 minute conversation to get her out of her anxiety.

- that same girl now uses a "worry box." I helped her decorate a box with stickers and pictures, and put a pink marker and index cards next to it. She can go to it whenever she wants to (she usually does about once an hour when things get overwhelming) and write her worry down and I check them twice a day and write a response. She keeps the cards in the box so she can use them whenever she needs them.

---- So in your case, I would just keep experimenting to see what kind of routine of talking/not talking/something else works. It sounds like it's not an explosive anxiety, but something that keeps her throughts occupied and stresses her out. I find kids with anxiety REALLY like a routine to come out of it, whatever the routine may be. Sometimes it's a mantra: "Mommy loves you. I always love you. I will not be mad at you. What do you want to tell me?" said in the SAME way every time. THEN after she tells you, follow it up with the same language. "See? I told you Mommy loves you, I always love you, and I am not made at you." so that the next time when she hears those words she remembers that last time you worked through it and said it after.

One thing I've noticed about kids with anxiety is that they don't recognize that their feelings WILL change in the future. They think if they are sad/worried/etc now, they will ALWAYS be. So I've also done some bets in the moment:
"I am UPSET and i will ALWAYS be UPSEEEEEEET!!!"
"yes, i will NEVER Be happy again!"
"wanna make a bet?"
"if I see you smile within the next 2 hours, then I am the princess for the rest of the day. If you are not happy for the next 2 hours, you are princess for the day."

sounds silly, but it works b/c each time we do it, she remembers that "ohhh yea, i didn't win last time... maybe i will be happy soon."

point being, you do what you have to do, you get creative, and very different things will work for different kids.
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#4 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
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I just ordered Freeing Your Child From Anxiety. Borrowed it through inter-library loan last time, figured it would be good to own it so I can go back to it whenever I need to.

Originally Posted by LauraLoo View Post
In some ways, telling her that you won't get mad might be lying to her. She actually might do things and tell you and you might get mad. But telling her that no matter what, you are ALWAYS on her side means that she CAN tell you things that she really does think will make you mad and that she can trust that you will love her - no matter what. Just a thought.
You know, this makes so much sense. I can't believe I didn't think of it, and I will try it. This really might help. Thank you!

Altair, thank you for all the ideas. Humor often works with my dd, but you know I've never tried it in this particular situation. I'll try it, and I like the worry box idea, dd might like that. Everything you mentioned seems like it could be helpful. So many ideas to try!

And I'm thinking now, maybe doing her progressive muscle relaxation or another guided visualization (which she *loves*) might help also at these times.

Thank you both! Very helpful, just what I needed.
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#5 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 02:28 PM
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Three things occurred to me reading your posts and it sounds like other posters have touched on similar thoughts. The first, is that she's probably reading that you are tense during these moments. Saying you won't get mad (when probably you already are a bit) may not help. I'd emphasize instead that no matter what she does she will be loved and that every problem has a solution. Also, that sometimes telling what is bothering us helps us feel better.

I too was going to suggest a worry box or jar. She can write down or draw what is bothering her and put it away and be done with it. Also, I if she writes well enough she could draw out or write out what happened and put it in a journal that you could read. You could promise not to talk about the problem aloud if that would help.

Last I would suggest maybe a worry time of day. A time to totally focus on her worries and what she hasn't told you that she wants to. It shouldn't be before bedtime. Then, when she raises a worry at bedtime I'd say "save that for worry time tomorrow".
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#6 of 9 Old 02-17-2007, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Roar, thank you for your help. I think maybe what I'll do is talk to her about either a worry box/jar (or journal) and a worry time of day at a time when she's calm, see if she'd like to try that. That way we have it planned ahead of time. I will definitely stay away from reassuring her that I won't be mad, and instead focus on the fact that we will love her no matter what and that we can find solutions together.

Again, thanks!
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#7 of 9 Old 02-18-2007, 01:48 AM
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I just wanted to say that my middle child is full of anxiety too. It's really hard for me to watch and deal with sometimes. Last night, both of my older kids came to crash on the floor in my room. I think I'm going to buy that book.

thanks for posting and I hope you find some answers. I think I'm going to try the worry box.

Kara, single mom of 4 girls (5, 8, 16 and 19) crochetsmilie.gif
Kids have strokes too! superhero.gif 

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#8 of 9 Old 02-18-2007, 02:07 AM
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my 4yo has big anxiety issues. Another book is "when my anxiety gets too big", which I'm hoping to browse soon to see if it can help him learn to recognize and communciate his feelings.

Berkeley mom of 3 and President of Tender Cargo Baby Gear
and The Nurture Center Store and Resource Center 3399 Mt Diablo Bl Lafayette CA 888-998-BABY
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#9 of 9 Old 02-18-2007, 02:49 AM
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What she wants to tell me usually involves something she has anxiety about,
Could it be that she isn't actually worried at all about your reaction, but just feels anxious about the actual event and is trying to let you know that in her own way? Sometimes kids have a hard time verbalizing these things so they go about it in a different way. Maybe when she asks you if you will be mad she is just trying to communicate that she is feeling anxious (like she does when you are mad for example) but can't figure out the right words? Maybe instead of reassuring her that you won't be mad you could just ask her if something happened that she is having a hard time (or bad feeling, or whatever language you use with her) about and skip the mad talk altogether.


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