My 3.5 yr old dd struggles with anxiety. At home, she is very articulate, intelligent, friendly, well mannered, creative...she's great! At the store with me, she chats to people with confidence and asks questions. She is very happy to go with us on any outing and loves learning. She started preschool this year and LOVES it, but for 2/3 of the year I have had to peel her off of me at drop off and watch her glue herself to the wall with her face down, refusing to move or speak. I know she warms up after a little while but it stinks. We're finally to the point where she'll just hug me goodbye and happily go meet up with her peers to start her work. But still, one evening when all the parents were invited to “go to school” with their kids, when we all sat in circle time she sat on me in the fetal position and wouldn’t open her eyes. She was stiff and heavy like a boulder. Totally drawing lots of attention to us as all the other kids were just sitting normally next to their parents. It’s not like she’s babied. She’s very independent and doesn’t typically display babyish behavior like curling in my lap like that…she was just so scared and anxious even in this very familiar environment with her parents. In circle time during regular school hours, I'm told that when it's her turn to chooe a job from the job basket, she looks down and refuses. So ALL year she hasn't gotten a single job and I KNOW she would love feeding the fish, watering the plants, cleaning the snack table, etc. It pains me that she misses out on stuff she would enjoy. :(
We signed her up for a parent/tot T-ball session. She was super excited. But when my husband tried to facilitate her catching and throwing the ball, she refused to look up, refused to move, refused to speak. Once home she wore her baseball shirt and hat and sang, "I'm a baseball team! Come on let's go play baseball mommy! Can I wear my baseball hat to the grocery store to show the people?!" She was super proud of being on a team. My husband is dreading going back next week and having everyone stare and wait on them as she goes limp and refuses to do anything when it's her turn.
Her preschool had a play and leading up to it she said she was very nervous and didn't want to do it. We didn't really push anything and I told her she didn’t have to if she felt uncomfortable but they kept practicing at school and on dress rehearsal night she was excited to go along with the class as they bussed to the theatre and got their costumes on so we just went with it. Then, once on stage, all the kids did their parts and sang (she knows every word by heart) but my daughter awkwardly twirled in a circle in the background away from her classmates and then sat down and buried her head for the remainder of their part. When my husband went to pick her up backstage she wouldn't talk to him or look up. He thought she looked humiliated. He finally brought her out of her shell and she was fine as they walked out of the theatre and on the way home, but adamant that she would not do the play the next night. We didn't make her do it, of course, but part of me feels sad that she missed out and I don't even know what to say when people ask where she was or what's wrong with her.
Scenarios I'm used to:
She loves kindermusik but is now of the age where her class starts with 30m of just kids before parents come in. It starts in a few weeks and she's SO excited as she remembers her past Kindermusik classes when I was with her the whole time...but I think I can predict what will happen. She'll go mute, limp and refuse to move or participate. I hate how difficult it is for the teachers/instructors and I hate that soon she might be known as weird. It breaks my heart to think that kids won’t like her.
She wants to go to ballet class like her best friend at school (she is CRAZY about anything ballet). We talked a lot about a ballet class and after saying she wanted to do it and feeling so excited after seeing pictures of some of the girls practicing, she later came to me and said, “I think I will be too nervous to go to a ballet class.” I know she would love it if she could just overcome her anxiety. I feel so sad that she is missing out on things that would be so fun and enriching for her. *sigh* So I've decided not to sign her up.
Sometimes I wonder if this could be fixed with diet…she has eczema, maybe related to anxiety? This kid has a stellar diet – she happily eats loads of vegetables, no sugar, tons of healthy fats, only raw dairy, rarely anything processed, etc. We’ve tried some homeopathic and herbal remedies without much luck. Would you just stop signing her up for things even though she asks and thinks she wants to go…or would you just keep trying (and paying) for fun things to try and hope she eventually grows out of this? Ideally I would like to put her little mind at ease somehow and at this point I am thinking about an elimination diet I think. I was extremely shy, but, I made lifelong friends at age 3 and 4 whom I met in preschool, ballet, T-ball, etc. I don’t care if she’s the star of the show or anything…just want her to enjoy life outside of our safe living room and I fear that she will develop stress related symptoms in the coming years when she has to go to school and the schools/classes will be bigger. Any brilliant suggestions?
I would stop signing her up for things, baby her more, and spend as much time at home one on one with her as you can. Let her be more of a baby for longer rather than trying to push her to do too much.
3.5 is still very young. My ds is just three and he is still with me all the time! He will start preschool at 3.5 but only 2 mornings a week- the rest of the time he will be with me all the time! It sounds like she just has too much to do and to adapt to- just baby her more if you can-!
i have a child with anxiety.
what i have discovered is just aging - growing older helps them with their anxiety.
one thing they struggle with is excitement over the idea of something, but in reality it turns out to be something else.
i would not involve her in so many activities. she will be excited and want to do it, but reality is showing something quite different.
yes as others have said - dont push the issue. wait for her to grow up before you do it.
its only recently at 10 that i have been pushing the issue here. i reason with dd and ask her to do that activity a few times before saying no. some her answers after a certain amount of time is still no, some she has absolutely had a ball.
why would anyone think a 3.5 year old is weird becasuse she behaves differently just floors me. that is so typical of them.
what i did at that age is go and watch the events. i'd go to the ballet school but take dd to watch teh older ballet students practise. we did put dd in ballet then but she got bored with waiting for her turn. so we took her out.
also be v. v. careful. sometimes kids do things to please their parents. i'd instead of classes take her to museums and nature centers where she can play with the stuff without being the center of attraction. if you have a children's theater, i'd also take her to plays there.
Thanks for the responses. I do agree that the cultural expectations for this age is too much. Okay, I won't push. We definitely go to the children's mueseum when we can. It's SO much fun and she never wants to leave. We have an yearly pass. Of course everytime the workers try to engage with her or talk to her (and they are the sweetest, gentlest people ever, I love them) she gets uncomfortable and does the whole mute, eyes closed thing. But they usually catch on quickly and leave her alone. It's a great place for her. Oh and just to clarify, she's only ever been signed up for 1 thing at a time. This T-ball thing overlapping with school was a first. All other classes thus far have been mommy and me type classes and have had months in between each other. I think we already do take it slow but she's recently expressed interest to do what her cousins and friends were doing so we were going with it...and now we just won't cause clearly it's too much.
The being "weird" thing is partly just my own insecurities. The other parents probably think I'm weird - at least it's a vibe I'm picking up. I get a lot of sideways looks when they see that we cloth diaper and I think they find it odd that when the cupcakes (juice boxes, ice cream and treat bags) are passed out at birthday parties that my daughter gets an alternative treat from home and drinks water. We just don't do sugar, at least not in that quantity and in the frequency that birthday parties occur. Somehow the fact that I do no shampoo (no-poo) came up and, yeah, if you could see their faces, ha ha! And it's a small town, people are mostly the same and I stand out a bit. So tack onto that her sometimes odd behavior, I just don't want her to end up being the one never picked in gym class ya know? I certainly welcome her to be quirky, individual and to stand out in her own way (or to shyly sit down quietly in her own way :P). But sometimes that works for people (when they do it confidently) and sometimes that isolates people if it's particularly off-putting.
...it just occurred to me that maybe I am so uptight about her being a loner and feeling no good because I've done so much work with Asperger's kids who were loners and severely bullied due to their quirks and lack of social skills. I've seen what a painful life that can be and it takes a lot of hard work to undo that and to restore confidence. I've seen a lot of heartbroken mothers.
At any rate...got it! Baby more, slow down, roll with it. Let her be three. Cue the next living room productions of "The tutu-girl who wears her Daddy's ball cap, yellow rainboots and who casts magic spells on her baby sister using a trusty magnifying class" all right here in the safety of our living room where I have a front row seat. :) I'm cool with that.
Anxiety (and some of its related issues, particularly perfectionism) are pretty strongly present in my mother's side of the family. I've seen it take a number of forms and I've seen how it can (over the long haul) be very life-limiting.
My concern about the advice given is that none of it is "tools/skills" building. If she is truly anxiety prone, removing her from the anxiety provoking stimulus may work for now (since she's just 3.5) but does not address things over a longer time horizon. If her peers are her major anxiety source (which seems likely given the OP's description), I would be concerned.
Obviously, the OP knows her child best. The American Academy of Child and Adolscent Psychiatry in its description of the "anxious child" notes that:
"If anxieties become severe and begin to interfere with the child’s usual activities, (for example separating from parents, attending school and making friends) parents should consider seeking an evaluation from a qualified mental health professional or a child and adolescent psychiatrist."
Also OP -- have you given any thought to whether the amount of "anxious thoughts" you or your spouse are expressing in front of your daughter are appropriate? I constantly fight this instinct and work to ensure that when I have to download anxieties it happens after the children are in bed with my husband.
I support homebirth that meets the qualifications set forth in the AAP's 2013 policy on homebirth.
"The other parents probably think I'm weird - at least it's a vibe I'm picking up."
This is something I struggle with too. I recently read about a study which looked at "ambigous facial expressions" and violent teens. These teens were viewing ambigous expressions of other people as being aggressive. The researchers successfully worked on "retraining" the teens' brains so that their default assumption for these sorts of expressions was no longer that the other person was aggressive.
I try and keep that in mind when I feel others are giving me the side eye. I may be assuming judgement more than it exists.
I support homebirth that meets the qualifications set forth in the AAP's 2013 policy on homebirth.
OP, my DD goes through phases every few months: Velcro child then miss independent. I simply follow her lead and give her as much closeness as she needs. Sure some people may think I'm weird but the same could be said for nursing until she weaned during my pregnancy at 2, not sleep training, going 95% TV free, etc. I do what I feel is best and if someone doesn't approve, it's their problem. I have lots of mommy friends who do things differently and in a way that goes against my instincts but they are doing what works for them and what they feel is best. I haven't spent a day in their shoes and they are loving and responsible adults so who am i to judge? I parent my child my way and they parent theirs their way and the kids have a blast hanging out together. I don't know if this is helpful at all but I was hoping to say that it's in your child's best interest for you to follow your instincts and parent the way YOU feel is best, despite perceived outside judgement.