My Child is Anxious

I have anxiety. This is nothing new. What breaks my heart is that my daughter, at 10 years old seems to be displaying signs of anxiety too. On one hand, I'm glad I know anxiety well, because I understand that it isn't rational. I understand the physical symptoms. I understand you can't just talk it away. On the other hand, my heart hurts because I am very familiar with all these things and I hate my child is experiencing the same struggles.

She worries at night that someone will break in and hurt us. It doesn't matter if she's at my house or her father's. She is fearful. I have an alarm system which seems to help but I still see the anxiety in her face at times. Undid some research a year or so ago, and it seems to be a somewhat common fear. It started for her around the age where she realized that bad things happen in our world. But it has been off and on for about 3 years and when I think she's "outgrown" this fear, it seems to start over again.

Last night, she was at her dad's and I started getting texts around 10 saying she was scared. She very wisely limits what she watches. She is very sensitive to violence. She watches almost nothing with violence. I've tried to talk to her, point out, nothing has ever happened bad before, so we have a good track record...we are safe. I've tried to joke the fear out of her...there's nothing in this house people would want to break in for...we are safe. We pray for peace. We talk about the windows and doors are locked...we are safe. But it never helps. So I lay in bed and feel guilty because she is laying scared in her bed fearful that something that most likely will never happen, will happen.

I've tried so many things I could think to do or say on my own that never seemed to help, so I began researching children with anxiety. First I found, I was saying the wrong things. Not because I'm a bad parent but because by trying to tell her there is nothing to be afraid of, I was minimizing her fear. I'm not too worried about this though since I do understand first hand what anxiety is like. And I also know in my heart, that my words were always very well thought out to try to avoid minimizing her fears.

Anyway, on to what I think worked. I told her I wanted her to think of what makes her happy. Specifically, I wanted her to think about getting her favorite pony at the barn, ready to ride. I wanted her to go through each step of getting him tacked up. And to think of the details. Think about what he feels like when you brush him. And the smell of your saddle. What noises does the pony make? Then I told her, after the pony is tacked up, imagine you get to ride him anywhere you want to on the farm. (When she takes her lessons, she always rides in a ring, I thought it would be neat if she could think about riding anywhere on the farm).

I told her I wanted her to think of as many details as she could because I believed that thinking about this happy routine would help her relax.

Her first response was " Ok. That might be hard because then I remember why I'm thinking about that and that it's because I'm scared". For a second, I deflated, but then I told her, "that's ok, then you have to take that pony in your mind, back to the beginning and start over". We said goodnight and I prayed she would sleep soon.

This morning I texted her and asked her if it helped. Was she able to fall asleep? She said it did help! Visualization isn't a new thing. It's just a new technique for my girl to try. And there is nothing that girl loves as much as riding the pony. This is somethings she's done almost 5 years. It is something she is passionate about. And it worked! I don't know if it will always work but it worked last night so I'm hopeful I've found a coping strategy for my girl that she can use when she finds herself anxious. Time will tell.

There are many strategies for dealing with anxiety. I'm not against medication at all, been on it myself. But for now, I'd rather find ways for my girl to learn to work through her anxiety and use medication as a very last resort. It's hard to watch your kiddos suffer. Especially when what they are anxious over is something in their mind.

If you have a child in your life that is anxious, what have you tried? We all love our children and it would be great if we could share our successes.

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