Helping My Five Year Old Deal With Anxiety
When thinking of my youngest daughter & kids her age, anxiety isn’t something that comes to mind. It definitely didn’t for me until she started school & anxiety forced it’s way into her world.
Let me preface this by telling you about my own anxiety: I first experienced it in my 20’s. I remember being under a lot of stress but I can’t tell you exactly what was happening. There’s too much to recall!
Anxiety often showed up as panic while I was driving, difficulty breathing, confusion, & hives. Sometimes while minding my own business, an attack would appear. Ugh!
So powerful, debilitating, & annoying.
To calm myself & get back to some form of normalcy, I’d pull over if driving, take deep breaths, try to figure out what was really bothering me, or call a loved one to talk me through it. I could usually pinpoint my anxiety to a struggle I was facing. Even when unintentionally thinking of personal problems, my subconscious was at work.
I still face anxiety periodically. As I’ve learned better coping & problem-solving skills, the episodes have drastically lessened (almost nonexistent). I have to mention how fitness has also changed things for me. It is now a staple stress reliever. Taking control of your life & living your truth changes things!
My experiences with anxiety have helped me better relate to my daughter’s struggles, however, I’ve felt lost many times. I wasn’t prepared to face such a huge issue with either of my daughters so early on. Let’s get into what happened.
How It Started…
The first week of kindergarten was great. My daughter was excited to get ready for school with her big sister. She felt like a big girl with her new backpack! It was in the second & third weeks that things took a drastic change.
Vivia has been with me since birth & breastfed for 2.5 years. Although we’ve consistently participated in community kid activities, there was never daycare or preschool. The idea of attending school was always exciting to Vivia & she loved to play school at home. The reality of a 5 day weekly school year, however, was something she wasn’t prepared for.
Of course, we explained things to Vivia well before kindergarten registration. She witnessed her sister attending school daily as well but there’s nothing like experience. When reality set in & she couldn’t stay home or be with me when she wanted, problems started to occur.
Every morning comes with its own set of issues. There were often tears & screaming when anxiety first appeared. Those symptoms begot new symptoms but what has remained constant are head & stomach aches. Vivia complains of one or both daily. The only difference is the absence of tears nowadays.
At first, I resorted to medicine to relieve her pain/discomfort. I wasn’t sure if the pain was real or imagined but Vivia’s reactions to the symptoms were very convincing. Knowing this method wasn’t healthy or conducive to progress, I moved to essential oils. We started with a calming oil like lavender & have since expanded. The oils have definitely helped!
(If you’d like more information on the oils we use, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may write a blog post about this, too.)
Along with the aforementioned methods, I do my best to treat my daughter’s anxiety with patience, reassurance, & affection. We converse about her feelings, fears, & worries. Most days she doesn’t have specific concerns but even if the issue is choosing the right pair of socks, I make it just as important to me as it is to her.
Showering my daughter with patience & reassurance is necessary. What is equally essential is tough love. Vivia begged daily to stay home; she begged through sad eyes & tears. This is heart-wrenching for any parent but giving in can be dangerously enabling.
At the start of this, I allowed my daughter to stay home for a day. Vivia needed me & I knew that. She also needed a break from the heavy load public school-life brings. To go from being home daily to forced away from home can be devastating for a child (in my opinion). The reality seems synonymous with culture shock.
When Vivia begged to stay home, I reminded her how much she’d be missed by teachers & friends. I assured her that her teacher was there to help & would call me if needed. I also reminded her of the fun things she’d learn & how we each have our daily responsibilities. This conversation became monotonous but was vital to starting the day positively.
How We’re Doing Now…
When my daughter realized she wasn’t getting a continual free pass to skip school, things got minutely easier. There have been 100+ days in the year but only now have we made measurable progress. Each day is a process & completely unpredictable.
Vivia now wakes up excited to attend school. She still complains of at least one discomfort daily but handles it like a boss! Always wanting to be independent & in control, Vivia does what she needs to do to gather herself.
I am so proud of her!!!
What has also made a huge difference in this situation is Vivia’s teacher. I COULD NOT have made it through this without her support, encouragement, & patience. She has been phenomenal in consoling Vivia at school & taking extra time to give her the attention she needs.
I’ve left the school grounds in tears many times, but knowing my daughter’s teacher is an extension of my love gives me peace. I could not have asked for a better woman in the school system to care for my baby & I will never forget her. Just typing this brings me to tears!
Words Of Advice…
If your child is experiencing anxiety, remember to breathe. It’s obviously not easy for your child but it’s just as challenging for parents. You won’t always get it right nor have the answers. Take things one day & situation at a time, talk with your child’s teacher or counselor, & share your experience/feelings with someone you trust.
Having patience, being kind, not yelling, etc is easy in theory. I don’t live theoretically so I don’t know what that type of perfection is like. This has been a frustrating process & has pushed me well out of my comfort zone! Sometimes I’ve yelled or been impatient. Other times I’ve nailed it.
Don’t give up mom & dad. Yes, I’m speaking directly to YOU. If you’ve ever gone through anxiety or been nervous, share that with your child. Show him/her that you can relate & share how you dealt with it. Bring it down a few notches to your child’s level of understanding.
Above all else, remember this is a journey. Please give yourself (& your child) some grace. If you need to seek more professional help, do that. There’s no shame in doing what you need to do for your family to survive & thrive!