Angella Dykstra: She Makes Cents


Tips For Dealing With Childhood Anxiety

It can be as hard on you as it is on them

Last year, my middle child became immobilized by anxiety. It was a dark, dark time. We made it to the other side, but it wasn't easy.

Things are better now, which has nothing to do with my husband’s parenting abilities, nor mine. We used all of our tools and they didn’t work. We talked with our son about his worries, we used logic, we prayed, we used our entire arsenal that we use with our kids to let them know that we love them and are on their side.

Our son was still anxious.

So, we did a few things that helped all of us. I wouldn’t be sitting here with a smile on my face if it were not for how everything has worked out. Sometimes (many times) us parents don’t have all of the answers. We obviously didn’t have any answers, so this is what we did to help our baby boy.

1. We admitted that we didn’t have the answer. Not to toot our own horn, but we are pretty great parents. We are involved with our kids, we talk about anything and everything, and our kids know (KNOW) how much we love them. Communication and affection are something that’s commonplace around here, but it wasn’t working. To say that we were at a loss is a pale description of how we were feeling. We felt like we were failing, despite trying as hard as we possibly could.

2. We talked about it. We shared it with good friends, I wrote about it on my personal site, we called family members for advice. This led to great email and DM chats with some people who have dealt with the same, and led to the recommendation of a child psychologist who had helped a few people we know here in town.

3. We sought professional help. After our very first session with the child psychologist, I walked out of there with something I hadn’t had for awhile: HOPE. She explained how the brain worked, and what was happening in our son’s brain, and gave him tools to deal with The Worry. The scientific side of it fascinated me, and her drawings of the brain and how it was processing everything fascinated him and, well. Two sessions later, we’re on a “see you if you need me” basis. She was worth every penny. Heck, I’d pay her double.

4. We’ve adapted. We’ve always given our kids lots of advance notice of anything coming up, so that they could mentally prepare for the transition (Road trips! Date nights! Ski days!). We can’t really do that anymore, because even good things would get our son all worked up with “what if?” scenarios. We started to keep everything on the down low until it was time to walk out the door. The other two are old enough to adapt to changes, so the only hard part of this has been remembering to keep the details quiet until they are happening. (This has gotten better lately, which is amazing.)

5. We’re sensitive. My husband was away a few weeks ago, which meant I’d have to miss my boot camp. A friend’s husband offered to watch our kids while he watched his own, so that she and I could go jumping around. The day it was to happen, I picked up the kids from school and my son told me that he was “tired.” I asked him if he was worried, and he said yes, a little bit. We haven’t been to these friends’ house before, and even a child without anxiety would find it a little disconcerting. I called off the night and all was good.

We’re going to have bumps in this anxiety road, I know, but we’re back in the land of hope. I’ve had a number of local friends contact me lately for some insight, as they have kids who are struggling too, and so I’m putting this out there for anyone else who may be struggling with the same.

What I’ve told everyone — EVERYONE — is that we didn’t realize how bad it was until we came out the other side. It was dark and it was horrible and it was sad. Once it got better, I realized how hard it had really been on all of us.

But he’s better now. And for that I am very, very thankful.