Trying to help my anxious daughter, part 3

Mar 11, 2020

It’s now week 7 and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure when this will end. I cannot gauge when my daughter will be struggling less and she’ll be less ansxious, although things have certainly improved.

So, if you think I haven’t been honest, now I’m actually going to be blunt. Since this all started I have experienced every emotion in every part of my body. I’ve cried, I’ve been sad, I’ve got angry, I’ve shouted and I’ve felt helpless. But the worse thing has been not being in control of the situation. I’ve just been reacting to the situation. And this is all because, for me, her change in behaviour was sudden and at times quite extreme.

The thing that has really upset me is that I shouted at her, instead of being more understanding. I also threatened to take things away or stop her from going places. All this because I was confused by the change in her behaviour and also her erratic actions were putting her in danger, like running down the road.

It all came to a head a few weeks ago, when I hit a brick wall and literally felt helpless. As far as I was concerned, I’d done everything I could. All I wanted was to make my daughter feel better. Why couldn’t I make her feel better? 

They say it takes a tribe to raise a child. Well, it’s only now that I really appreciate that saying. I have used the tribe around me not only to help my daughter but also help me stay calm so that I can support my daughter. Here’s what we’re doing.

Be understanding

Sounds simple but not always the case if your child is not really sure what’s going on. For us, it’s been about continuously talking to her and trying to gauge what the real issue is for her. Looking into the events that led up to a change in her behaviour. Observing how she is acting, like loss of appetite, and listening to what she is saying, in general, to see if there are any clues as to what the struggle really is.

Don’t react

Yes, I did react and it really wasn’t helpful. It just added fuel to the fire. It helped escalate an already heated situation. Now, I just have to remain calm and remind myself that it isn’t personal. We will get through this. I think it also helps that I now feel in control of what is going on, even if it is an upsetting scenario.

Ignoring bad behaviour

In that moment, when she is having a tantrum, she is not herself. She is saying and doing things that she wouldn’t normally. Whether it’s calling people stupid or saying I’m the worse mummy ever or even lashing out and kicking and punching. The key is to acknowledge the negative behaviour and leave it at that. I’ve found that the more attention I give her the worse it gets.

Accepting her feelings

It’s acknowledging that how she is feeling is very real to her, no matter whether it seems sudden or even irrational. Every time she has a moment I recognise that what she’s dealing with is difficult and that she’s scared. I reassure her that it will be alright.

Reminding her she is loved

All kids might be different and need different things but the one thing that is constant is that they need love. And it’s at times like these that they need to be reminded that they are loved and they are safe. I tell my kids I love them regularly, however, now it feels much more important that she hears it.

Getting it out of her head

I know that I feel much better when I’m sharing what’s going on. It’s no different for children. The thing is, children can’t necessarily express themselves as well as adults. Sometimes it’s easier for them to either write it or even draw it. I’ve given my daughter a journal and asked her to write things down or draw a picture when she’s been feeling sad. I’ve also said that this is for her and she only needs to let me see it if she wants to. Journaling can be very powerful.

Remove yourself from the situation

Easier said than done but trying to see it from an outsider’s perspective can help. This was really quite difficult to do. After all, I’m her mum. I’m emotionally involved.

Give yourself time to reflect

I’ve done a lot of reflecting. Could I have done anything differently? Probably. Not shouting at her. But I’ve also had to be kind to myself. I’m only human. I’m not superhuman. I do make mistakes. 

Put yourself in their shoes.

I’ve also tried to see things from her point of view. I’ve tried to remember what it was like being a child and how I felt. Not necessarily easy as it was literally decades ago!

Ask for help

I’m lucky that I’ve been able to speak to lots of different people about this. Family and friends obviously. However, also her school and the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator). I’ve spoken to my GP. And I’ve used external links plus as I work in the children’s hospital I’ve also gained valuable advice from them too.

  1. Worry books – I’ve been lent some children’s story books on worrying, Ruby’s Worry and The Huge Bag of Worries.
  2. Helpful websites – There are lots of resources online that I’ve used like Happy Maps and Chatterminds
  3. The Hidden Chimp – I like to know that I’m doing something a bit more practical to help and so we’re slowly working our way through this book to help her.
  4. Distraction – I know that my daughter responds well when she’s distracted from her worries. She especially likes being given some responsibility, like helping her teacher prepare for class.
  5. Mummy and daughter day – I’m arranging an afternoon together to help her with her separation anxiety and sibling envy. Making her feel special.
  6. Visit to the fire station – I’ve been in contact with the local fire service to try and resolve her phobia of the fire alarm. We’ve had one home visit. We’re now in the process of arranging a visit to the local fire station, which she is looking forward to.
  7. Arrival plan – To try and make drop off calm, I’ve agreed a drop off plan with all relevant individuals. This seems to be working, even if she’s not happy when I leave her I know that she is okay and she calms down quite quickly.

Ride the wave

At the end of the day, this will end. So, I just need to ride the wave. I’m trying to be patient, as this is her struggle not mine. And although I want it resolved quickly, because I don’t like seeing her upset, I need to go at her pace.

That’s ‘Trying to help my anxious daughter, part 3’ according to Mummy on a Break.

What would you do?

You might also like to read ‘Part 1‘ and ‘Part 2

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