Ever wonder why on the first day of school your stomach ached, and you felt as if you’d throw your breakfast up on the steps of your school? It was an anxiety attack. If you were not one of these children, don’t worry — you didn’t miss out on any special milestones. That said, a lot of children have felt this exact way. Anxiety is such a subtle disorder that one in eight children have it but about eighty percent go undiagnosed. In children especially, anxiety is almost unidentifiable to those not privy to it.
In my son, Jeremiah, anxiety showed its ugly head in the forms of temper tantrums and outbursts of crying. As a parent, you don’t want to label your children with a disorder. I felt like a failure for a long time because I didn’t properly prepare my son for the outside world, but it’s truly not anyone’s fault. Knowing the signs of a potential anxiety disorder will help you give your child the needed attention to conquer some of their fears.
Be mindful of the little things, like random temper tantrums or if your child seems a bit clingy in certain situations. One such incident might mean nothing, but a lot of little incidents could add up to a larger pattern of insecurity. Being aware of your child’s warning signs will help you get out ahead of a panic attack. Follow your intuition. That gut feeling that “something isn’t right” will guide you to do the right thing for your little one.
Jeramieh’s anxiety wasn’t just with school or being around new people — he would also panic when he heard loud noises. I remember one day we were packing up to go somewhere, and I had forgotten to turn the radio down before I got out of the car the last time I drove. The scream that came out of my then-two-year-old was enough for me to always remember to turn the radio down in the future. I had to cut the car off and get in the backseat with him to help calm him down. Luckily, my son could speak very well for his age, and I was able to ask him what exactly made him freak out. It wasn’t necessarily the music being loud, he explained, it was that it was unexpected. So, going forward I would always let him know when a loud noise was coming. On the Fourth of July that following year, every time they lit a firework, I would hold Jeramieh’s hand and tell him that it was about to get very loud. With reassurance and understanding, I was able to keep his anxiety at bay and he was able to enjoy himself.
Get on your child’s level; try to see how they see things. You’ll be surprised at how scary life can be for them. They are new here after all. Don’t be afraid to ask them about how they’re feeling, and most importantly, don’t assume. Spend time with your child so you can build a trustworthy bond where they will feel comfortable coming to you if something is bothering them. Knowing their perspective is key to being able to provide optimal support.
If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. You’re not alone, and you shouldn’t have to act as though you are. Jeramieh’s doctor has been a Godsend in helping with his anxiety, to the point where things that would have caused him a full-blown meltdown when he was two doesn’t make him blink an eye now, at the age of five. They even got his excessive hand washing under control, something I didn’t even know was even a symptom of anxiety. You never know until you ask.
Be your child’s advocate! A lot of times, these things are overlooked by doctors until they’re interfering with the child’s learning. You never want it to get that far. A child rarely gets the opportunity to tell someone how they really feel. Now go and be the best parent your child could ask for.