I have taken weeks ‘over thinking’ this post. I suppose I am not massively confident writing about something that I have no professional training in. But something inside me felt compelled to explain and express as an ordinary MUM what it felt like to see my 6 year old daughter go through a really ROUGH patch in her young life. I like to think as any mum that I have brought my children up to be well rounded, good mannered, confident, happy individuals. They have all had their moments not wanting to go to school and resisting a bit, which is relatively normal, but nothing could prepare me for what I had to endure with my daughter April.
It was a typical Friday afternoon when I picked her up from school, both of us relieved that the school week was over and the weekend lay ahead. April lovingly greeted me as usual and we then collected her brother. On the way home in the car she began to tell me how, earlier in the morning, a little girl sitting close to her was violently sick. April explained in great detail the colour and the smell which I will spare you from. However, as she was talking, she started to breath very rapidly and her eyes welled up with tears. I was quite taken aback with her reaction but just brushed it off as us mums do, muttering something like “ah, the poor little thing, I hope she’s okay, anyway what would you like for dinner tonight?”
The weekend was taken up with the usual racing to clubs and various other activities, but before we knew it, it was Sunday evening and uniforms were being ironed and shoes polished (am I the only one that polishes shoes on a Sunday?) ready for the new week ahead.
As we sat down to watch a film with our bellies full from our usual over sized roast dinner, I noticed April rapidly breathing again. I was confused whether I should say something as I didn’t want to draw attention to it, even though the over protective mum in me was desperate to make it go away. After a few minutes I addressed the situation. Immediately, she welled up with tears again and said that she couldn’t breath properly, and that she wouldn’t be able to go to school on Monday. My husband rolled his eyes as husbands do, probably because I was drawing attention to it and he was thinking here we go again (with the school thing I mean, not the anxiety). She was sobbing in a way different to how I had ever seen her sob before. My heart literally broke. My confident, happy-go-lucky little girl was lost in a world of confusion and deep fear, suffering with mild panic attacks. Where had this come from? Was this a genetic predisposition?
I have always suffered with anxiety as child which has unfortunately carried on into my adult life. I have tried very hard to overcome it for years. No, not by doing a bungee jump or anything remotely stupid like that but instead, forcing myself into situations that put me out of my comfort zone. Travelling to Australia alone in 1995 was such an example. But sadly, anxiety never really leaves you. It is always lurking in the background and ready to rear its ugly head. My anxiety peaked after having my first child. I was like a frigging lunatic on speed. It’s only in hindsight that you cringe at the things you did. But on reflection, I know it was the anxiety monster.
So, for the next three weeks I tried everything in my power to reassure my little girl that things were going to be okay; but nothing seemed to work. We had endless confidence conversations. I encouraged her with gifts and possibly bribes, but the tears and panic attacks kept coming. I researched ‘child anxiety’ to death, Googling behaviour methods and strategies, but nothing seemed to work. This monster had a hold of her and wasn’t letting go. I then decided that we needed professional help. I felt very depressed about it. Had I passed on my anxiety to her? I beat myself up as all mothers do.
Then a remarkable thing happened out of the blue. During our walk to school which would of normally have been very tense, April turned around to me and said very maturely, “Mummy, I have thought about what you said and I think I can control it, I will try my hardest not to cry today”. And just like that, she stopped crying. I can’t honestly say what stopped it, but my heart jumped for joy. My own anxiety started to disappear as my little, confident girl returned.
While I am in no position to give advice, there are a few methods I think you could try if you ever think you may be in this situation:-
- Try to get to the root of how the anxiety started.
- NEVER make a child feel bad about it.
- Talk about it openly.
- Discuss with them how they think they can help it.
- Try breathing exercises on the way to school.
- ALWAYS make sure the child goes to school.
- Inform the teachers and the welfare department of the school.
- Keep strong.
- Try not to get angry and impatient.
- Have faith that it will get better.
I would love to hear if anyone else has experienced something similar. Please feel free to leave a comment.