Does you son/daughter become very shy around company? Do you find them wanting to stay home a lot? Do they have a tummy ache every time you try to leave the house or get ready for bed? Chances are you child is suffering from a bit of anxiety. It can be hard to identify at first, and when not seen from a parents point of view can sometimes stem into much a bigger issue; for example their speech can suffer, because they do not want to talk to anyone. It can also lead to behavioral issues that can become very frustrating and hard to control.
I have been seeing a lot of posts and question pertaining to children with Anxiety and I would like to share our experience to hopefully help you understand your anxious baby a little better. I would like to start with the first signs from our experience. Not every child will have the exact same signs, but quite a few will add up. I would like to remind your before I go on that I am not a professional and am not diagnosing your child through a blog post; I am simply sharing some information from one mom to another.
Early signs that we missed, but were later able to identify and realized that we should have seen it earlier.
Hiding when Company arrives
When ever anyone, even family, was around it took her a long time to warm up and she would not talk to anyone. She often let her older sister do the talking for her. She would instantly look at her older sister, when anyone asked her anything, expecting her sister to speak for her.
Not letting you out of their sight
For our daughter in the beginning she did not like her sister to be far from her. With some kids it is the parents that cannot go far, but for her it was her sister. She didn’t have anyone to talk for her when her sister left and that made her feel anxious and upset. Which was very difficult when our oldest went off to school.
Not wanting to play with others
When I say she did not want to play with others I mean she loved to play alone or with her sister. She did not like when others would join! When we would have company or go to anybody’s house she always followed her older sister or she would stay close to her father or me. She would get overwhelmed when there were more than just a few people and usually ended up crying and making herself sick from the anxiety.
Not using their words, but rather crying or grunting for things
Our daughter did not talk! She made some noises and we thought something was up when she turned 2 and still was not even making words at all. She seemed to have a code language that only her sister could understand. I think in a way it was more of a comfort for her, because if she couldn’t talk then no one would talk to her.
She knew how to point and give me an idea of what she wanted, but when I did not understand right away she would become very upset. She would have a melt down and I would just have to wait it out and wait for her to come back around. Sometimes I think she would just give up and wait until her sister was home from school.
lack of appetite with company or when eating out
I did not realize until much later, but if we went out to eat or to a relatives for dinner she never had an appetite. She would pick at her food and move it around, but if she had people sitting around her she would not eat.
Lack of Speech Development
I have repeated above that she did not want to talk at all which led us to the doctor and their first thought was autism. After some testing they wanted to send her to speech therapy and see what they could do for us. You can guess how that went. There was a lot of silence and her playing alone while the therapist just watched.
Now like I said those are the early signs that we missed and I hope that so can help other catch them earlier.
As time went on we noticed that once she became more social and opened up a bit that was not the end of her anxiety. So I will now leave you with a list of things to look for as they get a little older and into school.
Physical Pains Before School or Other Social Events
Often in the mornings before we leave to go to school or to the park she will complain of a belly ache or head ache. Usually this is the first signal of the day that she is feeling some anxiety so I need to keep things calm and cool for her. I will try to get her to laugh or just have a really fun morning before we have to go. If we have to rush often times this makes our endeavor much more difficult. I recommend a good morning schedule and keeping routine.
When tensions are high and she is just done with everything and everyone she will often find little petty things to tattle about. Often they are things that make no sense or they happened a long time ago. She uses tattling as a way to let me know when she has had enough social time and would like to be alone for a while. Usually I try to encourage her to keep playing and let her know that she should be trying to get people in trouble over nothing. If this does not work then I will send her into the house to take a few minutes to herself. Usually after a short time of being alone she will return and begin playing again.
Lying and Staring of When being Spoken to
When she is asked an uncomfortable question or she gets in trouble she will not look at us when we talk to her. Often times she is either lying or she is looking to see if someone is going to help her figure out what she is trying to say. She will stutter and that often leads to a very emotional break down. When this happens it is time for a little alone time. Just let them go off and have a moment alone.
If any situation gets to far or she notices that I have lost my cool with her she will cry. I don’t mean pout a little and have a couple tears. She will hysterically cry and hyperventilate. My daughter is asthmatic so this is never fun. Once at this point all you can do is try to calm them and just sit quietly with them and wait for them to be done.
When it comes to raising, and understanding a child with anxiety it does take a lot of patients on your end. If you lose your cool and get frustrated that will often trigger their anxiety even more. So when dealing with a situation where you child becomes anxious always remember to take a deep breath and approach them with caution and a smile. If you feel yourself losing patients just walk away and give them a moment or two alone and let them know that when they are ready your will continue your conversation.
When a child has anxiety you can look into medicine or even some social help, but all in all it is up to you as the parent to help them. They will always look to you for what they should do next. When they are in an uncomfortable situation or someone asks them even the simplest question they will always look at you first. They are usually not looking for you to tell them the answer, but it is more of a comfort that you are there and aware.
Talk your anxious child through things in a soft calm matter, but never push them into anything that they don’t want to do. If you push them and try to make them do things their anxiety will only get worse and then may even turn into a fear and that is the last thing you want to do.
My daughter is now 7 and yes her anxiety has improved tremendously, and I have made mistakes along the way, but she still has a lot of things to work through. I personally do not want my daughter to have to take anything to make her act and be a certain way. So I have just worked with her over the years and have tried to keep situations calm and comfortable for her. So far so good and hopefully one day things will be better for her.
Anxiety is real in both children and adults, but if we work on it with them from the beginning hopefully we can help them be able to manage their anxiety better later in life.