Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Managing the kids' anxiety

I've had recent "situations" with the kids that are anxiety-related.  Two were obvious anxiety, while the other is anxiety posing as tantrums. 

N loves to play with her American Girl dolls.  She got "into" them quite late--3rd grade, but she is hard-core AG now.  

Recently, she has had some anxiety related to her friends giving up doll-play as they approach middle school, a concept that N finds confusing and potentially embarrassing.  On the one hand, she doesn't understand why anyone would need or want to give up playing with the dolls, but she is aware enough of the social strata to not want to be thought of as a baby for playing with dolls. 

There have been numerous crying bouts about middle school, about how her friendships are changing, how her friends are changing, and worries as to whether she is weird.  It is painful because it automatically brings to mind every middle-school-related angsty feeling I ever had.  How can I possibly help her manage this when I managed it so poorly?

There have been 3+ events whereby M and I are driving in the car, and he brings up death. 
"Mommy, I don't want to die."  
"Mommy, I don't want you to die; I will be so sad."  
Last week he started tearing up on the road, bravely trying not to lose his stuff.  
Yesterday, he said, "When they give me the first shot that will make me die, will it hurt?"  

I knew right away that he was thinking about our discussion about Shanks and euthanasia, how the vet would give Shanks two shots--the first that would relax him and the second that would stop his heart.  M, since that time perhaps, has been internally wrangling with death.  

I explained that we only do this with pets when they are sick and old, not with humans.  I explained how we give people medicine to help them get well, and if the medicine doesn't work and they grow sicker we give them another medicine to take the pain away until their heart stops beating on its own.

His reply, "I'm not scared to die anymore."
When I told D this last night, he wondered how freaked out M has been all these weeks while getting his allergy injections.  

What I suspect is G's anxiety has masqueraded as temper tantrums.  It is difficult when this happens because I have to do a lot of detective work to figure out what is provoking him.  Right now, we are in the midst of a number of transitions that may be impacting him: M graduated from preschool, N is graduating from elementary school, school ends in a few weeks, right after school lets out we are flying to Orlando.  Given G's rigidity, any and all of this can be churning up worry.  

It could also be his first grade performance, which his class has been practicing for weeks. I am reminded of Dec 2013, the month from Hades when he was off-the-rails tantrumy.  It was also the month when his kindergarten class was preparing a performance.  

Yesterday, he said his class had performed in front of two other first grade classes.  He said, "My heart was beating so hard the whole time."  

G is aware of his anxiety because he has started handing me his brush each night before bed so I can do the Wilbarger brushing protocol.  We haven't done it in a long time; all of a sudden, we're back at it at his initiation, which is good. He at least recognizes that it makes him feel better.  

I am starting to have a better sense of just how differently difficult it is as the kids are getting older.  When they were babies, it was physically exhausting and isolating to be with them all the time.  As they grow up, I am increasingly aware of how much guidance and support they are needing, which I am completely ill-suited to give them.  If they only knew that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  Parenting is graceful, and often not-so-graceful, winging it.  

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