Thursday, 22 December 2016

Panic Song - Coping with Childhood Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Sometimes you get a glimpse into the way that other people see your children, or the assumptions you make yourself - no matter how inaccurate they may be.

Jack will fade in and out of conversations, and a lot of the time you might think that he isn't paying attention: then he'll surprise you.  He has an amazing memory, even if you think he hasn't heard a word that's been uttered, then he'll shock you by asking a poignant question, or reciting a memory, a story, or a poem verbatim.  Jack is a bit of a lone wolf.  Most of the time he's content to play with his sister, her friends, and the small slew of adults he'll bestow the honour of his friendship (seriously, there is nothing quite like when Jack selects you to be a part of his games or inner circle).  For the most part he likes school, but hasn't really bonded closely with other kids in his class, and this doesn't seem to bother him at all.  I've asked him about it a few times and most of the time he's content to "walk around and check things out" rather than play much with others.

Because of his Independence I somehow automatically, and mistakenly, assumed that Jack didn't care about the perceptions of others.  And for the most part he doesn't.  He's happy to be himself and won't bend that for the sake of social norms, which can be challenging not to intervene with as a parent, but I'm also super proud of how he isn't afraid to be himself.

Admiring his handy work on the Christmas Tree

Here's something I didn't get about Jack until last week.  He really loves his teachers and cares a lot about what they think about him, a lot more than he cares about what his fellow students think.  On Thursday night, I asked him about his weekly borrow a book and poetry book - he had mistakenly left it at his after school program.  It wasn't a problem, we'd get it the next night and work on it over the weekend.  About 20 minutes post bed time, I ran up to his room because he was hysterically sobbing.  He was worried about his bag, that he had left it, that it would get lost, that he wouldn't be able to practice his reading, and that he'd disappoint his teacher by forgetting.  He was anxious, he was upset, and he fully admitted to having a full blown panic attack.  He broke my heart when he sobbed, "Mommy I'm freaking out and I don't know how to calm down".

After half an hour of cuddling, and assuring him we would get this book back, no matter what.  I also told him that if by rare chance it got lost I would take care of it and talk to his teacher.  Eventually I was able to calm him enough that he went to sleep, in our bed.  For the most part I think I handed his anxiety and panic attack well, but I'm sure I could do better.  I did a little research, and I'm proud to say my instincts were pretty good, and that we found the book the next day.

Do's and Don't for Helping Your Child Cope with Anxiety, Stress & Panic


Take a moment to freeze the situation and help your child calm down by taking a few deep breaths.  Molly likes to pretend to smell a strawberry and blow out a candle, whereas Jack prefers just to take deep breaths, or listen to the Calm Down Song.


Minimize the anxiety, no matter how silly, because this is scary to them.


Empathize.  Show your child you understand why they're so upset.


Let guilt get in the way of helping your child cope.  You're doing the best you can. Make this about them, not you.


Help them figure out potential solutions.


Dismiss worry as a bad thing.  Worry has a purpose.  It protects us.


Help them bring their thoughts from "What If", to "What Is" in a logical way.


Simply give them a get out of jail free card for anything that stresses them out.  As parents it's easy to want to protect our kids from everything that upsets them, but this isn't doing them a favour.  Help them create mini goals to conquer any fears.  Celebrate them achieving the little steps they take.

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  1. I honestly feel like this is why Jackie and I have always bonded so much. He is SO much like I was as a little one. We drive each other nuts because we're so similar, and we understand each other so well because of the same reason. (Liz)

    1. That and so many other reasons is why both minions call you "their Liz"