Embarking on yet another parenting journey

My daughter and I are about to embark on a three-month anti-anxiety program. Will the parenting challenges never end?

Yeah, I know, they don’t.

First it was the constant complaints of stomach aches (which our pediatrician assured me were anxiety related). Then it was the nightmares. And of course there is the sensory processing disorder, which we’ve learned to manage quite well. So I suppose the anxiety was always there, but it didn’t become something I felt we needed to tackle until recently, when she started getting really upset and telling me that she was worried something bad was going to happen. The aftercare staff reported last week that she cried for almost 30 minutes, afraid that something horrible was going to happen to me. Suddenly she didn’t want to go to swimming anymore because she was worried something bad would happen in the water. Around this same time, her fears of zombies and other monsters intensified so much that she could no longer read some of her favorite comics (these comics don’t have zombies in them, but some zombies appear in the ads for other comics throughout the issues–yes we offered to sharpie over the offending pictures, she freaked out even more). She didn’t even like the most recent Bad Guys book because it ended with (very G-rated) zombie kittens.

So yeah, the anxiety is now a thing that is affecting our quality of life on a daily basis. I can’t “hope she’ll grow out of it” any longer.

So of course, I got a book.

{You might be wondering why I’m not turning to a professional, and it’s a fair question. If someone I knew and trusted could recommend a great child and family counselor I would be all over it. But I’ve asked, and nobody does. I’ve done enough therapy to know it’s hard to find someone that’s effective when you’re an adult and know what effective feels like. I don’t have the time, money or energy to search for, and try, different child therapists. And my health insurance only covers/provides group therapy, which at this point I don’t think would be productive. So right now I’m going to try the program laid out in this book. If things don’t get better over the summer, I’ll start the search for a good child therapist.}

The book I got actually looks very good. It lays out a three month program and includes the PDF of a workbook to use for each lesson/activity. As someone who has done a fair amount of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with professionals, I feel relatively well equipped to work through this with my daughter. She really wants to stop feeling this way, and seems willing to do the program with me. The fact that it will be summer, and we won’t have to work around homework obligations, will definitely help.

I’m especially eager to start because I’m worried she’ll suffer greatly while I’m gone for ten days in Ecuador this summer. Not only is that the longest I’ve ever been away, but it’s the farthest I’ve traveled without my family. At this point I can’t even mention it to someone else without her having a meltdown. She totally refuses to talk to me about it. I leave in five weeks, which doesn’t give us a lot of time to get started, but hopefully by the time I leave she’ll have some tools to help her manager her catastrophic thinking and the panic it induces.

I know parenting is hard, and I know a lot of parents have it harder than me, but man, sometimes I wonder if we can go a year without some new crisis to confront.

Having said that, I realize how lucky we are. Yesterday I walked in on my daughter finishing a chapter book, and I thanked the universe yet again for us learning of her convergence insufficiency so early. I shudder at the thought of how frustrated I would be right now if my daughter, who can listen to audiobooks all day, were refusing to read and not understanding why. Instead she reads at a high second grade level in both Spanish and English. Yes the three months of visual therapy was an incredibly intense parenting challenge, one I hope not to repeat, but I’m so thankful that it exists, and was available, (and that we had the almost $4K to pay for it). The frustration and heartache we saved ourselves would have been far worse.

I’m equally as thankful that there are resources out there for parents with anxious children, that sensory processing disorder is recognized and diagnosable, that there are books, and noise cancelling headphones and chew necklaces and seamless socks you can buy to make it all a little more manageable. That people out there recognize our situation and validate our concerns.

For all of that, I am immensely grateful.

If not a little weary.

I’ll let you know how this journey down the rabbit hole of anxiety management goes.

7 Comments

  1. Good luck! For years, you’ve been saying that parenting is hard for you in a way that it isn’t for other people, and there seem to be quite a few legitimate reasons that’s the case. But you are doing a great job identifying your daughter’s challenges and addressing them. I know it will make a huge difference in her life.

    I loved the therapist we took J to for 3 months. We really lucked out, because I’ve tried therapists for myself and never got one I liked this much. It’s hard to get the right fit.

  2. Hi! I haven’t written in a while, but wanted to chime in on this one. I’m a school social worker and have found this book really helpful when working with elementary-school kids who have anxiety:
    http://www.dawnhuebnerphd.com/worrytoomuch.aspx It sounds like you have a book you’re happy with, but this might be a useful supplement. I especially like the section about “worry bullies.”
    So sorry that you are dealing with yet another extra challenge.

    1. I got that book too! I haven’t had a chance to look through it much, so I appreciate you saying it’s worthwhile.

  3. My daughter is 5 and has severe separation anxiety that is just being diagnosed (though I’ve always had that niggle in the back of my mind identifying it). So we are working on this before kindergarten this fall. It is hard and while I know it is minor compared to other issues, it seems hard in the moment. Hopefully you have success in getting a handle on the anxiety before you leave.

  4. Only as appropriate, please share what you find most helpful for your daughter in activities suggested. What she thinks makes a difference. Our children often see and experience things differently than we, as adults, do. I remain fascinated hearing my 5 yr old grandchild casually talk about presidents when building with her blocks. She is tuned in despite her parents being careful about media news and their own conversations … I suspect lots is shared on the kindergarten play ground in processing how to interact with each other. Generalized adult stress and worries are impacting children.
    Good wishes for your daughter, am glad you are starting now. Practicing with talking on phones and doing video chats now will make that easier across distances.

  5. Oh our daughters sound so similar. G has circumvented the sock issue by wearing them inside out. Whatever it takes. We were lucky enough to have a therapist recommendation that really helped G, if you don’t mind the 3.5 hour drive I’d be happy to give you her name, wah wah. I am so curious how this helps, I love all manner of options to help her journey in life.

  6. Thanks for sharing the book. We are starting therapy with a child anxiety specialist this summer. Hanging in there with you!

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