My six year old gets anxious in numerous situations.
For instance, leading up to the first day of school, he was very vocal about fearing that he would not find his classroom. He dwelled on it for weeks heading into the new school year. I tried to reassure him that he knew where his room was. When he cried that he would forget, I emphasized that there would be many adults in the building to help him. Still, I was unable to ease his stress. As someone that has similar anxiety leading up to events, I knew he would have some level of fear until he successfully made it through the first day.
Our youngest son, who is 3, always gets anxious around large groups of people. He will cling to me like a barnacle or beg to go home. Sometimes, his little face looks so distraught, I can feel his agony of sitting in a room full of strangers. So, I usually make sure that he can see me at all times, or stay close enough to him that he can hold my hand (or leg).
In the past, I have tried to hide the fact that I get anxious too from my kids.
I thought that if I exuded confidence, my kids would also become confident at times when they are uncertain. And, there are times that this ploy has worked. Like at large social gatherings, if our kids see me carrying on a friendly conversation, or seeming to enjoy myself, they also appear to let their guards down. However, I’ve come to realize that forcing myself to appear calm in a situation that may cause someone to get anxious may not be the way to quell my nerves.
My “aha!” moment occurred the other day when I let my usual guard down. My son, E, asked me what was wrong. Even he could feel the pressure I was under. I huffed under my breath that all the projects I had to complete were making me anxious. E looked at me quizzically, “Mom gets anxious too?”
All of a sudden, I felt like my son and I understood each other on a new level.
I made an admission that I was not a perfect mom and in doing so, showed that I could relate to what he goes through some days. Now our focus has become how can we help each other through anxiety-producing situations and be a supportive and honest family. There are many ways I can try to reassure my kids, and guide them through difficult times; but, another important step is to make them feel like they’re not alone with these big, overwhelming feelings.