Mayhem Management: Dealing with childhood anxiety
I recently wrote about my almost 5 year-old dealing with anxiety at school. One of the hardest things I have experienced as a parent is when I am faced with something I don’t know how to deal with. I feel helpless and incapable at times. Miss O is an amazing little person and it is so hard to watch when she struggles.
One of her struggles is knowing what time it is and what comes next in our day. For a while, I was concerned that she was obsessed with food because she would ask all day if it was meal time. Often she would ask within minutes of eating how long it was until the next meal. But it finally occurred to me that it was her way to tell time. I also discovered that when I told her something was a long time off, she would begin to stress out and tense up. She would say, “But that’s long.”
Anything she perceives as “long” really stresses her out. So after much consideration, I determined that I needed to create a clock of sorts for my girl. We sat down one day and talked about all the things we usually do in a day.
“What do we do after breakfast?” I asked.
“OK, before lunch.”
“Ummm, get dressed.”
And so it went. We eventually came up with a list that I wrote down of our usual schedule. My original plan was to draw pictures, but after my daughter collapsed into fits of laughter at my drawings, I came up with a better idea.
We pulled out some old magazines and cut out pictures that represented each item on our list.
I glued the pictures to some heavy cardstock and drew arrows from each event to the next.
Then I laminated the whole thing and we hung it on the fridge with a magnet she could move throughout the day.
I wrote times on the two things that we do at the same time almost every day. She likes to look at the clock and I thought that would give her some practice. So I wrote down lunch at 11:30 (the kids think they’ll starve to death if we don’t eat before noon) and snacks at 3.
Our little clock seems to be working well. She still asks all day if it is time for the next thing on our chart, but breaking the day down into smaller chunks and into something she can visualize has really helped. She still stresses when she perceives something is a long time off or if she doesn’t feel like she knows what to do. I am working on trying to figure out how to deal with that. Her stress stimulus is to rub her feet together and I am also trying to find ways to help her calm down. This parenting gig is tough sometimes.