Most children get nervous and anxious sometimes, especially when it comes to big life changes, like starting a new school year or trying out for a sport. Having butterflies in your stomach during these moments is completely normal. My young daughter, however, suffers from anxiety during big and little moments in life, and many times, it can be very severe.
One instance in particular comes to mind. She had spent two years taking ballet and loved every minute of it. She had memorized every dance move and was ready to perform for an audience. When it was time for her first ballet recital, though, she was am emotional mess. At five years old, she had a full-blown anxiety attack backstage. She was crying, sweating, and shaking all over, and there wasn't anything I could do to help calm her down. I remember feeling incredibly sad for my daughter. I also remember feeling helpless and guilty, because I — her own mother — was at a loss about how to help her.
On a smaller scale, every day things that aren't a big deal to most kids are a huge deal to my daughter. Some situations where she might experience anxiety are taking a simple spelling test, playing a new video game, and even going on a playdate. Her anxiety is there all the time, and it's a daily struggle for her to get through, just as it is for me to watch her go through it.
But as a mother to a child with anxiety, I've slowly learned how to handle things. When something big is going to happen soon, I now give my daughter plenty of time to prepare. We talk about what will happen, how she may feel, and how we can get through her big feelings. This may include watching videos about it, drawing a picture, or writing her feelings down. I have her practice breathing exercises she can use when she can feel her anxiety creeping up on her. I have her practice a grounding technique in which she uses her five senses to calm her mind and body. And she also sees a therapist, because it greatly benefits her to be able to talk about things with someone other than me.
Sometimes these techniques work and sometimes they don't, but as she gets older, she's realising what works best for her. Her anxiety monster will continue to try to wreak havoc, but as she continues to practice her anti-anxiety attack techniques, I'm confident she'll be able to keep her anxiety monster in the closet.