Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coping with a Child's Fear & Anxiety

We have been going through a difficult time here at our house. About three weeks ago, my older daughter saw something that was very upsetting to her, and that has sent her spiralling into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety.

It started innocently enough -- my stepmother sent over the latest "People" magazine that she had read (as she does almost weekly) and it was sitting out somewhere in the house, waiting to be read. Usually there is some celebrity on the cover, but that week, there was a picture of the little girl from Florida who is missing, presumed dead, and her mother is a "person of interest" in the case. The little girl is about the same age as my girl, and apparently my girl saw and read the front cover of the magazine. She never mentioned it at first, but right around that time things started to bother her. One afternoon she wanted to watch a "Little House on the Prairie" episode and then all of a sudden she thought she remembered someone coughing up blood in it (that didn't really happen in the episode), and she started having a bit of an anxiety attack about it. The days leading up to Halloween were very difficult -- normally she loves to watch all of the Halloween movies on the Disney Channel, but this year they seemed to scare her. Her anxiety increases the closer she gets to bedtime. Lately, most nights during dinner she decides that she is going to have a nightmare, and more often than not, she does.

There are countless other examples of how fearful and anxious she has become, and I wrote out a long list and made an appointment with our doctor to talk to him about what has been going on. He was not terribly concerned and said he felt that she's a very smart girl and "is able to articulate her feelings extremely well" and that's why we know so much about how she is feeling. Hmm... In his defense, he did preface that with "Counseling is not my forte." Clearly. I followed up with a call to the school counselor who I found to be much more helpful. She stated that it is not unusual for kids my daughter's age to go through a phase like this. They are able to "connect the dots" so to speak, and seeing that magazine cover seems to have triggered something in her, where no matter how many times we try to reassure her that nothing like that will ever happen to her, she is incapable of being rational about her fear and anxiety. Every day there is something different that pops up and is upsetting to our girl, but right now we are taking it day-by-day and trying to patient and supportive. (Have I mentioned that patience is not one of my strong suits?) Tonight we read the Veggie Tales book, "Where is God When I am Scared?"

I have been kicking myself for weeks over her seeing that magazine, although truly, she could have seen it at the end the check out line in the grocery store. I thought I was very observant and aware of what is "out there" that may be harmful to my children, but this experience has shown me that you just can't anticipate everything, no matter how hard you try.

Have you ever gone through something like this with one of your children? What did you find to be helpful?

1 comment:

Teamcarbone said...

Oh dear I didn’t realize the magazine incident happened around the same time as the fear and anxiety issues. I’m so sorry you have to go through this I understand it has been very trying on you and your husband but as the counselor told you you’re not alone and this is normal for children at her age. I wish I had some advice to offer but I will offer hugs and an ear if you need to vent . Please don’t beat yourself up too badly about the magazine if it hadn’t been that there might have been another trigger. I really do hope things get better quickly.