how can I help my anxious daughter?

(44 Posts)
foreva Thu 10-Jan-13 13:42:05

Hi, DD is 9, adopted at 7 months. I would like to help her with her anxiety problems but I am at a bit of a loss about how to and where to start - I have looked at books to help kids in general deal with anxiety and then I have been rereading 'Twenty things adopted children wish their parents knew' which seems to focus more on therapeutic help such as helping them to grieve their loss and helping them to realise they have special needs arising from adoption.

DD doesn't have any diagnosis or anything. She manages well academically and has friends but I have always been aware of how anxious she gets underneath. Lately she has started verbalising to me how anxious she gets. Most of her anxiety is social. She doesn't cope well with groups or new people. Her teacher has told me she is very quiet in school and that there is a danger that children like her will get ignored by teachers. If she is a group situation she withdraws/closes down and the same with new people. We both work but have had to stagger our hours so that we can pick her up from school as she becomes highly distressed if we even casually mention her going to an after school club for a day or two a week.

She seems fearful of being wrong or shamed. She is very well behaved, too well behaved for a 9 year old. She apologises often even when she has done nothing wrong and someone is correcting her so they can help her. Last night I became irritable with her because she kept saying 'sorry' and she became very upset. She then apologised for saying sorry too much sad Bad mother sad.

She always thinks of others before herself e.g. if I ask her what she wants to do she will ask me what I want to do and will then worry that if she gets to choose then I will be unhappy.

Over the years she has had a myriad of fears, the current one being shop security alarms going off when we are leaving. This happened a few times over xmas and now she has developed a fear of shops as she is afraid the alarm will go off (even when we haven't bought anything!) and everyone will look at us.

In between all the above she is a happy girl with lots of interest but I am worried for her future as she lets her fears stop her doing things. I am particularly worried about the change to secondary school - bigger classes with strangers and strict teachers will make the transition very difficult for her.(Recently she changed her swim school and it took me 25 minutes to persuade her to get out of the car and into the building.)

A friend has recently said that she might be picking up her behaviour from me. I do worry about her but I am not socially phobic and I don't have excessive fears/phobias so I'm not sure if she is right.

Would a book on anxiety in kids be the way forward or should I be looking for a more adoption related book? Any similar experiences or advice would be very welcome

foreva Tue 15-Jan-13 10:29:44

No need to apologise Italiangreyhound and I totally agree with what you say. There is mental illness in my family (not saying that you had mental illness just that it's in my family, my brother) and that's probably why I am sensitive to any signs. Dh thinks that in reverse - he thinks that because I am sensitive to the signs of mental illness I am looking for them in DD. Tbh I would rather he was right, that Adoption UK say she is fine and there is nothing to worry about.

This thread has been great for me to think things through and I'm really grateful for ALL who posted in that respect.

PS Sorry forever I was responding to your comment that 'I don't think she would get NHS help. She has no obvious behaviour problems' .... but I see that my comment is not next to that so may not make sense if seen alone.
Apologies.

Foreve neither did I (have any obvious symptons) when I got my help through NHS. I was very afraid and had it been left I might have ended up as an agoraphobic! I DON'T think this will happen to your lovely DD but the point is that had I ended up with a real disorder itand perhaps with something that stopped me working, that would have been far worse for me and the state who could have ended up paying for me because I might not have been able to go out to work!

I was able to work, and in fact my anxiety never stopped me doing anything at all but it did very much sour my life!

Personally, imho, best to ask and be prepared to argue her case IF you think that the NHS can provide the best help. If another place can then that is great.

I am sorry if this sounds scary or horrible, I have no idea to this day why I got the anxiety when I did but will be eternally thankful that I got the help I needed.

All best wishes.

foreva Mon 14-Jan-13 16:49:29

I rang After Adoption and they will be contacting me in 8-10 weeks to set up a meeting. Thanks to everyone for your help

foreva you are definitely doing the right thing.

foreva Fri 11-Jan-13 16:13:18

Have told DH that I am taking her to After Adoption regardless and if they think I'm bonkers then at least it will have put my mind at rest.

Maryz, DD was relinquished at birth too, no abuse or neglect. She has no self belief either. She is quite stunning to look at (the opinion of others). I can say that you see because she's adopted smile.

DH has seen her often like this but he has the world's worst memory. He's just not very good at this kind of thing either - feelings- but once he realises he really steps up to the plate

Maryz Cote D'Ivoire Fri 11-Jan-13 15:58:06

<ironic chortle> at MrsMcEnroe - we were handed the kids and told to get on with it. And I have received no help at all for ds1, despite his problems sad.

dd was voluntarily relinquished, not abused or neglected, so I think she feels very abandoned by her birth mother. Which I think contributes to her feeling un-loveable and her lack of confidence. Which is strange, as she is a fantastic kid, with so much going for her. But she never believes people will like her, she considers herself to be stupid, fat and ugly, and doesn't believe anyone (even her friends) like her at all [baffled].

And then sometimes when she talks like that I'm not sure that she really believes it, or whether she is just looking for extra attention from me confused. And I don't know whether extra attention makes things better or worse.

[sigh]

foreva, your dh may not get it if he hasn't actually seen it - could he take her the next time she has to go somewhere new?

KristinaM Fri 11-Jan-13 15:52:03

Well done on being so proactive to get her support.

FWIW I know lots of " normal but shy" kids through my children's school /clubs/friends etc.and it seems to be that your Dds anxiety levels are outside that range . I'm saying this as a mother and not as any kind of profesional in child psychology. IMo you are not over reacting.its affecting her life and you need help to deal with these feelings before all the changes that adolescence brings.

Please trust your mothering instincts

foreva Fri 11-Jan-13 15:30:10

As far as I remember I was told I could have one year of free courses (of my choice) and that was that, if I remember rightly. It's changed now though. I found out that my LA contracts out to After Adoption (The one you mentioned MrsM). I rang them up and they are funded by, but totally independent of the LA. I spoke to a lovely woman who said they can assign us a worker in a couple of months who will work through a plan with us.

I have just spoken to DH about this and he thinks that I worry too much about her. I related to him the story of how when DD changed swimming venues (note: not the swimming club just the venue) it took me 15 minutes to get her to agree to leave the car whilst she said 'no mummy, no mummy, not in there and not with all those people'. She relented after she saw someone she knew going in and agreed to get out of the car. It then took me another 10 minutes to get her in and changed. There were 5 minutes of the class left and I had to walk to the poolside with her and wait by the side while the teacher dealt (very well actually) with her.

This all happened one month ago And she is supposed to change schools in a year and a half!

MrsMcEnroe Fri 11-Jan-13 13:59:21

Just as an aside - when you adopt a child, are you given a post-adoption pack with details of support groups, helplines etc which might be useful further down the line? Or are you just left to fend for yourselves like my parents were? Coz I really feel that support should be freely and easily available if you choose to access it - it's pretty rubbish if it isn't, really.

MrsMcEnroe Fri 11-Jan-13 13:57:18

Italiangreyhound (is that some type of spinone?!) - thank you smile I will see how DS got on today and might PM you if I need some help, bless you.

Maryz It's so hard to know isn't it?! Interesting that your daughter is reluctant to talk about it - has she said why?

foreva Good luck - I really hope you won't be blamed for your daughter's problems, because of course you're not to blame, but maybe you could approach it as a non-specific "I was just wondering about post-adoption support and what might be available should we need it" type of thing in the first instance if that might make it less worrying for you? x

All you adoptive parents - you're ace! grin grin

foreva Fri 11-Jan-13 11:09:50

Thanks to everyone for your lovely emails. It's so nice to feel like someone is listening to my worries about DD.
I've just phoned adoption UK who have suggested that I initially contact my local authority for post adoption support. I am feeling a bit negative about this, probably because I have heard stories about parents being blamed for their children's problems and because DD's problems are not that obvious.

I've also found a local therapist who deals with adoption amongst other things but she is v v expensive (for us anyway) so I might just give LA a call after all.

Maryz Cote D'Ivoire Fri 11-Jan-13 08:59:02

I'm just marking my place here to come back and read when I have time smile

Your dd sounds very like my daughter who is 16 now, but is a real "people-pleaser" and very unsure of herself. I have often wondered if it is related to her being adopted, but it is something she is reluctant to talk about.

MrsMcEnroe I have just read what you wrote and it was very moving and very helpful to me as a person who is hoping to adopt. Thank you so much for sharing that. Just to encourage you we have been through a bit of that 'no one wants to play with me' stuff with DD. Never really sure how true it is or how much one can really do much to help! if you wanted to chat I would be happy to tell you what we did! Currently all is well with DD and her friends but just wanted to sympathise, it is so true it is NOT easy and actually all the emotional side of it is so much harder than any of the other crap! All the best.

Foreva sorry to chip in and sorry my previous post was so bloomin' long!

Foreva I am so sorry for your dear daughter and this painful experience she is going through.

I know when things happen we just want it all sorted and it is so hard but it is good you are looking for help and obviously a caring mum.

Can I just tell you my experiences, while also saying that I have not adopted a child (yet) and may not be the best person to speak to you about this, but I just wanted to share what I know personally.

I have suffered from anxiety. Mine came in my early 30s and lasted probably a couple of years. My experience was that I knew I needed help and I went to my GP, described my 'symptoms' and he referred me to the local hospital where I got CBT (Cognitive behaviour therapy) for free. The CBT was VERY helpful and sorted the problem out for me.

I am not adopted and I have no idea where the anxiety came from but it was very strong and unpleasant and I was very grateful to get help.

I would really recommend getting some help and I would try your GP first (but am happy to be contradicted if someone else can give better advice).

Other forms of therapy (than CBT) might be better or might help more. But I really agree it is better to get some help at this stage and be involved in it and coping strategies.

A friend has a child who has a great deal of anxiety. I am pretty sure she used this book:

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids) by Dawn Heubner. I think it was helpful.

www.apa.org/pubs/magination/441A314.aspx

My daughter seemed to have some anger problems a while ago and so we tried the book

What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems with Anger (What-To-Do Guides for Kids) by the same author

www.amazon.co.uk/What-When-Temper-Flares-What-/dp/1433801345/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357866765&sr=1-2

The book was good but did not solve our problems! They were sorted out through working through them BUT I think my friend found the book helpful so I just suggest it. My friend also talked to the child and adolescent mental health services and they were very helpful and visited and worked through things with her child (who is the same age as yours).

I wonder if adoption services offer anything?

I am NOT sure that this type of book would be helpful in this situation (although you might wish to read it just to see the ideas, the anxiety one not the anger one).

I do really think therapy will help and actually maybe this behaviour and concerns is uncovering some issues connected to the adoption and so to try and gloss over the worries and make her feel better in the short term would be the wrong kind of solution!

Personally, I think fear is a very strong emotion and very hard to control, talking about all the issues in an age appropriate way and then getting some help to deal with controlling those fears might well be more helpful than simply trying to 'deal' with the symptoms. having said that I am not sure if CBT totally does this, but actually it may be done in a whole variety of ways and I would certainly make finding out a priority - hopefully it will probably turn things around in terms of how she feel.

Just my opinion, and as I say I am not an adopter so feel free to ignore me.

Really hope you help your DD to find the solutions she needs.

KristinaM Thu 10-Jan-13 23:18:30

Try adoption uk. If you're not a member, join.

foreva Thu 10-Jan-13 21:52:24

Will take a look, thanks MrsM! x

MrsMcEnroe Thu 10-Jan-13 21:36:26

A MNetter recommended the After Adoption website to me - you might find a counsellor there?

Or google. Private counsellors list their areas of expertise on their websites.

Kristina speaks a lot of sense I think!

Just had to cuddle DS in bed for half an hour to calm him down... x

foreva Thu 10-Jan-13 21:21:04

I don't think she would get NHS help. She has no obvious behaviour problems

foreva Thu 10-Jan-13 21:17:05

Kristina, my gut feeling is that it's adoption related too but I think I may have let other people convince me that a) she's ok, just shy, will grow out of it and/or b) I'm worrying too much about her.

How would I get a therapist experienced in adoption?(I live in the midlands btw)

KristinaM Thu 10-Jan-13 21:13:02

Its not childish -It's only natural that you don't want to " put ideas into her head". But it's good that you have told her that its ok to talk to you, that you can handle it and be a safe container for her feelings. Maybe she's worried that if she lets them out they will overwhelm her .

Just to warn you -the "right moment"for her might be totally the wrong one for you !!! kids often decide to talk when you are in the car negotiating the rush hour or other busy time when you can hardly think, let alone empathise!

If she does decide to talk, it's best if you can just listen without trying to fix her feelings or problems or explain things. We parents alway want to make it all better. But sadly what happened to her can't be fixed. She just needs to work it through a bit.

Please do think about getting some help for her

foreva Thu 10-Jan-13 21:05:25

DD in bed now. Funnily enough the book we read before bed was about a mother and daughter so when we finished reading I mentioned that she could always talk to me if she had sad/bad feelings about birth mum/adoption, something on those lines anyway, and she looked contemplative. Hopefully she'll have a think and when the right moment arises she might be able to talk to me.
I don't think I'm scared of her saying she misses her bmother. I think I'm scared that if I mention bad feelings then I might cause her to have those bad feelings - very childish/superstitious of me to think that way.

Yes, parenting, it's not easy is it? Hope your DS feels better at school tomorrow x

KristinaM Thu 10-Jan-13 20:51:58

I agree that it may be partly her personality but I do feel its also adoption related. Like the person who said "so what's the worst that can happen? " .well the worst that can happen is that your parenst and your whole family abandon you!!!! And that's alreday happened to her. No wonder she wants to please you

I get such a feeling of sadness from reading your post and I'm nt sure why. I wonder if she's very unhappy under her usually cheerful exterior , that this is about sadness and loss which manifests as anxiety . Especially about things she can't control ( like shop alarms and people leaving her )

I also agree that you should get her some professional help, preferably from a therapist or counsellor with experince in adoption. You should do this now, before adolescence, which I'm afraid will make it worse.

MrsMcEnroe Thu 10-Jan-13 20:43:05

Just a thought, feel free to ignore if I'm off the mark, this is based on what I think my mum was feeling ... Do you think you've been scared to ask your DD how she feels about the adoption in case she says something that will upset you? Especially something about wanting her birth mother?
You'd only be human if this were the case. But she won't want her birth mother in preference to you; she'll want to know about her. It's very different. (I met my birth mother when I was 18 and we've remained in contact but I do not, and never have, thought of her as my mother - just wanted to reassure you of that). x

MrsMcEnroe Thu 10-Jan-13 20:39:46

smile Just keep the channels of communication open, that's a good place to start.

I am off to read more of the Sensitive Child book tonight, following a long, tearful conversation with DS just now in which he insisted that everyone at school hates and him and nobody plays with him .....apparently he sat on his own for the whole playtime today ..... not sure whether he's telling the truth or over-dramatising! Bit tearful for him. Well, very tearful.

Kids do feel loss very keenly. He misses my mum, who died nearly 5 years ago but who was a huge presence in his life.

Urgh. Bit complex this parenting thing, isn't it...???!!!!! Magic wand needed! x

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