Support thread for parents of anxious children

(178 Posts)
eggsfloursugarbutter Fri 07-Dec-12 12:01:22

I thought I'd start this as I have a very anxious DS and I feel that I am the only one in RL. I figured that there must be lots of us out there and it always helps to feel like you are not alone.

My DS is 4.4 and started school in September. He has not found it easy since the beginning, but since returning after being off sick last week, he has been so anxious that he has vomited every morning in the classroom sad. His crying is what I would call "hysterical".

Trying to get out the door in the morning is a battle, with him running back up the stairs, clinging onto the door frame and refusing to put his shoes and coat on.

He has been quite a clingy/anxious child since he was a baby, so it is not just exclusive to school. He is terrified of going to the dentist, Father Christmas, dressed up characters, parties, trying new things, the list goes on. At this stage, I don't know if there is an underlying reason for it, or whether it is solely anxiety, but I am working closely with the school and GP to monitor it.

I am also 6 months pregnant, with not a lot of support around me and finding it quite difficult and stressful. So if you are going through something similar or have done in the past, then please post it here and perhaps we can all help each other smile.

LapinDeBois Wed 13-Feb-13 13:42:43

Sorry about your morning jackster. Does anyone else have trouble with food revulsions/sensitive gag reflex? DS has struggled with this for years, but it has been much better in the last couple of years (he used to gag and throw up on a regular basis). But last night I'd made a pie for tea, and he was refusing to eat it, but I thought he was just being fussy, so I insisted he ate some if he wanted pancakes for pudding - anyway, as soon as the bit of pie touched his lips he threw up everywhere. I felt dreadful sad.

Jacksterbear Wed 13-Feb-13 14:03:01

Hi lapin yes ds does this too sometimes if we try to bribe or persuade him to eat something when he's got it into his head he is not going to like it (even if it's something he usually likes or at least tolerates). And is generally very fussy about food and the exact way things have to be prepared and presented so as to be acceptable to him!

StephanieCB30 Wed 13-Feb-13 14:34:43

Hi Jacksterbear, thank you for the welcome! I have 1 DSD and 2DSS and 1DS aged 5, he's the one I am concerned about. We are quite a dynamic family and things aren't always easy, but he's bedwetting again, develops a stutter when really anxious, and chews the skin off the tops of his fingers until they are red raw and bleeding. I am a drama teacher and have always tried to give positive rewards and praise and he appears to be a confident young man, even performs on the stage with no fear but there is obviously underlying anxiety and it troubles me. He also doesn't sleep in his own bed all night, comes in to us most nights,especially if I have been out at bedtime and he doesn't see me.

Jacksterbear Wed 13-Feb-13 14:57:12

Stephanie sorry things are tough for you. I definitely recognise the sleep issues, and also the appearance of confidence (I amd sure people are hmm when I say that actually DS is anxious and sensitive as I think if you didn't know him well a lot of his behaviour would come across as spoilt and brattish! blush). Have you spoken to school and/or GP? Or taken any other steps to manage it? Lots of good suggestions and advice earlier on in this thread.

(Sorry everyone btw if I appear to be monopolising this thread a bit... just finding it very helpful at the moment to share and vent with people who have a clue what I'm talking about! smile)

ToysRLuv Wed 13-Feb-13 15:10:50

I'm glad there's a thread about this! DS is 3.4 and I now worry about his anxiety/over sensitivity, as it's just getting worse. I totally recognise DS from frankie's and ginger's posts.

He loves spending time with other children, but at the same time finds them terrifying and just too exciting (he is an only child and we don't have many friend here, so maybe this is my fault.. ). He's also afraid of a lot of other things: learning to ride a bike or scooter, slides (will cling up, but will then want to be lifted back down without going down the slide - he did used to like sliding down, but now just won't even entertain the idea), is stressed about any approaching cars when crossing the road, and sometimes gets distressed thinking that a child is going to somehow pounce on him, or something, if they simply walk close by (this only applies to children of a similar age and more often boys) or follow us. He's also a fussy eater since hitting 2.

He was a very hard to care for baby: grumpy/whingy most of the first 24 months. Hated cafes, especially hated baby swimming lessons and anything like that. To be honest I was in shock and suffered from PND fuelled by sleep deprivation. DS only sleeps through reliably now at 3 years old. I don't know if this has got anything to do with the anxiety issues, but he also isn't fussed about doing things for himself or being independent. He's quite lazy and seemingly lower in energy resources than other toddler boys, but I suppose the constant anxiety when away from home would drain you.. He also asks to hold my hand most of the time when we walk.

Whoever said that you always need to be one step ahead, was absolutely right. I need to gather up the mental energy just to get out the house with DS, because I know it's such a struggle and raises such embarrassment and frustration issues in me. I think my biggest frustration is his inability to calm down and enjoy spending time with other children and go to toddler groups etc. without being whingy and terribly behaved (when it's just the 2 of us he behaves really well, so it's definitely about being uncomfortable) or clawing at the door to leave ( he is ALWAYS saying he wants to go home if he's not shouting at the other children to go away). It's so embarrassing, and makes me look like an inadequate mother. I already lost a good friend because my DS and her's could not get along, as mine was too asocial and immature for her liking (her same age ds in very verbal and interested in playing cooperatively with other children). The thing is.. how can DS learn to get along with children if I don't get him out to meet them as often as I can (not often enough I'm afraid)? I just can't make him suave. Nor is he very eloquent or cooperative. I do try my very best, though and I feel so worried. After a day out in a group or meeting other people I'm absolutely shattered from trying to make him comfortable (think of distractions and bribes.. or sometimes threats that will make a difference - they rarely do) and anticipate any issues before they happen.

Any words of advice wisdom? sad

Ineedmorepatience Wed 13-Feb-13 16:14:47

Hi toys, your Ds sounds hard work! Do you have any concerns about his development other than his social skills?

I think maybe you should make your playdates and trips out very short and low key for a while and see if he copes any better.

Does he go to any groups without you? If he does what is he like there?

If you know what triggers his anxiety I would recommend avoiding the trigger and try to find ways of gradually exposing him to the things that stress him out. You need to be gently gently with anxiety not forceful. In my opinion.

Jacksterbear Wed 13-Feb-13 16:29:38

Hi toys, have you tried usual visual timetables / charts with pictures showing your ds what is going to be happening each day? It was about that age we started using them with DS (still do) as a way of easing his anxiety. Other than that, no useful suggestions (apart from what's been said earlier in the thread), but here to offer a hand-hold / supportive brew in solidarity!

Our bad day continues. sad Took me an hour to get DS home from school (0.75 miles, usually 15 mins walk). He screamed like a maniac on pick-up that he was tired and would not walk home, and refused to walk. We had to be ushered off the school premises by the Head who was waiting to lock the gates. He proceeded to scream all the way home (I AM TIRED, I WILL NOT TAKE A SINGLE STEP, I AM VERY CROSS WITH YOU FOR MAKING ME WALK), stopping every couple of minutes and refusing to budge. No obvious triggering factor so no idea what's brought this on confused. Feeling a bit end-of-tether-ish sad.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 13-Feb-13 16:49:09

Oh no jackster, what a nightmare. It is so difficult when children get so worked upsad

Do you think he could be exhausted and in need of half term or could he be coming down with something?

ToysRLuv Wed 13-Feb-13 17:30:00

Thanks for your replies! No major worries otherwise. DS is a bit on the slow side with milestones, but within normal range. Good at counting/numbers and letters. Reads some words and is a delight at home most of the time. Affectionate little boy with lovely sense of humour who loves dancing (and is VERY good at it). Not interested in toilet training yet, but will go for a wee on the potty occasionally. Reluctant walker, but getting better (I explained that he was getting too big for the pushchair and that I couldn't carry him, because his weight will snap my back (sort of true). He will still go on the pushchair if going on a longer walk, or absolutely refusing to go out, or likely to dawdle if we're in a hurry.

Jack: thanks for the cuppa! I missed how old your son is, but I definitely know about the refusal to walk. I think some days DS is just too tired (or lazy/fed up) to even go outside (there shouldn't be any medical reason). Let alone walk to school and then after a long day walk back. Luckily his primary will be a 5 min walk away (if we still live here then). I have been thinking about the visual time table, but haven't implemented it, as our lives are not exactly clockwork. DH and me both work at home and keep irregular hours (insomniac night owls who like to work at night and then take turns in having a nap during the day - I know this is not ideal). Ds still takes a nap every other day or so, which throws schedules off a bit as well. I do tell him in advance where we are going, but find that sometimes it makes it worse, as he has time to get worked up about it. So, usually I tell him half an hour earlier (or less). confused I used to work with autistic children and know how much a visual time table can help, so will have to come up with something (even if it's a bit more flexible).

Ineed: We go to a toddler group once a week, which he refused to do for a long time, then happily went for a couple of months and now will again refuse. We meet up with one friend and her son once a week (my only mummy friend at the moment, since we fell out with my other friend). We also go to two biweekly/monthly groups, and a toddler dance class once a week (informal and fun with looseish structure). He absolutely loves dancing, but sometimes will get too anxious and cry and ask to leave before the end. It's a struggle really sad I hope he will not give up completely and make most of his ability, but I guess I can't force it. I try not to force him to do anything, but it's hard to know where the line between encouragement and forcing lies, when your child wouldn't really choose to do very much at all (even hget out of the door on most days - and I'm not totally convinced that it's all anxiety - I think he just likes to be in his comfort zone and is a bit of a lazy homebody?).

So hard to know what to do.

Can I come and join you please?

I have a very anxious dd who is 8 and I am struggling to help her.

Jacksterbear Wed 13-Feb-13 18:17:22

ineed, yes think he is exhausted and under the weather with a cold. After calming down he told me he had used up all his energy doing P.E. I guess. P.E. last thing at the end of a day when he was already wobbly just sent him over the edge.

toys the chart we did for ds is a large wall chart with moveable pictures stuck on with blutack, so would work for a less predictable schedule as you can just talk through the coming day one day at a time. I know what you mean about giving up on classes, groups etc - we have tried (at his request) karate and swimming lessons with ds ( he is 6 btw) and given up on both after it just became an unbearable weekly battle. Also, we have the same problem re tiredness / refusal to walk far: I wonder if you have a point re constant anxiety being an energy drain!

ToysRLuv Wed 13-Feb-13 18:20:27

Also meant to say that we do try to make social outings short (he's fine at home if someone comes, but doesn't happen often), but on some days he's just not in the mood to cooperate very much at all (especially if people he doesn't know very well are invonved.. that's why it's hard to make mummy friends and find playmates for DS). On other days he can be fine for about 2 hours (as long as no sitting around in cafes/sitting still or sharing of toy trains and tracks is involved - he get's very excited and anxious). He does really like other children (provided they are at his wavelength, at least a bit)and playing tug of war or chasing games with them. But often after a while of playing like this he will get overexcited, then scared and will run to me or try to shut a door in the other child's face (bad).

I try to pre-empt things quite a lot, but I think this kind of behaviour is also kind of age appropriate (?) and will get better with practice (I don't allow him to shut doors on anyone, though, if I can help it). Otherwise we might as well just stay at home to not bother anyone.

Jacksterbear Wed 13-Feb-13 18:21:34

X-posted with u goodnight,, welcome. smile

ToysRLuv Wed 13-Feb-13 18:35:11

Jack, yes, with the classes thing. I just have this vision of future in my head where DS is 20 and just sits at home all day playing on-line games, eating junk food, ballooning, and is totally friendless in RL. sad

Glad there are others with similar problems out there, though.

pinkpaperpiggy Wed 13-Feb-13 18:47:20

Hi, I've just seen this thread and haven't had time to read it all but I'd just like to suggest Play Therapy for younger children with anxiety. I had a terrible time with dd1 from when she was a toddler. She was clingy, anxious and nervous.

She was terrified of loud noises - we couldn't go to the park because she was afraid of the noise the crows that nested in the trees there made.

We couldn't walk down the street as she panicked if a truck approached.

She made such a fuss leaving the house that we hardly ever went anywhere.

My biggest fear was that she wouldn't be able to cope with school as we had a nightmare day at the open day. She was totally overwhelmed by the number of children and the noise.

I had tried everything, ignoring, cajoling etc til both of us were miserable. Then I happened to overhear a conversation about a local Play Therapist. I didn't even know such a thing existed but I asked for her number and made an appointment.

She was amazing. DD loved her straight away and went for a series of sessions. Her progress was fantastic. She had run from the classroom at the start of the summer terrified and in tears but by September she went in with only a little hesitation. Her teacher was lovely and was aware of the difficulties she'd had. We kept up the PT sessions for several months and the teacher said you could really see the change in her as the time went by.

She is nearly 7 now and a much happier and more relaxed, confident child than we ever thought she could be.

She never realised it was 'therapy'. As far as she was concerned she went there to play.

Best of luck to everyone.

JuliaScurr Wed 13-Feb-13 19:03:27

youngminds.org were really helpful

dd is now pretty much averagely anxious

vital to find a supportive school

good luck

Jacksterbear Thu 14-Feb-13 12:12:24

Thanks pink and Julia for the recommendations.

Much better morning this a.m. How is everyone else doing? smile

Ineedmorepatience Thu 14-Feb-13 19:54:34

We had a rubbish day yesterday but spoke to HT this morning about yesterday and another issue so hopefully sorted. Fingers crossed to get through tomorrow, then a week to recoversmile

Jacksterbear Fri 15-Feb-13 07:31:36

Hope u get through today ok ineed.

I've been thinking: does it make sense that someone is anxious without being a worrier? I don't think ds consciously broods over things, most of the time (sometimes he does). I think he mostly has gut reactions to things and doesn't really understand what or why. Does that ring bells with anyone else?

ToysRLuv Fri 15-Feb-13 11:50:41

Hope everyone's had a good morning.

Jackster: I think that is the case with my DS. Just negative/overcautious reaction to many things that other children would find fun or exciting. That said, it does seem to vary a bit: he behaved beautifully while out with another family yesterday and even played nicely with their (same age) boy, and does even like some mild fairground rides. It is confusing to pin him down about what the actual issue is.. Although if he was a worrier, it would likely come out more when he can articulate it better. But I really don't think he does mull over stuff. confused

Jacksterbear Fri 15-Feb-13 12:21:49

Thanks for the response toys. Sounds like your DS had a lovely day. It's hard though isn't it, when you want to understand what the problem is but either they don't understand themselves or can't articulate.

This point about worrying has been on my mind since I bought that book "What to do when you worry too much", which is aimed at helping children who have constant, negative thoughts going round and round in their minds, with the aim of getting those children to think those thoughts less. In some ways I think DS needs to do MORE thinking (of a positive kind, obviously) and less gut-reacting, i.e. have strategies to think about why he is feeling a certain way, and what options are open to him to deal with the situation he's in and the way he is feeling. What he does at the moment, I think, is feel an intense emotion (fear, panic, frustration) about something, and then have a huge emotional outburst without being able to manage/control his feelings or have any kind of rational response.

Sorry for the ramblings. I myself am a huge worrier, as you can tell grin.

ToysRLuv Fri 15-Feb-13 13:29:08

Jackster: I think DS could have the same issue. Will not think about stuff long enough to be convinced that something might be ok if only he could get over his initial negativity/panic.´

I am a massive worrier as well. But smile

Vivienne52 Fri 15-Feb-13 13:34:09

Could I join in and ask a question? My DS is 10 months but is VERY sensitive. He hates traffic, strangers, bright lights (changing rooms at swimming, ikea, and public loo), hates his buggy.... I could go on. Even going to my friends houses is impossible. It isn't even so much separation anxiety as he doesn't really calm when I hold him. Do you think he will continue this way? Do you think he will grow out of it or will he likely be an anxious toddler?

Sorry to hear about your little ones, it is so stressful.xxx

Jacksterbear Fri 15-Feb-13 16:13:51

Hi vivienne, that sounds really tough sad. Can you not even go to friends' house if it's not a big group of people, just you+ friend + dcs? He is very little so I suppose it's possible he will grow out of it, i don't know. II might be considering taking him to GP if it seems very extreme.

toys, smile

Ineedmorepatience Fri 15-Feb-13 19:27:54

Wow, vivienne that does sound tricky. There is a condition called "sensory processing disorder" which can lead to great difficulties with sensory stuff.

Not saying your baby has this but it might be worth a look at to see if you could learn about some strategies to help him.

Good lucksmile

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