ENGLAND: Helping Your Anxious Child

ENGLAND: Helping Your Anxious Child

One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.

It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.

But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.

So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.

I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.

One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.

There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.

I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.

The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)

Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.

There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.

I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.

As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.

Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x


  1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/born-worried-is-anxiety-all-in-the-genes-1981022.html
  2. http://www.gozen.com/

Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?

This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.

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Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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CANADA: Autism – Overcoming Fear Of Water

CANADA: Autism – Overcoming Fear Of Water

Autism boy and his brother at the hotel pool

Autism boy and his brother at the hotel pool

When he was younger, my autism boy was terrified of water. Bath time was an ordeal that involved physically restraining this petrified, screaming child while we sponged him down as best we could. When we had to wash his hair, we would have to take him by surprise and wrap him up like a burrito before he would realize what was going on. These gruelling sessions usually ended with me in tears as I contemplated what I was putting my child through.

A trip to a splash pad one summer’s day a few years ago led to the discovery that although my autism boy hated being submerged in any body of water, he would consent to standing under a spray of water. From that day, our lives were a lot easier: bath time became shower time. My son was not exactly thrilled, but the screaming and terrified looks were replaced with crying and more manageable anxiety.

Although keeping my child clean is less traumatic than it once was, it is still challenging. My son only just manages to tolerate being in the shower for any length of time. Every minute that he is in there, he begs to be allowed out.

And so it was with a great deal of trepidation that I decided to enrol him in swimming lessons this summer. Fear of water or no fear of water, this kid has to learn how to swim. Individuals with autism are twice as likely as the general population to die prematurely from accidental causes. An extremely high percentage of those deaths are drownings.

And so I called the local aquatic centre and told them I wanted to put both of my boys into swimming lessons. I explained about the autism and the fear of water, and expressed my concern that my son would not even get into the pool.

The lady at the aquatic centre said something that I have told myself many times, something that I believe should be a constant mantra for autism parents everywhere.

“We won’t know what he’s capable of unless we give him the opportunity to try.”

These words told me everything I needed to know about the staff at the aquatic centre: that they were prepared to work with my special needs son in a positive and inclusive manner.

On the day of the introductory lesson, I deposited the boys with their instructor and made my way to the observation room, where I leaned forward in my chair and waited anxiously. I knew, at least, that my autism boy would be greatly reassured by the presence of his brother. As I watched, the boys were directed to sit on edge of the pool and dangle their legs in the water.

My younger son readily complied. The autism boy watched him for a few moments, and then followed suit. I held my breath, waiting for a disaster.

But instead of screaming and panicking, my son gingerly lowered himself into the water, to where his instructor was waiting.

I’m sure there was an audible thunk as my jaw hit the floor.

With his hands resting lightly on the instructor’s shoulders, my boy walked from one side of the pool to the other, and then back again. He waited patiently as the instructor went through the same paces with my younger son, and then he did it all over again.

Half an hour later, I met my kids at the entrance to the pool. Both of them were full of smiles, and my younger son could barely contain his excitement as he described how well his brother had done.

Several weeks have passed since then: during this time, we have had a family vacation that included many hours at hotel pools, and there have been two more swimming lessons. Almost overnight, my autism boy has become a water baby. He’s not exactly Michael Phelps, but he can float with support and put his face into the water.

This experience has been a valuable reminder for me to never assume that my kids will not be capable of something.

Have your kids ever surprised you with an accomplishment that you weren’t expecting? Have they ever come to love something they once feared?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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USA: A Dinosaur

USA: A Dinosaur


When I think of my own elementary school experience, I remember recess games and lunch time chats. I remember “round robin” reading and math fact drills. I remember class time and spelling tests, but I also remember having time to play with my friends, and that was one of the highlights of going to school. We were able to have two times a day where we had unstructured recess time to just go outside and have time to play with our friends. (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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LESOTHO: Thoughts (and Anxieties) as an Expat Parent

LESOTHO: Thoughts (and Anxieties) as an Expat Parent

Lesotho Two Worlds

My Parenting Anxieties as an Expat

Right now I have a lot of parenting anxieties. One is over our transient lifestyle moving from one country to another every few years with our young children. Another is over my absence from my children as a full-time working and studying mom – when I’m not home, I’m at work; when I’m home, I’m studying.

Can anyone else relate?

My twin children are in 1st grade and about to finish up their second (and final) term. A new teacher has come into the picture…(thankfully) with very structured daily homework assignments and weekly quizzes…Quizzes?!…and a very clear goal of getting the children to 2nd grade level reading and spelling by the end of the term. All of this is wonderful, makes a lot of sense, what a blessing, terrific….and time to PANIC!!!

How am I going to spend enough time with my kids to go through their homework? Will I have enough reserve of patience to be encouraging? How am I going to impose the strict rule about no tablet time until afterhomework when they are with the housekeeper? How am I to maneuver between two very different personalities, learning styles, and confidence levels when the kids are constantly comparing themselves to one another’s abilities (one can spell and is excited about school work/one can’t and doesn’t want to; one still needs to do math with fingers/ the other is a natural whiz?)

Anyone else have similar issues with parenting anxiety when raising twins or between siblings?

Walking in the Shoes of the Basotho

Meanwhile, throughout Lesotho, where we live, there is a large migrant adult population who must leave their families behind to go work for long stretches of time in the mines or textile factories in another area of Lesotho, or even as far away as South Africa or other countries in the region. Sometimes, they move around with their families and are transient depending on job availability. Sometimes they go away on their own and are absent for months and years from their loved ones.

For the Basotho, they mostly leave their families behind in the care of other family members, mostly with the paternal side of the family given their patrilineal culture. As I imagine what life would be like in the Basotho culture, as a wife and mother I would be living with my in-laws under the authority of my father-in-law for all family decisions. I imagine that parenting anxiety exists, albeit, very different. Here’s how…

My concerns for my children would be challenged not only by the quality of their education, but also by their access to adequate healthcare; the family’s limited income to pay for daily necessities (until the next time my husband comes home with more money); the home garden suffering from drought; and the decision to send my daughter to school, but not my son because we need him to be a herdboy and tend to our livestock until we can sell them. Time to PANIC?

If I take this exercise further, I begin to imagine how can I convince my father-in-law to agree for my child to see a medical doctor instead of a traditional healer. And even if he agreed, how will I get my sick child to a medical facility when it’s a day’s walk away and there is no public transportation even if I had the money to pay?

If there is no work for me, should I trade sex for money or goods to provide for my family? What will we eat if the garden is dead? Will it rain soon? What will happen to my son if he doesn’t get the education he needs to become more than a herder or a laborer in the future?

Can anyone else relate?

Parenting anxieties are indiscriminate across the planet. We all have them at one time or another and for many different reasons. With each location my family and I live as expats, I learn to walk in many different shoes (or bare feet) of the people whom we share our community. With each day, I gain a greater understanding of the challenges that parents face around the world. And, these varying experiences are often on my mind.

Do you or others in your community relate to these two experiences living side by side? What are your current parenting anxieties?

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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USA: The Mirror

USA: The Mirror


I don’t ever remember not feeling this way. I just know from an early age that I felt things a little deeper than my other friends or family. My feelings could be hurt so easily, and when I was little, I remember crying for days after my Grandma would leave from a visit because I missed her so much.

As I got older and went into high school, I still felt things very deeply, but didn’t want others to know if something bothered me. I would cover it up in front of others and cry when I would get home. Which sounds like most teen age girls, I know. But, this was a little different. I would try to cover up my feelings of inadequacy and then my feelings turned to anxiety over whether other people would know how sensitive I really was.

Something would happen during the day and it would stay with me for days afterward. I would think about it over and over and then the anxiety led to feelings of such sadness and it seemed like a pit I could never get out of. My parents noticed that I was sad a lot, and they did talk to me. I know they cared, but it was like nothing could take away the anxiety and sadness. They thought I was just a teenage girl with overactive hormones.

In college, I studied hard and tried to be the “good girl”. I knew I wasn’t perfect, and I tried so hard to cover up my imperfections. By this point, I was really good at covering up my true feelings of how I felt inside. I worried obsessively about almost everything and doubted myself in the process. I could go for days without eating because my stomach was in knots. Exam time was the worst. I would go over and over in my head what I put for answers. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and that obsessive worrying led to such sadness that it was hard to even get out of bed some days.

I remember my first job out of college and coming home so exhausted that it was all I could do to wash my face and roll into bed at night.

I remember looking in the mirror and wondering what people would think of me if they saw me just like I was…red eyes, bags underneath them, my complexion broken out…would people really want to see the real me…or the “me” I show to them everyday.

I worried so much about everything being perfect in my classroom that some evenings, I would have to force myself to go home because I probably could have stayed all night to make everything just right. Right about that time, a new song came out on the radio by P!ink called “Don’t Let me Get Me”. I remember some of the lyrics to that song, “Don’t let me get me…I’m my own worst enemy.” I had never heard a song describe so perfectly how I had always been feeling inside.

Why was I so critical of myself? Why could I never cut myself a break?

At about the same time, I remember talking with my mother on the phone and pouring my heart out to her. She suggested that I should go and talk to someone and maybe I would feel better about things.

I did go ahead and talk with someone and discovered that I did suffer and probably had been suffering from anxiety and depression for most of my life. I remember feeling so ashamed of hearing her tell me that. Wasn’t that a sign of weakness if I couldn’t just will myself to be happy?

To make a VERY long story a bit shorter, I fought the idea that I had anything wrong with me for a few years until one day when my husband came home from work, I just cried in his arms for almost an hour and I could see in his eyes he didn’t know what to do. I knew it was time for me to really try to take control of this thing that seemed to be taking control of me. After coming to that point, I decided that it was time to face what I had been running away from for so long. With some help, I learned how I could manage my anxiety better which also helped with my depression.

When I stayed home with my children and stopped teaching, I poured my all into being a mother. I was and still am so very happy that I was able to become a mother to two amazing human beings. But, it is still a struggle with myself each and everyday to keep my nagging anxious thoughts at bay and not let them overwhelm my mind. Now that I know what it is, it is so much easier to face it.

Then, a few weeks ago, my seven year old daughter came home from school and we were talking about her day and she told me that she thought she hadn’t done well on a test at school. I asked her why and then she started to cry and told me it was because she wasn’t as smart as the other children in her class. I told her that of course she was just as smart or smarter than those other students and that she should know that.

She said, “No, I don’t. I always feel like I am not as good as them.”

OUCH!!!! That struck a chord with me. How had this happened? I was supposed to be the “good” mom. I had never once told my daughter that she wasn’t good enough. In fact, we had done just the opposite. My husband and I have actually always been both her and my son’s personal cheerleaders. Where did this come from? I gave her a big hug and told her not to worry about her test and that it would all be fine. She had her snack and went to change her clothes. As she walked away, I got tears in my eyes. I know part of growing up is having feelings of not being good enough, but I also know how it feels to carry that feeling with you your whole life. That was not what I wanted for my daughter.

That night after the kids went to bed, I told my husband what she had said and other things I had noticed that made me worry that she was feeling low about herself. He said, “Have you looked in the mirror? She is a little you.” My husband has always been my cheerleader, and can always see the good in me even if I don’t see it. And, I know he always tells me the truth even when I may not be ready to hear it.

Over the next few days, I thought about what he had said and how I had felt growing up. I was determined that I would do everything in my power to help my daughter to not feel that way. When I was young, no one really ever talked about feelings of depression or anxiety. It was just attributed to people being too soft or high spirited.

Today, even though it isn’t always openly talked about, we can now talk about anxiety and depression without as much stigma being attached to it. My hope is that my daughter and my son do not have to struggle for years because people are too embarrassed to talk about it. I hope that my children do not have to go through what I went through.

I know this post may be a little too personal for some, but I am hoping that we, as mothers, take notice of our children if we think they are exhibiting signs of increased anxiety or depression. It can start young or later on and maybe not all for some. But, if your child had a heart condition or broke a limb, you would do whatever you could to help your child. Talking about depression or any other mental illness needs to be the same thing.

My hope is that by writing about this, it will help keep the dialogue going that seems to be starting to rumble in recent years about mental health. People who are suffering from mental illness are truly suffering inside and they need to know that is okay to reach out to someone without feeling embarrassed or scared.

These days, I have a new favorite song by Mary Lambert entitled “Secrets”. It is such a liberating song (but don’t listen to it around your kids…it does have a little bad language). It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, I have become a friend to myself. I am seeing that it is okay to be kind and give myself a break. I am consciously choosing to be positive to myself and in the process, I am finding out I am really not so bad.

My hope is that my own positive outlook and self talk will emanate to my daughter. When she looks in her own mirror, I want her to see someone who is strong, beautiful and good. And, if we need to get a little extra help along the way, then so be it. Life is a journey and we are all a work in progress.

Have you or your children struggled with anxiety or depression? How have you handled it?

This is an original post to world Moms Blog by Meredith. you can check out her adventures as living as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.

The photo in this post has a creative commons attribute license.

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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