Parenting is hard work — perhaps the hardest work, no matter what. We are all trying to raise kind and decent human beings and we are doing our best. When you are raising a child with special needs, a medical condition or mental health condition, it can be especially challenging.
I am fortunate to be in a supportive neighborhood Facebook group with other local moms who have a child or children struggling with anxiety. I recently posed this question to the other moms: “What do you wish others knew about parenting an anxious child?”
And here is what they had to say:
1. “I hate it when people say ‘choose your battles.’ Many days, absolutely everything is a battle. Please just listen to my struggles as a parent without offering advice.”
2. “I’m not really sure how to put it into words, but I see one child and the world sees another. Everyone seems to think he is only serious and sober, but I see him playing with his brothers and there is a ton of joy on his face.”
3. “It’s a serious struggle to get my kid out the door to school in the mornings, she often cries and says she’s scared. Her teachers have such great things to say about her – she’s a hard worker, cooperative and a good friend. I’m so proud of her for this, but I hate feeling like her teachers don’t believe me because of her positive behaviors at school.”
4. “It’s exhausting and frustrating to have to advocate so incredibly hard for your child and to feel dismissed. A doctor who interacts with my child for 30 minutes once a year doesn’t know my child like I do and I just want to be believed, validated and offered support.”
5. “I’d like people to know how hard and draining it is to consistently be a calm parent who shows understanding and compassion. I know I should have the intention daily to control my response/reaction to my daughter’s behavior/attitude/words. But it’s really hard. And some days I just lose it on her which makes me feel like an awful parent.”
6. “One minute I want to answer ‘I feel like a shitty parent.’ The next minute I want to answer ‘I wish everyone knew it’s not my fault.’ The next I want to answer, ‘I feel like it’s all my fault.’ The next I want to answer, ‘I feel closer to my child because I have to work my hardest to figure him out.’ So, maybe parenting an anxious kid is like a roller coaster?”
7. “I constantly worry I’m enabling and then when I’m trying to challenge him to face his fears, I worry that I’m pushing too hard.”
8. “I go to bed almost every night feeling like a failure.”
9. “Please stop judging. There is so much judgment and a dramatic lack of kindness and empathy, especially as kids get older. Adults tend to lose patience and show frustration on their faces. When you ask my child a question, he is thinking of his answer — which is often complex and interesting — and trying to work up the courage to respond to you. When you sigh and become exasperated after about four seconds, just before he was going to talk, he sees and internalizes it, making him more anxious. He is trying. Won’t you?”
10.“Something we have to work on is understanding other people’s expectations/expected behavior and what people think of unexpected behavior. So, we practice expected behaviors. Part of the delay in time for him to respond is remembering the expected behavior, working up the courage to do it and then doing it. It is unbelievably frustrating when adults don’t allow time for the expected behavior to come through.”
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