Thursday, 17 May 2012

Childhood Anxiety

Andy and his best friend Teddy. 
Andy is 3.5, and scientifically going through that disequilibrium phase where the child is trying to make sense of the world but isn't being successful. He's a sensitive child, he's a thinker, and a worrier and this worries me.

Anxiety in adults is so common. Wanting to be in control, and then getting anxiety because of this, is something I have a problem with and continue to work on. However, when does normal kid behaviour stop being normal, and cross over into the horror that is anxiety? I have a feeling Andy might have crossed that line.

It mostly revolves around visitors and new people. I know some kids are shy, and some kids go though a phase that they don't like strangers but this is insane a bit of a concern.

If you've experienced this with Andy you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, imagine this.

You've popped over for a visit, no doubt to see the twins and after saying hello to me, you hear a screech "I don't like that person" "GO AWAY" "I hate them" "I don't want them at my house" "I just want it to be me and Joey to play" coming from somewhere hidden (like under the table, in the laundry or under the bed). This doesn't cease for half an hour. Yes, by that time you'll want to go home.

I've tried everything. Letting him know about the visitors coming, not letting him know, talking to him lovingly, putting him in the naughty quiet corner, ignoring the behaviour (thinking that it is attention seeking)...

Sometimes, Andy can be talked around. Then you and him will be bffs. Other times, he will quieten down, but wont be persuaded into the same room as you making for a very awkward visit.

He was like this before the twins came along, but because we didn't get many visitors, it wasn't a bother. Now, the stream of people popping in is more, his behaviour is quite worrying.

Two of my cousins who are around 10yo are seeing councillors for anxiety. Naturally, I have spoken to my Aunts about their progress and suggestions on ways to eliminate the anxiety.

One suggested to try to help him change his mind set. It's easy for Andy (like my cousin) to slip into the negative thought process. That he doesn't like something before even trying it (dinner, going down the big slide, Kindy, a new routine). We've now started a dialogue with Andy about "smiley" thoughts and "cranky" thoughts, or positive thinking and negative thinking. Already there is a difference in his behaviour and temperament.

While looking into the mirror, I talk to Andy about fun things (playing pretends, going to the shops, cuddles, reading books in bed, hot chocolate) and we look at our faces. Smiling and happy. Relaxed and calm. Then we talk about cranky things (smacking Joey, biting, not being allowed to play, naughty corner) and then talk about the faces we were making.

When Andy was in a spiral of hating on the world, I asked him if he thought his face was smiley or cranky and he got it. We then sat down and I was tempted to break into a rendition of Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, but resisted and spoke about a positive way to think about the situation. His attitude didn't change instantly and took a bit of persuading, but it took only about 5mins as opposed to 30mins.

Any other advice or suggestions stories or comments? Let me know.

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