I discovered my oldest daughter in a ball crying hysterically last night at bedtime. She whimpered, “mama.” It was about twenty minutes after I put her to bed, so I found it odd for her to be awake since bedtime went smoothly. I entered her room and she was grasping onto her favorite lovey toy for dear life. “I have nightmares, mama. I don’t know who I am, what I am, what life is all about, what is heaven, where is heaven, what do we do in heaven and can I come back???!!!” Clearly distraught, She kept pushing her tears back from her eyes searching for an answer that I could not give her. I respond spontaneously by saying, “you have nothing to worry about,” instead of giving her a true answer. I paused and started again.
“Sweetie, Heaven is what you want it to be,. There is no pain and all that you love will be with you.”
“Will you be with me?” she tearfully asked.
“I will always be with you,” I respond now tearing up myself. “You are a healthy and happy little girl and you have a wonderful life that you are living. Focus on that.”
I embraced her, now panic stricken myself because this is my greatest fear as well. I feel like doing the same thing to anyone who will listen because I have those same questions myself. So, how do I parent successfully when the single most scary thing to me is now being asked by my child? I believe the answer is that the only way that these instances can be resolved successfully is by calming our own fears before calming theirs.
Children sense immediately whether they should fear something by the reaction of their parents. I used to close the living room curtains when there was a thunderstorm so that my child wouldn’t see the lightning. Instead, the fear of not knowing, was scary in itself. I thought by completely avoiding the issue, (putting a bandaid on it if you will) than there would be no fear and no questions. I realized that this was not a useful solution to calming my child and instead,. On this link: http://www.familyanatomy.com/2009/06/08/parents-with-anxiety-pass-it-on-to-their-kids-stopping-the-cycle/, it states, “parents with anxiety disorders are more likely to teach their kids to avoid anxiety provoking situations thereby increasing their liklihood of developing a disorder.” So in my doing of closing the curtains, I have increased her fear and anxiety towards thunderstorms.
As a parent with anxiety, I am learning that I need to also control the way I behave in situations that create anxiety provoking feelings. If I am calm, they are calm. If I react in hysteria, they will act in hysteria.
After the separation with my daughters’ father, I never expected, nor gave thought to the fact that he could possibly stop being involved in their lives. When he did just that, I panicked. I knew what this could possibly mean, but they didn’t know at 3 and 1. But they asked me things…They asked me every week where he was. They asked me when they could see him next. They asked me if they would ever see him again. I had no answers to these questions just as I didn’t when my daughter asked about heaven. I was in complete turmoil.
After some conversation with my husband, he said a startling and very real statement, “If you make it a big deal, then it becomes a big deal.” I began to carry that into every aspect of my life. When I thought my daughters were ruined for life since they would possibly have no father, my two year old said, “So daddy is like a monster, he exists, but not really,” It put it in perspective. I was creating the disaster when in actuality it was as simple as that.
When my daughter said, “Mommy, I’m scared of thunderstorms, ” and I closed the curtains, I showed her that she was absolutely right–these thunderstorms are scary. IIf I would have said, “look outside and see how awesome that lightning looks!”, I probably would have had a response of excitement, rather than fear. In, http://www.anxietybc.com/parent/start.php, it discusses that facing their fear decreases his/her fears. “Starting with the situations that cause the least anxiety, encourage your child to repeatedly enter the situation and remain there until your child notices his or her anxiety start to come down.”
Instead of searching for a therapist because your child is overly sensitive to situational phobias, look inward first. Open up the curtains and live your life so you teach them to live theirs. And most importantly, STOP making things a big deal when they are not because before you know it, your child will also keel over in the middle of the road like they’ve been shot beause of a small scrape on his/her knee, instead of just simply saying, “MOM! I need a bandaid!”:….and in this circumstance…I approve 🙂
Be True, be you.