It’s the hardest job in the world. There’s no interview to see if you have the right skills for it, no fail-proof training to give them to you if you don’t. The original product is something you’ve never dealt with before and it arrives with dozens of accessories but no instruction manual.
In the early days, it emits all sorts of alarms, all of which relate to different operational issues but which, to your spectacularly untrained ear, sound exactly the same.
Through trial and error, you learn how to fix these problems. But no sooner do you resolve one than another, completely new problem arises for you to work out. And pretty soon you’re wondering if you’re worthy or capable of doing the job at all.
To make matters worse, everywhere you turn there seem to be magazine articles and blogs and TV shows about people who seems to know how to do your job better than you are doing it. Possibly better than you can ever do it. Which is at once irritating and also scary; because you also know that this is a job you can never, ever leave. There are no weekends, no holidays, no breaks. It’s yours, 24/7, 365 days a year.
It’s called parenting. And it’s hard work.
When it all comes down to it, we just want our children to be healthy and happy. They are the benchmarks by which we measure our performance in this most demanding of jobs. If we do well – and amazingly, most of us do – our children grow and develop into lovely, kind, understanding, intelligent and, eventually, independent young adults.
But how do we get to that point? It’s difficult enough with one child. But every child is different, so when we have a second, or a third or more, we find the fixes, rules, systems and approaches we used with our firstborn don’t necessarily work with the others.
Some general rules will work – things like bedtime and rules at the dinner table, for example – but managing multiple children requires adaptability and a flexibility of approach that’s not always easy when we’re also trying to find space for our own busy lives.
Parenting of an anxious child is harder still. Some children are naturally more anxious than others. While some degree of childhood anxiety and fear is perfectly normal, some children have excessive worries which can severely disrupt their daily lives.
Each child will show anxiety in different ways – some will internalise it and may say “Mummy, I feel sick” or “Mummy, I’ve got a tummy ache”. Others show outward signs of anxiety by going into meltdown – crying and screaming etc.
Toddlers may fear loud noises, being separated from a parent or sudden movements, while pre-schoolers have different fears, such as fear of the dark, noises at night, people in costume or certain animals.
Older children have different anxieties again: lightning and thunderstorms, doctors and hospitals, bees and wasps, being home alone and fear of rejection
Knowing when to intervene can really be a great help to your child. So, when do we need to worry?
A child with general anxiety may exhibit excessive worry about normal everyday things, restlessness, poor concentration that affects schoolwork, regular tummy aches, sleep issues, irritability, aches and pains in muscles or tiredness.
A child with separation anxiety may refuse to go to school, have frequent tantrums, nightmares, headaches or tummy aches.
Phobias are another form of anxiety and need to be treated promptly. The most common ones are around animals (usually dogs), spiders, dentist and doctors, clowns, balloons, water, buttons and coins!
Teenagers and young adults tend to suffer more with social anxiety. They avoid answering questions in class for fear of looking stupid if they get it wrong and they hesitate to join in conversations and avoid meeting new people or making new friends. If it gets very severe they may even take to their room and become agoraphobic.
I was seeing so many children at my clinics for anxiety that I created a four-session programme to teach them how to regulate and manage their emotions and feelings, helping them cope with frustration, teaching them self- esteem and how to improve it, and to help them with their assertiveness skills.
Most mums reported that their child improved markedly after only the first session and that teachers had commented on improvement at school, too.
And although anxiety will usually show up at various points during childhood, a child who knows how to cope with it will be so much better prepared to work through it and return to a calmer state.
Happy children aren’t simply kids who are permanently free from anxiety and worries – they are children who are confident in their ability to work through certain anxiety producing situations and find their own way through it!
You can find more information about our treatments for children’s anxiety here. If you want to have an informal chat about your child’s condition, you can also telephone us on 07766 515272