When you're a parent, everyone is a critic and has advice, whether you ask for it or want to hear it. When your child has different needs and abilities, the advice never stops. From diets and drugs to insults and observations, there are so many things parents of really anxious kids are tired of hearing.
Two of my kids have anxiety. I think all kids do to a certain extent, but when anxiety starts to interfere with their sleep, schoolwork, and social lives, it's time to get some professional help. Fortunately, researchers and health care providers are examining why and how some kids experience anxiety, including; trauma, mental illness, attention deficit disorders, and more. As they discover answers, they have also learned evidence-based ways to help anxious children cope, function, and thrive in a world that doesn't always take kids' fears and worries seriously.
My kids aren't broken, they're just different. It's not my fault (or their fault) that they have anxiety, and they can't just "snap out of it." Please stop telling me what I should do or what I am doing wrong. Instead, trust me when I say, "I've got this," and stop saying the following. Parents of really anxious kids are tired of hearing it.
"What's Wrong With Them?"
There's nothing wrong with her. She has an anxiety disorder. Sometimes things are hard for her that are easier for others. Sometimes she does unexpected things, and sometimes she gets anxious or scared.
That's not "wrong." It's different.
"Can You Fix Them?"
She's. Not. Broken. There's nothing wrong with my kid. Having anxiety (or any mental illness or behavioral condition) doesn't make her broken. It's who she is. I certainly try to help her cope, calm down, and function through situations that likely feel impossible to her, but I don't expect her to be your version of normal in an attempt to make you feel better.
"There's Nothing To Be Afraid Of"
Keep telling yourself that. There's tons of things we should be afraid of. An anxious child needs someone to comfort and cheer him or her on through the hard stuff, help them stay or get calm, and hold their hand along the way. They certainly doesn't need someone to invalidate or mock their real fears, no matter how irrational they seem to someone else.
"Have You Tried...?"
I don't want to hear about gluten free diets, eliminating red dye, medications, or relaxation techniques. Unless I ask, I don't want to hear your thoughts. I rely on her doctor and therapist for treatments, based in science and customized to her. Leave this up to her parents and professionals.
"There's No Way I Would Let My Kid Do That"
Ha. I wish it were that easy. I don't care if you didn't parent your kids that way, or "this wouldn't fly when you were a kid." What do you want me to do? Punish my daughter when she gets anxious or scared? Condition her to put on a smile and do things that are traumatizing? That's abusive. No way.
Besides, we know so much more now about anxiety than we did 20 years ago. I am going to opt for the latest information and strategies, not outdated ideas. Thank you very much.
"It's Your Fault"
My daughter's anxiety doesn't come from the way I parent her. Now, it may stem from my previous marriage or childhood experiences, but it's certainly not because I don't spank her or because I have an anxiety disorder myself. It's no one's fault, and she deserves parents who love her with her anxiety, and not in spite of it.
"It's Just Nerves"
What does that even mean? Why are you diminishing her feelings?
I refuse to diminish my daughter's anxiety. I will occasionally ask her to step outside of her comfort zone, but I know her feelings are real. That's OK.
"Your Kid Shouldn't Be Anxious About That"
How do you know? Everyone's fears are different. Sometimes they seem rational and other times they may seem completely irrational. That's how fear works.
How would you feel if I suggested that you simply not be afraid of your worst nightmare? For you it might be clowns, spiders or the alt-right. For her, it's timed math exercises, being alone and spelling tests. They all are valid and real.
"Your Kid Could Do It If They Just Tried Harder"
As someone with an anxiety disorder and who has had many panic attacks about seemingly benign things, please just don't with your perception of the level of effort my child is making to fit in and overcome her anxiety. You literally have no idea. She's not lazy. She's anxious. There's a difference. Your comments and judgments are not helpful at all.
"You Should Force Your Kid To Face Their Fears"
Do you want to know where you can shove this idea? Probably not. I will not force my anxious daughter to do something potentially traumatizing to prove a point. Her anxiety is real. It may seem misdirected or silly, but her feelings and fears are real. Her panic attacks and tears are real, too.