Most nights, I would stay awake crying. I was scared of everything. My heart raced, my hands shook and my mind went wild.
All of my obnoxious fears as a child involved my death in some way. I was sure my heart wasn’t beating properly, that I couldn’t breathe, or that someone would break into our house and murder me. Every noise made me jump and I often snuck into the kitchen to steal a knife I could sleep with. Throw in any type of bad weather and the list would grow into getting sucked up in a tornado or being struck by lightning.
As a child you are distracted from your fears more easily than an adult. Watching a movie with your family or playing a new game can divert your attention for some time. But when night falls and you are put into your room alone with nothing but silence, they will sneak up on you. So every night, the fears I was able to push away and attempt to ignore all day long came creeping up.
My son is a lot like me in this way. His mind wanders and he asks questions a lot like, “What happens if someone breaks in?” or “Will you ever die?” more often than he should. He gets really consumed by these thoughts and tells me often that he can’t get the bad thoughts out of his head. When night falls he can’t stand to be alone and won’t go to sleep unless I’m right next to him. I get it.
When I was a kid I remember how annoyed everyone was. How frustrating it was that I crept into my dad’s room every night. How ridiculous they thought I had behaved when I was left with a babysitter. I remember them laughing at me, “Ok everyone, let’s try not to hyperventilate tonight.. ha ha.”
I probably needed a lot of things back then; a good psychologist, intensive therapy… But what I needed most of all was the one thing I know I can always give my son. I needed to be believed.
I needed them to believe that I wasn’t just playing a game for attention or trying to push everyone’s buttons. That there was really something going on inside of my brain that wouldn’t let me just try harder, or be braver. I couldn’t “grow up” or “get over it”. I couldn’t make it go away the same way I couldn’t make my broken wrist go away when I crashed my bicycle.
And if there is anything I want parents to understand when it comes to anxiety it’s that. It can be so hard to understand something you’ve never felt. Which is the exact reason my family’s response wasn’t what I needed – they assumed I was just a kid with a little bedtime fear I would grow out of. (By the way, I never did.) They had no idea it was so much more than that. They just didn’t know.
So while I will of course recommend professional help for excessive anxiety, that isn’t my point here today. It’s to remind you to believe your kids and trust them. If they say they can’t get the bad thoughts out of their head, they probably can’t.
They need you on their side, not fighting against them. Their fear is already doing that.
Check out this amazing new course called Crush Anxiety that will give you the skills to conquer your children’s anxiety from child therapist Natasha Daniels. If your kiddo is struggling with anxiety this course is crucial.
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