Childhood Anxiety and How to Help
Whether it's the parent or the student, anxiety is one of the leading reasons parents pull their kids from public school to homeschool them. Anxiety ranges from mild or circumstantial to severe and debilitating. So what do you do when you pull your child from public school but the anxiety is still there?
Where's the anxiety coming from?
First, take a deep breath and know that healing can happen. For some it will be transformation while for others it will be functional but doing something to help your child will make a positive impact on their struggle.
Maybe you know exactly what triggers your child's anxiety so you just need to know how to deal with it but for those of you who don't, this will be a time of reflection and a season of observation. Either way, this would be a great time to journal or create a Google doc to document everything you can remember about your child's anxiety.
When was the first time you remember her showing anxiety? What was going on? Where there certain people around? Did something specific happen? If your child is old enough, ask them about what they remember about the first time. Think about and write down details about times since then, with as many details as you can about the environment, life events going on at the time, even food that was being eaten (if you can remember). See if there are any consistent patterns, people, environments. Those are often the triggers for anxiety attacks.
Sometimes things just build up and when anxiety hits it doesn't seem like there was anything going on that should have been stressful enough to create such intense feelings so think about the days, weeks or hours leading up to it.
If you are able to figure out what is triggering anxiety for your child you will be able to do more to deflect the stress by limiting exposure to those environments. We can't always figure this out and we can't always protect our kids from triggers so for the times we can't we have to give our kids tools to heal and manage.
Tools to Manage Anxiety
You have to give kids time to heal, to process, to figure out how to understand and manage whatever it is that is overwhelming their hearts and minds. I know it's easy to think that kids must immediately start "working on school" but it can wait. Learn about DeSchooling (I touch on it in this Webinar).
If you're still worried about waiting then start work then start slow and start with something they are interested in. You do not and should not try to recreate public school at home with the load of subjects and busy work that so many of us have had engrained in our mind is 'proper education'. It's not. Education is when someone actually learns something. Forcing information on someone who is not connected to that information or not capable of focusing on it because of stress or anxiety is not being educated anyway. (Watch the Webinar.)
When you do start introducing work and assignments, be flexible. We used to wear rubber bands on our wrists that said, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken". Think about your own job or certain life situations that become frustrating or overwhelming. It's usually during times that you're stuck in a rigid situation where your feelings or emotions are not being considered and you're having to do something a certain way because someone else feels like that's the best way. Maybe it's not for you.
Same thing for our kids. We are constantly telling them what is best for them with their learning but what if they just need a little more time or space or ability to clear their minds by listening to music while they work or taking tons of breaks between assignments. It's okay to be flexible.
Do you understand your child? Does he understand himself? I'm a HUGE fan of knowing your child's personality, learning style and love language and knowing about passion based learning. (It's in the Webinar.) It's very difficult to choose the right home education method or pick the right curriculum if you don't really understand how he learns, what makes him feel understood, what motivates him (this is a huge hurdle for most) and what he is passionate about so you can find or create learning opportunities that connect with who he is and what he's interested in.
Find a way she feels safe communicating how she feels. Typically in the middle of an anxiety attack isn't the time to start asking question but have a code word or way for her to just say, "Hey, I'm struggling right now". Then have a plan for things she can do that help her calm herself down. Maybe it's a song... or a whole playlist that has inspirational, encouraging music that helps get her mind on that. Maybe it's a coloring book or journal, taking a walk, playing a game..... it doesn't matter what as long as there is a plan to DO SOMETHING to change the mood and help her figure out how to bring herself down and out of the situation.
Therapy, medicine and diet
Anxiety that is persistent and debilitating, even after removing a child from a triggering environment may require something more.
There is a lot of emerging information on how much the food we eat is affecting who we are in life. I am working so hard on changing my family's diet. It's one of the hardest things because convenience is easy but it's the one thing I know I have to do, especially with my own recent Lyme diagnosis. I have read so many stories on how getting rid of processed foods, gluten, foods with dyes and eating lots more plant based meals is radically changing bodies and minds. It's definitely worth looking in to because it's way too much for me to cover here. Besides, I haven't figure out how to do it yet myself so I'm not going to try to give you advice I'm not taking myself! :)
I absolutely believe if you have access to therapy that you should do it. I've recently found out that a lot of insurances actually cover things like art/horse/water/etc. therapy! I didn't even know that until recently. Finding the right therapist to match your child is key. Try to talk to local families at churches or in FB groups on therapists and get their views and feedback or look into the more relaxed art/horse/water/etc. type therapies and try them. If they don't work they don't work but I'm not sure where I've ever heard a story where they made anyone worse.
Medications are a tough subject. You will know when or if you need it and you will have to have peace about it or it will create stress and anxiety in you.
You aren't alone and you don't have to try to deal alone. Don't forget that you deserve as much energy, love and support as you are giving your child. It's exhausting and can feel overwhelming. You are fighting so hard to help your child deal with those types of emotions so don't forget to allow yourself the time to get your own tools in place and permission to use them when you need them.
You can do this. You are a CHAMPION for your life and for your child's education!!!
I'm a Gypsy soul, with an Entrepreneurial spirit and compassionate heart. I believe passionate people inspire people and that we all should be chasing our passions in life. I help others do that through helping others figure out how to LIVE life, LOVE more and LEARN as they GO explore.
Having taught ASL and Entrepreneurship both in the classroom and online to high school students for the past 12 years, I have a heart of teenagers and helping them succeed.
I also love encouraging closet gypsy souls who are afraid to just chase their dreams and be true to the real person they are who's been locked away inside because of fear.
I can't help but help!