by Risa Green
A few months ago I wrote about how my six year-old son suffers from anxiety, and I figured that it’s about time for an update. Since I first realized that his nightly “what if?” questions were not just a sneaky trick designed to get me to stay in his room longer, and that his total meltdowns at the mere mention of going somewhere new were not actually masterminded to get us to stay home so that he could have more Lego time, my relationship with him has changed completely. I feel like I really and truly understand my son, and he is so obviously relieved to be understood.
For the past few months, he’s been going to a “playgroup” where he and some other kids with anxiety talk about their feelings and how to manage them, and while he’s still plenty anxious, he’s getting better and better at dealing with it. We’ve learned that it helps him to rate his nervousness on a scale of one to five, and we’ve learned that when he doesn’t have all of the information he needs to feel comfortable about going somewhere new, it helps to play a game where we try to guess what it’s going to be like. We’ve also learned that when he starts feeling nervous about a situation, it helps to look on the bright side and think about how it might be fun, instead of focusing on how it might be scary or bad. That old Monty Python song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, has now become the official theme song of our family.
He still gets nervous for school every single day. We have the daily schedule tacked up on his wall next to his bed, and every night he asks me to read it to him about five times, and then in the morning when he wakes up he asks me to read it to him again. It’s not that he doesn’t remember. It’s just that hearing it over and over again seems to relax him. He’s been playing flag football this fall, too, and he still gets nervous before every practice, and before every game. The difference now, though, is that he’s gotten really good at deconstructing his feelings, so when he acts irrationally, he knows exactly what’s causing him to be that way.