You just drove across town to go to shopping with your kid, only to arrive and have them say they’re sick when you know darn well it’s just a dose of anxiety attacks or anxious feelings that they’re experiencing. You grab their arm and drag them back to the car in complete frustration, muttering under your breath, “Are you kidding me?!”
We’ve all been there. And unfortunately, all the children suffering from a panic disorder have also been there.
While I am no parenting expert, I know from my personal experience that had my parents not reacted negatively towards me having an anxiety attack, I don’t think my disorder would have progressively gotten worse as the years went by. That’s also not to mention that my parents were just as equally understanding as they were frustrated at times. But it only takes a couple of times of negativity for a child to start feeling ashamed and even more anxious about their anxiety attacks.
Now, before I go any further, I have to give it up to all the parents that do find themselves in a fit of frustration when your kid is experiencing a panic disorder. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it is to struggle with a child experiencing anxiety, while also trying to teach them that what they are feeling are just that – feelings. I think every parent does the best that they can do with what they know. So, I wanted to share my experiences with you, as I truly believe they can make a difference for parents and children dealing with a panic disorder.
I can recall plenty of times where I had anxiety attacks or felt anxious feelings that I couldn’t quite explain at the age that I was, and felt as if I was “punished” as a result.
“I feel sick,” was a sentence that often came out of my mouth.
After years of it, this very same sentence was often responded with a huff and a puff, an eye roll, a grab of my arm and a drag back to the car where I continued to be, what I felt, scolded. I felt like I was in trouble for “feeling sick”, as I knew no different. I was told it was just anxiety, but I didn’t understand the complexity of the condition. So, I feared feeling sick, which caused me to feel sick more often.
What else is a parent to do, right? You don’t want your child to suffer from anxiety attacks, but it is incredibly frustrating and overwhelming for you, as a parent, to allow them to live in fear. What may surprise you is that it is even more so frustrating, overwhelming and confusing for your child. Take this into consideration next time you are faced with a child and anxiety.
If I were to rewind time, I would want my parents to take me to a comfortable place when I was experiencing panic attacks, whether it’s in the car or to the bathroom in a restaurant. I would want them to kneel down to my level, and help me process the feelings that I was having. I would want them to help me breathe and relax; to help me overcome this sensation that I was simply too young to understand.
When you scold your child for having an anxiety attack or get frustrated or mad because of it, you are basically adding on an extra dose of panic for them. You’re giving them even more of a reason to fear the feelings that ultimately got them in trouble in the first place. You’re giving them more reason to be anxious; you’re creating that anxiety.
Next time you want to freak out or are frustrated as a parent dealing with children having anxiety attacks, consider these two options:
- Show your disappointment and make their anxiety worse.
2. Take a breather, and support your child to help them overcome their panic disorder.
The second option is definitely the better one when learning how to deal with anxiety attacks. This doesn’t mean that you should allow your child to escape the situation that is causing them to panic, but you can definitely take a couple of moments to show them support and to help them through it before re-entering the situation.