My Son Has An Anxiety Disorder

dealing with anxiety disorder
Image via Amanda Rodriguez

My youngest son is 6 years old.

He is smart and funny and fast. Crazy, super, unbelievably fast.

He is a great friend and an awesome brother. He is a dedicated student, a super athlete, and he's crazy good at Minecraft.

He collects cards. All different kinds of cards. And he would SO be Lord Business in The Lego Movie (he has major issues with people breaking his Legos).

He likes to read, play video games, watch football (go Niners), sing, play Monopoly, build puzzles, ride his scooter, and host after-dinner dance parties for his family and friends.

He's brave, he's confident, he's compassionate, and he's fun.

He hosted two fundraisers for hungry kids this year. Last year, he worked all summer at his lemonade stand to buy a tree he feels was unjustifiably cut down.

He is so many things that I wish I could be.

He's also the guy who can't go to sleep at night without marking off the day on his calendar. He doesn't like riding in other people's cars. And, in the evening, his motor tic is so bad that he can't drink from a cup without a straw unless he wants his beverage splashed up his nose and all over his face.

Almost two years ago, he was diagnosed with OCD and an anxiety disorder that was triggered by a serious bout of strep throat. (You can read about our experience here: PANDAS diagnoses.)

It changed him. It changed us.

This is how we make it better.

4 Ways to Help Kids Deal with Anxiety

mother talking to child
Image via iStock

Don't Ignore It.

OCD and anxiety disorders are medical conditions. Ignoring them and hoping that they go away is not going to allow you or your child learn to deal with the symptoms or improve your quality of life. I know it's hard to accept that your child can't do some of the things that other kids, maybe even he, used to be able to do.

It took me months to stop asking the doctor when my son would get better and go back to how he used to be. I'd wake up every day hoping that everything had “cleared up” and “gotten back to normal.” But it wasn't until I accepted that this was normal now that everything instantly became more clear.

We found the help we needed, and we began to help him (and the entire family) learn to cope with his disorders.

quiet-kids-role-play
Image via Flickr/ kindercapes

Let Them Do Their Thing.

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Not all children with anxiety also have OCD, but many of them still have certain requirements that must be met that allow them to feel less anxious about things.

For us, there are rituals — things my son must do in order to face the day without incident. Doesn't matter if we're late for the bus. Doesn't matter if Mommy is sick. Doesn't matter if we're at Disney. They must be done, and if we want him to be able to have a functioning rest of the day, we support that.

Asian mother and son hugging and smiling.
Image via iStock

Plan Ahead.

We require extra time to do basically every task. He can't be rushed, he needs his questions answered, and he has to mark the day and fix his stuffed animals and turn on his diffuser and arrange his covers before he can go to sleep. Otherwise, bad things will happen.

OK, so they're not that terrible, but he could've been asleep hours ago if I would've just let him do all of the things first. Make meeting their needs a part of your routine. Add them to the schedule and allot time for them so you're not rushing-angry-yelling-sweaty-Mom. That would make anyone anxious.

blame-the-kids-9
Image via Sara McTigue

Make Others Understand.

I am endlessly annoyed by the people in our lives who accuse him of having a behavioral issue and me of a parenting defect. Untrue. Check the blog title, people. I am awesome.

Also, OCD is not something you pretend to have when you're 4. You don't just fake a panic attack when you're in preschool. And when this all started, he was miserable. He couldn't sleep. He was hallucinating. He was afraid and sad. He was put through countless tests and medical procedures to rule out all sorts of illnesses. Few of them were pleasant, most of them downright hurt. And there is a lot of shame and embarrassment involved in a disorder such as this.

We are still working through a lot of that with him (he has an obvious tic that he tries to hide so no one will make fun of him), and believe me, if he could go all day without worrying about it, he would do that in a heartbeat. He doesn't want to feel this way, and he's not faking. 

{ MORE: 4 Mindfulness Strategies to Try at Home }

Make sure people in your life know that and believe it or at least have the good sense to pretend to when they're around you. Your child needs support and understanding, not judgment and shame.

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My Son Has An Anxiety Disorder

Amanda has been wowing the Internet since 2008 when she launched her pretty-much-useless guide for parents, parenting BY dummies. As it turns out, her parenting advice is not generally useful for more than a good laugh, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need! Amanda spends her offline time (which is embarrassingly limited) running a photography business, working as a social media director for a local magazine, writing freelance articles about stuff she loves, wrangling her 3 little Dudes ... More

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