Anxiety can be overwhelming. It can take over your thoughts and render you incapable of moving forward. I suffer from it on occasion and when I do I try to breathe and get more centered. But how do we help children deal with this? I am away for a couple of days with my husband and I really had to think long and hard about this.
My son is an anxious child. I try to help him through his daily life with kind words and parental guidance as best I can. Now I am lounging by the pool in Florida, enjoying the last day of a short junket with my husband thinking about my little boy at home and feeling extremely guilty for not having better prepared him for dealing with life.
Most of his anxiety comes from a fear that something else bad will happen to me and that he will be left alone with my husband and his sister without his mother to guide him through the world. This is a real fear and as resilient as children are, he has difficulty with this thought. Sometimes it just overwhelms him.
We went to a party on Sunday night which was not only fun but extremely professional. We reconnected with my husband’s former colleagues and reminded ourselves that he is, in fact, one of the leading experts in brain genetics and pathology, at home here in the world of academia. It was a wonderful night, until we called home.
“How are things?” I asked my almost seventy year old mother. “Well….” Enough said. Clearly things were deteriorating. Then Luke got on the phone. His tears would not stop and his crying was heart wrenching. You know the kind of crying I am talking about, the kind of crying that forces you to catch your breath and gasp for air. I felt so bad for leaving my boy and also felt helpless because I was so far away.
Fortunately, my husband got on the phone and “talked him through” his moment of sadness in a very psychiatric way. “Mommy will be home tomorrow. Just take a deep breath and try to think of something fun that you will be doing this week.” It seemed to work, there seemed to be an audible sigh from the bedroom at home.
The next morning he didn't get up for school on time and when I called for the fourth time at 9:30 he finally talked to me. "Mommy, is that you?" He questioned, knowing full well that it was me on the line. "Luke, you have to get up and go to school." I commanded, hoping that my authority stretched across the phone line. "Who is this?" He continued to prod. Finally, I suggested that he give my mother the phone and he surrendered.
"Mom," I said. "Just take him in when he is ready." She did and he came home from school a renewed and more independent person. I called again at the end of the school day. "How was your day, Luke?" I asked, waiting patiently to hear the response. "It was good." Came the response. I was in safe territory once again.
When I recounted this last conversation to my husband he laughed and said, "Can you stay one more day?" I glared at him with piercing eyes. "One more day," I said. "Are you out of your mind?" I began to pack my bag to go back home.