Halfway through fourth grade, my parents moved us from our first house in the city to "their dream home in the country." Guess who had to leave the only home, school, and best friend she'd ever known?
The move prompted me (and my parents) to have to deal with months of increasing anxiety...
Initially I was okay with the new school. Then, for whatever reason, right after my parents took us to Florida over Easter break, it was a different story. My mom would practically have to push me onto the bus each morning, tears streaming down my cheeks and my brothers following behind me, wondering what the heck my problem was.
It wasn't long before I upped the ante by carrying on at school as well. I would complain to the teacher of a stomachache on occasion and she would send me to the nurse (who would let me hang out in her office for a while). Apparently that worked well enough for me to step up the game to daily visits to the nurse. Some of those days I was even convincing enough to get my mom called and to go home.
Then my mom caught on to my game.
She would bargain with me to go to school by coming at lunch to pick me up and bring me back (I think she knew I had no friends on the playground and she felt bad for me). All this really did was force her to go through my hysterics TWICE a day.
My going home for lunch gig ended pretty quickly because of the emotional toll it took on both of us.
About the same time though, my teacher began to distrust me, and she would send an escort along with me if I asked to go to the bathroom. (Because of course I had gone to the nurse instead of the restroom on a number of occasions...you can imagine the impact this was making on anyone who might have wanted to become a friend of mine).
It was just before the end of the school year when I got the brilliant idea to walk off the playground at recess and head home. We lived several miles from my elementary school (which was located next to a major highway), and the only way I knew to get home was via my school bus route. I knew it would take me a long time to walk and that there were several back country roads, winding and narrow, with little traffic.
[Can you even imagine my mothers complete despair when she got the call from school that I'd disappeared during the lunch hour? Her immediate thought was that I had been kidnapped and was miles away already...]
It was pretty easy to just disappear off of the playground...and although I could go on and on with this story, I will end it here by saying I got in VERY BIG trouble for walking off the playground during recess. Both at school and at home (four words...spanking of a lifetime.)
Fast forward thirty-five years...
Mia has suddenly become very preoccupied with tummy aches. Which sort of had me stumped. For we haven't moved (in at least ten months now, and she is still attending the same school with the same friends she has had since kindergarten anyways).
Mia was willing to talk with me about it, and although I reassured her often she would be okay, I could tell she continued to be distressed many mornings.
We have received more than a few phone calls from elementary school's Nurse Annette in the past several weeks....so often in fact, I decided to introduce myself to her when I was at school the other day. (Just so she could put a face with a name...)
I THINK Mia's anxiety centers around the fact that about a year ago she became ill at school (which is my really nice way of saying she puked her guts out all over the hallway after lunch one afternoon). Since she rarely gets sick, she had no idea what was happening to her. I am sure Mia was embarrassed. But, no harm no foul, she was back at school forty-eight hours later without much more thought about it.
Until a few weeks ago when her brother happened to have a similar incident while we were at church (no worries, I got him outside before it happened...thank you God!), which appeared to coincide with the escalation of these "tummy aches".
As I said, I have discussed this with her many times, about how the likelihood of her getting sick at school again is minimal, blah, blah, blah. But, as you know, when a child is anxious about something a parent's logic goes in one ear and out the other.
So, I did what I always do when I have a problem I don't know how to handle.
I went to Barnes & Noble.
And, sure enough after a few minutes of looking, I found a book that has helped me (a) explain to Mia what worries and anxieties are and (b) how to talk about them and work through them.
I thought I would share the name of the book in case maybe you have a little worry wart running around under your roof as well:
What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, is an easy-to-read, awesome workbook (for ages 6-12) Mia and I digested together over a few nights time.
We have had no calls from Nurse Annette this past week, and I see her making progress in taking charge of her worries. She really enjoyed working through the book and saw herself and her symptoms so often through it's pages she kept saying, "I think they wrote this book just for me Mom!"
I am sure we are nowhere near the end of anxiety issues with our kids, but I am glad I found a way to help her out this time.
Have you had an experience with one of your kids and anxiety? If so, how did you handle it? Share your thoughts with me, I'd love to hear...comment, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.