It isn’t the easiest thing to grow up for some children. They can be anxious, bullied and feel isolated. My daughter has never been bullied, however she suffers the anxiety, which can make her feel very isolated and sometimes scared. Her anxiety comes from me, it is hereditary. (Damn anxiety, you suck).
I have learned the coping mechanisms for myself, and dealt with a rollercoaster of a life with it. I was only diagnosed after I lost my mum, and it was probably there for much longer than that. For me, I run, I tried meditation, but cannot sit still in my head, so instead I escape in reading good books. The exercise gets my endorphin’s going, and also helps the head battle with my old eating disorder. (It will always be a battle, doesn’t mean you act on the battle). I am doing awesome, and some days it is still hard and I have a pain in my chest that will not escape me. Parenting an anxious child when you are anxious yourself is not easy. You feed off each other. And suffering gets worse for the both of you.
I was noticing some changes in Keely, she was becoming more and more anxious in everyday life, and one of those anxieties is food. She has never been the best eater, but I sure was not going to have my daughter ever suffer an eating disorder like me. I know a fussy eater does not make a person a sufferer of an eating disorder. I was more looking out for her and talking my concerns through with my doctor, and she was great. She spoke to Keely and asked her how she felt when she felt scared, or angry. Keely spoke about the sick feeling in her stomach, and the way her chest got really tight like she couldn’t breathe. Our doctor explained to Keely what anxiety is, and how her mum, (that’s me), has suffered it for years, but now has it managed. We spoke to Keely about how she might cope with the use of meditation apps. They have helped her a great deal, and even helped with bedtime routines for both littles!
Our doctor suggested a program called, Cool Kids. It is a program that has been run through the Macquarie University for years, and I jumped to the chance. It is a 10 week program, where we both spent time with 3 other children and their mums. They did role playing, wrote about their feelings, followed a workbook, whilst we followed a parent workbook that in return helped the children too. The course teaches them that they are not alone, that these feelings they have are very normal, and there are ways of dealing with them so they don’t hurt so much. It teaches them resilience, about bullying, using steps to work through their worries, so their worry level comes down.
At the beginning of the course you put in a workbook what you would like for your child to achieve by the end of the 10 weeks. I never would have thought Keely would ever achieve what I wished for her. She nailed it! I hoped that Keely would have a balance with food, in the sense that she would be ok to pick up food she doesn’t even eat and put it in the trolley when we were shopping, she would get more involved with cooking, even if she didn’t eat certain foods, and she would try something new. I also hoped that she would grow more inside so she felt she could let me go a little and be confident within herself. She has always been very close to me, and afraid that I would die like my mum did. She was scared of me going out and never coming home. It was heartbreaking hearing all her fears.
It was heartwarming at the end of the 10 weeks to turn around and say she had achieved it all and more. Keely’s whole attitude has changed, she is aware of who she is, she is resilient, she cares for others (already did), and cares enough that she knows how to step in if someone is getting bullied in front of her, or if she herself is getting bullied. Keely is also eating new foods, like fish eyes, (yes, fish eye!!), eggplant in her spaghetti bolognaise, cauliflower in her cheesy macaroni, fresh fruit juices made at home, kale chips, and she gets in and helps to prepare dinners. We all eat the same meals, with added bits for us. I know one day she will eat it all. I was the same as a child.
We have made food and eating an enjoyable experience for her, not one where she is forced to like foods. You cannot force a child to grow up, or be what they need to be, however you can guide them, find new tools for yourself and beyond achieve what you would like to achieve for them. Parenting for me is ongoing and I am learning all the time. Parenting an anxious child is not easy, especially when you are suffering yourself. You would think that would make it easier understanding, but our anxieties are all different, as are our ways of coping.
Sometimes when Keely and I are both having a hard time, I walk away. I explain to Keely that I need some space so we can both become calm again, and stop feeling sick and trapped in our chests. (That was a long and hard process as one of her fears was me leaving her. We had to work through it, and sometimes still need to). She too does it to me now, and goes and hides to have her space! Sometimes we can’t escape the anxiety and there are tears, and we fall in a heap at the end in a huge cuddle. (Damn anxiety, you still suck).
The turnaround in Keely through her school work has been incredible. She is a very switched on girl, and her confidence in learning and being part of class discussions, and even leading them has gone through the roof. Her teacher this week told me about Keely being the quiet one in the back at the beginning of the term, hardly joining in, just taking it all in. She now stands at the board and writes things down, leads class discussions, and first to put her hand up. I think she is incredible. And the cool kids program was the best thing I could have done for her, (and for me). I recommend it for all children, and wish they implemented more of this mind training within the school curriculum.
We did the Cool Kids program through the Be Centre. The other children were awesome, and all achieved a lot. I have no doubt the 4 of them will be friends throughout their lives. They grew a lot together, and helped each other more than they probably realise.
rock it, H