View Full Version : Help a stressed-out mom?

06-09-2011, 12:46 AM
I've been around the forums for quite a while, but only post sporadically. So hi there and I'm going to dive in and get straight to the point:

My wonderful 9-year-old was just diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. I suspected it, but having it confirmed was tough, let me tell you. Here's how it all relates back to homeschooling.

We started homeschooling because he had such difficulty in a standard classroom setting. He would come home from school every day absolutely exhausted from worrying. If the teacher shouted at another child, or blew a whistle unexpectedly, or if there was a fire drill, or if someone vomited or lost a tooth or cried, or if there was a fight on the playground or if there was an assembly or a field trip, he would be stressed to the point of physical illness. Homeschooling has been a good experience for both of us, but it didn't solve his problems with anxiety. He's just transferred the anxiety to different areas, like his health.

I'm reading up on the subject of generalized anxiety disorder tonight and blaming myself. I'm an anxious person. I've probably modeled all kinds of terrible behavior to him. And now I'm very, very afraid that I've only exacerbated his problem by pulling him out of school. I'm worried that I'm over-protecting him and sheltering him. I'm worried that I'm teaching him avoidance and showing him through my actions that I don't have confidence in him and don't believe that he can overcome his fears. I'm even starting to think that I should enroll him in school again. Maybe the only way he will conquer his anxiety is to face it head on and not hide from it. Maybe we're homeschooling for ME and not for him.

Any thoughts? Smacks upside the head?

06-09-2011, 01:07 AM
hey there, deep breath . . . .
I only say this because we just sent for an eval today with psychiatrist for anxiety. I totally understand. The great news is that you can help him. Anticipate situations he will need your assistance, and you will have to excuse your self from adult talk in social situations and talk him through things.
Possibly think about getting information about sensory issues as well, sometimes kids can be over sensitive to auditory information, have information processing which leads to anxiety, and anxiety about the potential exposure to such situations.
We have decided not to medicate and just choose are situation wisely and continue to seek opportunities for success . .
good luck! you will do the best for him I am sure.

Stella M
06-09-2011, 05:25 AM
PM me if you like. I have a child in a similar situation to yours. I don't feel comfortable sharing their details on a public board but I am absolutely happy to share our experiences - what helped etc - with you privately. No smacks upside the head...I know exactly how challenging anxiety disorders are...please pm me...and give yourself a break. You're researching his anxiety and wanting to know the right thing to do and that makes you a good mama!

Accidental Homeschooler
06-09-2011, 09:34 AM
We deal with anxiety too. It is very, very difficult to watch your child suffer and very easy to blame yourself. When we were making the decision to hs I had the same thing thrown at me by various school staff and family (how will they learn to cope then....) and all I could think of was swimming. My dd needs to learn how to swim but I am not going to take her to the pool, toss her in the deep end and slap a sticker on a chart everytime she manages to surface for air. That is a fair analogy, for her, to leaving her in school based on the "but how will she ever learn to cope with life?" line. I realize, and you clearly do also, that there is a lot to do to help a child learn to manage an unfair burden and so I am giving my kids manageable challenges over time. With each success I see them getting more comfortable and with each failure we stop and take time and effort to figure out what happened and what we can do next time. It is really hard some days and I am not perfect, but I am doing so much better by them this way than if I were to put them in a situation where they are overwhelmed. All they would get from that is that they can't do it, that life is too much, that they are not good enough...

06-09-2011, 10:34 AM
also, i believe there is a familial component to anxiety - as in, they suspect its part genetic. you cant teach a naturally calm person to have anxiety by modelling it - they arent wired that way. Chances are you also have some anxiety issues. I understand that both therapy and meds can be very helpful with anxiety. I wonder if you can find a really good therapist that can work with both of you together, to help you find better patterns for dealing with your and his anxieties. I obviously did medicate my child (at the time of his evaluations he did have clinically significant levels of both anxiety and depression as well as tics and social deficits and processing problems and snesory issues) . . . but first I tried therapy and other options.

homeschooling is not contributing to the problem. Once you get more of a handle on how best to cope with his (and your) worrying, you will know if school would, AT THAT TIME, be a good choice for him. Until you get a good grip on the anxiety, school would IMO be the worst place for him.

06-09-2011, 11:07 AM
Generalized anxiety disorder is a real mental illness, and you don't get over it just by "facing your fears", in the same way you don't get over depression just by deciding to be happy. Just do what seems right for your son. It will be okay.

I TOTALLY agree with this! I suffered from anxiety for years and tried to "get over it" myself. It almost destroyed my marriage. I finally got a presciption (which I'm not suggesting is the answer for a child BTW-I don't know what is) and the world is a much better place for all of is. It has allowed me to become a hser. I couldn't have been one without it.

It's not your fault. Genetics are genetics. My grandfather has been gone many years and I just recently found out that he also had anxiety. We both need/needed to know how to get out of any physical space or we would be very anxious, for example. I understand when you say you fear that you are sheltering him from things, but if a child loses a tooth and its causing an issue, it definately something to look into. For most kids and their classmates, its an exciting thing, almost a celebration. Interestingly though, I remember saying to kids, "GREAT!! Now go to the nurse and rinse out your mouth" when I'm really thinking, "Please go. I don't do blood!" Maybe its a blood = injury thing with your son?

The field trip thing is interesting, because I have known kids like that. I'm not sure what was ever done to help them, but I do remember them all running to the nurse before the trip to lay down and calm down before we left.

I know you will find the answer. I think this is not an uncommon disorder.

Accidental Homeschooler
06-09-2011, 12:40 PM
Also, I wanted to say, for us, a child psychologist has been very helpful. She was the one who suggested that we take my 5yo out of kindergarten and hs. She did not suggest this until I said that I was considering it along with private school. HS is obviously not an option everyone has, but when I said I was thinking about it, she was very encouraging to us to do it. She told me she did not believe that my dd was going to be able to resolve anything staying in an environment that was so incredibly stressful for her. Her idea was that we work through some of the problems she is having and then shop very carefully for the right ps and even had a particular school in mind. I have not ruled out ps forever, but it is not something I would try again until I feel that dd has a good chance of being successful. She never suggested in any way that there was any value in her staying in ps to learn to cope.

06-09-2011, 02:06 PM
My son's specail ed 'case worker', and his psychiatrist, and his therapist, ALL supported my decision to homeschool - which was crucial for getting dh's support.

06-09-2011, 02:31 PM
At some point we all model *terrible behaviors for our children. You have every right and reason to be concerned. This is serious, but worrying about things that contributed might not be nearly as helpful as simply trying to identify triggers without judgement or blame for you or your child.

Get care for your child, but also do get some care for yourself. Just homeschooling--childrearing is a long term committment with ups and downs. Throwing this on top of it all will add to what is already a big life-project.

I sometimes have issues with anxiety and stress as well. Mine are from a different source. I can think of many times I could have handled it better in front of my kids. But I am a human being and sometimes I will screw up. So I do my best to learn from mistakes and do better next time. Build better habits or coping mechanisms. It's not a perfect solution, but it is all I can think of.

I think that your child is lucky to have a mother who has similar conditions. Because you will be able to offer genuine compassion and understanding regarding the issues that affect this little person. And no doubt, over the years, you have learned little tricks or created methods to deal with some of this, and you can teach your child these things. You know some of what works and what doesn't. So your head start in this area, your experience can be an unexpected blessing to the little person who is just starting out their journey with this condition. You can help your child establish their *normal. And when you do that, you help this child find their center, ground themselves more solidly than they could do, if they just had to figure it all out by themselves with no frame of reference at all.

Judging from the previous posts on this thread, there are several people here who have offered to share their coping skills and understanding about this. I would take them up on it.

06-09-2011, 05:06 PM
arg, lost a post. its okay, it wasnt really relevant anyways.

Stella M
06-09-2011, 06:20 PM
Corrigan has a good point...if you have experienced anxiety yourself, you are in a good place to empathise with your son and get him the help he needs. Cognitive behaviour therapy is helping my child...this child has moved on from standing in the loungeroom screaming and pulling hair out over health anxiety to being able to explore their fears realistically and generally show better coping skills. It's possible that meds are in this child's future but not right now. My hope is that this child learns to cope much better with anxiety than I ever did, and not be in need of meds as an adult.

I wish I had been given the chance to learn what this child is now learning. That is why I say you are a good mama! Reflecting on the issues involved and seeking help for your ds is fantastic! You obviously have a lot of empathy for your ds.
Don't waste time blaming yourself for what you've modelled or second guessing your choices, because that doesn't help your child in any way. Anxiety happens :)

Homeschooling can't 'fix' anxiety...what it can do is give you the space to work on anxiety issues and freedom from dealing co-currently with the stress of school. It also means your dc don't have to deal with an extra authority figure who may or may not have any understanding of their issues and may or may not have your child's best interests at heart. With home schooling, you know that the teacher in their lives is highly motivated to help. I'm thankful that we've dealt with anxiety in the context of h/s rather than school.

06-10-2011, 04:59 AM
Oh gosh no, please don't think you should put him back in school to force him to cope. This comes from someone who probably would be a lot healthier mentally right now had she not been forced to face school and all that it entailed. If anything, the traumas of school made me more anxious and I've been dx'd with PTSD related to my childhood and a huge component of my childhood was school.

You may find relief/insight in these books my therapist recommended for me and my anxious kids--I know I did!



Don't blame yourself. Based on what you shared, I think a safe nurturing environment is what your son needs and having a mother who understands anxiety is not a bad thing.

06-10-2011, 06:39 AM
We too have generalized anxiety disorder, a highly sensitive, twice-exceptional child in our house. He is the core reason for our homeschooling. I also feared that taking him out of PS was enabling him. But six weeks into our new adventure and I already see small changes in him, and in the stress level of our household. For instance he always used to bite his fingernails down to a nub. After a couple weeks of HS I noticed his hands when we were on the computer and asked him "You're not biting your fingers anymore?" His response was to look down and say, "No, I guess not." A subconscious improvement but a significant one. He is seeing a therapist and might end up on meds. At first I felt very opposed to the idea of "drugging" him, but the more I learn about the disorder and see how he truly suffers the more open I am to the idea. Taking the edge off chemically might make therapy more productive and might help him be happier. And that's all I really want in the end. Just to chime in what has been previously said, my son's therapist also was very supportive of homeschooling and said it was an ideal environment for a child at his level of anxiety. And thanks mama2fouraz for the book recommendations, I will check them out too!

Stella M
06-10-2011, 06:35 PM
Same. Meds absolutely have their place.
And our counsellor has been fine about homeschooling too, even though I initially feared she might 'blame' homeschooling.

06-12-2011, 04:07 PM
Thank you, thank you everyone!!! I'm sorry to have missed all the posts...I received one email alert and nothing else, so I didn't check the forums for a few days. I've had some time to catch my breath, and get a little perspective and make some plans. I will definitely respond to all of you who were so kind to write long responses and to share so much about your own lives. I deeply, deeply appreciate it!!

06-12-2011, 04:13 PM
hey there, deep breath . . . .
Possibly think about getting information about sensory issues as well, sometimes kids can be over sensitive to auditory information, have information processing which leads to anxiety, and anxiety about the potential exposure to such situations.

Thank you so much for your insight! We've found an excellent child therapist who has a practice in our town. That will be our first step. She also suggested that some of the anxiety may stem from his sensory processing disorder and his attempts to navigate his environment.

06-12-2011, 04:18 PM
Generalized anxiety disorder is a real mental illness, and you don't get over it just by "facing your fears", in the same way you don't get over depression just by deciding to be happy. Just do what seems right for your son. It will be okay.

You're absolutely right and I should realize that, since I suffer from depression/anxiety myself. I think it's just a mom's instinct to try to "fix" everything.

06-12-2011, 10:40 PM
Thank you so much for your insight! We've found an excellent child therapist who has a practice in our town. That will be our first step. She also suggested that some of the anxiety may stem from his sensory processing disorder and his attempts to navigate his environment.

my son has sensory issues and anxiety, I think that the SPD world is missing a huge component in the mental health department, they are really good at focusing on helping the sensory integration, but not in ways to deal with stress and anxiety in such young ages, and how to help the parents muster through is where I've had to go it alone to get help from other professions (who don't seem to talk to each other that much).

I read a great series from a wonderful therapist, Heather Forbes (http://www.beyondconsequences.com/) who explains stress and the reaction to stress. Her therapy is typically for parents of abused children, but the information is SOOO incredibly useful for parents of stressed kids (from anxiety to sensory to Autism . . . ).

I've also written about it and based on Heather Forbes and what I've learned about sensory processing is that kids usually find themselves (and adults too) in incompatible environments and their ability to cope is either none or non existent and that is when you see the symptoms. When your environment is compatible with your abilities to cope or your stress tolerance is higher (meaning stress factors are low) then success can be found in small controlled chunks . . . working with sensory processing, coping skills, and other forms of therapy I hope you see a great deal of success- it is not over night and I see you have a lot of support here in lots of different views. If you yourself have anxiety then you completely understand that, and the anxiety that comes with anticipating an experience. It is a cyclic process!

With Homeschooling, we got to reduce his stressors and help him find success at home in a safe loving environment. Then slowly added things while staying tuned in, an outing for a short time noting when things went down hill and find ways to give him comfort and a safe feeling again quickly (there were many many tears). For our son's needs it was about finding confidence and success in tiny baby steps. Each time anxiety took over our naturally exuberant outgoing child I would have to squeeze him (tigh thug) and tell him he was loved and safe over and over. We also worked on diet (still working on it) and giving him 'outs' when it got too stressful. We still have a few hurdles but we are in a better place, no where near ever letting him step foot in a school again, but he does have a few 'instructional' opportunities that could go either way EACH time we attempt it!

I'm sure everyone is unique in where/how/why/when/what manifests their anxiety- I really do wish you both the best of luck, patience and love, and success!