My No 2 son has been suffering from anxiety for the last three weeks. Normally I write about the stresses of parenting 4 boys with a touch of dry humour. It’s hard to find humour in your child having panic attacks and thinking they are going to die. Your first thought is that something terrible has happened to them. That someone has hurt them. But then you read articles such as this, by William Phillips, founder of Think CBT, which make you look closer to home.
“Whilst it’s human instinct to protect our children, teach them about danger and guard them against potential harm, wrapping them in cotton wool and creating a perilous view of the world, can be as psychologically and emotionally damaging as neglect itself.
Parents can inadvertently transfer their own unrealistic and anxiety-provoking beliefs about caution, danger and risk, emotionally disguised or packaged as love, concern and protection. “I’m only teaching him how bad the world can be,” “There are a lot of bad people out there, “ “it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” “it will all go wrong,” “something bad will happen to her if”…
Whilst we are not advocating a careless or irresponsible approach to risk, the problem is that hyper-caution is often at the root of many of the most common anxiety disorders. Early formed beliefs about danger and threat often lead to dysfunctional assumptions about limited coping and an unrealistic estimation of the potential threat. “
I definitely think I have been hyper cautious a lot of the time while they have been young. But I don’t think this is surprising if you think about the list of accidents my children have had:-
No 2 got his arm trapped in an escalator, up to his shoulder, in Australia when he was 4. His arm was trapped for about 20-30 minutes, and as a result he fractured his wrist and has a good scar at the top of his arm. He has also cut his head open, broken both his ankles, and given himself a decent electric shock. Not all at the same time, thankfully.
No 1 has cut his foot open, tripped and knocked himself out, broken his wrist, and slashed his stomach, Freddie Krueger style, on barbed wire.
No 3 has managed to escape without any breaks or major injuries yet...but has had surgery so is the only one who has had a general anaesthetic.
No 4 has had so many bumps to the head from falling over I lost count a long time ago. He has cracked his head open so badly there will always be a big scar. He has broken his collarbone and suffered a concussion.
So it is surprising I have been hyper cautious?
I’ve definitely become less so. More resigned to the fact they are likely to hurt themselves, rather than overly worried about it. But perhaps the early years of No 2’s life, when I made him aware of the dangers around him have resulted in this new anxiety he’s suffering from.
I feel slightly reassured when I read posts by other mums, or in fact speak to friends about their children having panic attacks or getting overly anxious. I’m clearly not alone. Many have said this seems to happen at this time of year.
Having used CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) on myself in the past to overcome anxiety about driving on the motorway (after a lorry pulled out into my car and sent my it with me and my No 1 son, aged 8 weeks inside, spinning off the motorway), I have employed this technique with No 2 in the hope he can voluntarily send his mind off on a more rational path, rather than the one that leads him to believe he is dying.
So far he is fractionally calmer, but still anxious every night and not getting to sleep until hours past his bedtime. And how do I know whether it’s the CBT, or the yoga breathing and meditation techniques, or the herbal remedies that are working? I don’t really care what works, as long as something does.
If anyone has any experience and of this and can share any ideas please do. I’d be very grateful!
You can read the rest of William Phillips article on Think CBT's Facebook page