When Your Little One Has Anxiety

As a parent, you go into it realizing that you’re going to have to make some hard choices. Where are you going to live to ensure they get the best education? Private, public, or charter schools? Religion or no? How strict are you going to be? Anytime a parent tells me about a plan that they have for their child, I do chuckle to myself in judgement. A friend mentioned to me about their birth plan as if that plan was going to be a reality for their process. I half jokingly told her that her birthing plan would be better tossed in the trash, because the real reality is that things with children hardly ever go as planned. Did I plan to have a baby over 2 weeks overdue in the middle of what seemed like the hottest summer/fall ever? Nope. Did I plan on an induction? Nope. Is that what ended up happening? Abso-freaking-lutely.

One of those things that parents rarely plan for are those “what-ifs” that seem impossible. Did I think that anxiety in children displayed at such a young age? No way. Did I understand that my child having anxiety was a real reality that may come to life? Yes. But I didn’t plan for an approach other than “I don’t want to medicate my child unless it’s absolutely necessary”. This isn’t a debate about whether I think a parent is wrong for choosing another approach; everyone’s different. I’m not there yet and that’s my choice of what I think is right for my child. Should a time come where I have exhausted every other approach, this will become more of an option. But I’m not there yet.

That was when my husband came across this program called Mightier, which apparently is a program that was created at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Expensive? Yes, but when you factor how much the co-pay would probably be for the medications, it probably equals out to the same amount. Plus, it teaches coping mechanisms and ways to ease the anxiety rather than just giving medicine to cover it up. Yes, these are medical issues. But if I have to choose a painkiller over physical therapy to find relief rather than just mask the problem, I would rather deal with the cause and not just the effect.

It’s only been a few days, but I can definitely see it started to sink in for him. When he starts to get into his “anxious episodes”, we calmly tell him to do his “Mightier breathing”. The program comes with a heart monitor and it stops the game on the tablet and pops up a meter with a breathing exercise, making it a game for the child to get their heart rate from the red to the blue. It’s training him how to do these breathing exercises in a way that I have failed. If this has been my experience after only a couple days, I can’t wait to see his progress grow. But so far, I’m taking these little wins.

I don’t expect to cure his anxiety. I still suffer my own anxiety issues. But it’s not about curing it; it’s about finding ways to manage it. I manage mine by exercising, music, knitting, art, and writing. Does that work for everyone? Absolutely not. Are there people who do benefit from having these life-saving medicines? Absolutely. Medications for anxiety and depression are not a crutch or a weakness; they are the same as taking medication to keep your heart beating properly. They can be essential to life. Mental illness is just an illness, and you treat illnesses in the way that you feel is the best for you while taking a medically practical approach.

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