I had a terrible evening with my kids last night. It was so bad that I wound up not sleeping half the night. My son and daughter were bickering at each other, and before I could even look twice, it had escalated into a huge screaming fight; except that it was only my son who was completely flipping out at his sister. The outbreak left the rest of us in shock. I grabbed my daughter (by her arm) and pulled her out of the way because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. My little 5-year old son was hiding under the table crying. Within a matter of 3 minutes, things had gone from harmless sibling bickering to full-blown hysteria.
How did this happen? I stood there, apologizing to my daughter for pulling her so hard, and hugging my little guy to try to calm him down. All the while my middle child was crying and talking about how no one loves him. How did all of this happen? After I sent my daughter upstairs with her youngest brother, I had a long talk with my middle son.
He is an anxious kid. He worries about everything. I tell him all the time to not worry about grown-up stuff, and to let the parents do the worrying. But he continues to worry. It turns out he is extremely anxious about the parent teacher conference that I have today with his teacher. He was so worried about that, that when his sister starting “bugging” him last night, he couldn’t take it anymore. His frustration and anxiety overflowed like a volcano. In his mind, it was impossible to stay calm anymore.
His worry bucket is already so full, that when one more thing comes up, his bucket is overflowing and he cannot handle it.
So how does one handle a child who is highly anxious? He and I talked for a while last night, and we came up with the following action plan:
Yoga sessions: I have decided to do regular yoga sessions with him. The cool thing is, he told me himself that he thought yoga might help him. So I’m going to send the other two kids to play while he and I do yoga together. Yoga and breathing are always integrated, so I am also teaching him various breathing techniques that will hopefully help him manage his nervousness throughout his day.
Mindfulness techniques: As I’ve written about before (see this article on mindfulness techniques), there are many different techniques you can practice to become more mindful. Teaching mindfulness to kids can really help them stay calm in times that are scary, turbulent or stressful. It teaches kids to deal with their emotions and manage them in a healthy way. Tonight I’m going to read him a story that I found (here) on the Internet. It’s about a cat. The child pretends to be a cat who goes through its day, between relaxing and stretching and tensing it’s body to play and pounce and hunt. I’ll let you know it works!
Writing in a journal: My son already has a little journal he occasionally writes in. So I told him I want him to write in it after school every day starting today. He only needs to write one page, and it can be in just random words instead of prose if he doesn’t feel like writing a lot. The one requirement is that I will be allowed to read the pages and then we will talk about what he wrote afterwards, which leaves me with my next and last point.
Regular talk sessions with mom: We are going to have regular talk sessions. These will be short little quasi therapy sessions, where we talk about what he is feeling that day and discuss ways to deal with his thoughts and feelings in good ways. One added advantage is that he gets a little bit of one-on-one time with mom.
My son is an exceptionally sensitive person. He is a very kind, sweet person. He is often much wiser than his years indicate. On the other hand, he is still 9-years old and therefore still has the mind of a 9-year old. He has trouble integrating his emotions with what he actually understands and senses from the world. I hope our little plan helps him with this integration. Stay tuned for updates! I’d LOVE it if you guys would post any additional ideas you might have for me in the comments section. Thanks!