It is completely heartbreaking (and to be fair, a little frustrating) when your child is inconsolable because they lack the words to express what ails them or what they desire.
If you knew, you could address it, right? When our children were infants, we went through the check list: is he wet?, is it meal time?, is he gassy?, is he tired?, etc. As their vocabulary increases, they can tell you what’s wrong or what they need. Instead of their grunts and groans and our second guessing, we hear, “more grapes” or “I have a tummy ache”. It’s wonderful!
Lucas has an extensive vocabulary, but it is devastating to visibly see anxiety and fear getting the best of him. He doesn’t have the words to describe those feelings and we are struggling to calm him through two very scary (to him) situations: fire alarms and swim lessons.
Let me back up a little…
When we were in Hawaii last summer, we were awakened on the first night of our stay by a loud fire alarm scaring Lucas half to death. I have never seen him so frightened. He was shaking and holding on to me tighter than anyone ever has and it took him a long time to get back to sleep that night.
Six months later he was in the Kids Club at the gym I attend and there was a fire alarm and everyone was evacuated from the building.
Once a month at his preschool, he experiences a fire drill, which just adds more fuel to the fire (no pun intended).
All of these incidents are discussed in our home on a regular basis. Even when we think we’ve moved past it, Lucas will demand that we tell him the “story” of what occurred during each scenario over and over and over.
He knows “fire alarms are just loud and don’t hurt you”, “we need them to be safe in case there is a real emergency”, and that his teachers will give him a “heads up”, if there is going to be a drill on one of the three days he’s at school, but he is still struggling.
Lucas’ other source of anxiety is swim lessons. He LOVES every form of water and has no qualms about going under water, floating, blowing bubbles, etc. We have completed four Parent & Me classes, BUT he is not a fan of his semi-private lessons and he frets about it all morning leading up to it. He ends up doing all the work in the 20 minute class, but cries all the way through.
For both of these issues, I have taught Lucas some basic deep breathing techniques for when he begins to feel scared and of course, we talk about what he’s experiencing and assure him that it’s okay to be scared.
Turns out the deep breathing helps me too, as there is nothing sadder than that face he makes just before his eyes well up with tears and his chin starts to quiver. All I can do is scoop him up and kiss him repeatedly and hold him and protect him.
My little boy.
On one hand, anxiety is a natural condition that helps us cope with new experiences and protects us from danger, so he HAS to work through it, but he’s only (almost) three and on the other, he’s a boy and society says that he is suppose to be tough and brave and show little emotion. As his mother, I just want to help him the best way I can.
If you’re the mother of a boy, how are you teaching that it is okay to be fearful? Do you have any tips for taming anxiety?