Were you one of those kids that couldn’t wait to get the school supply list? Run to the store and gather all those clean crisp notebooks and markers? Well, I was never one of those kids. As summer wound down to the first day of the new school year, my dread and anxiety would rachet up. Though, at seven years old, I wouldn’t know what to call it.
“Just because I can’t explain the feelings causing my anxiety, doesn’t make them less valid.”Lauren Elisabeth
I knew that my year would start off just as promising as any other, but as the days went on the inability to control myself would creep in. The adversarial relationship with my current teacher would begin.
Eventually, ADHD would be as common as a mosquito bite. As opposed to the early 80’s when it was a new diagnosis and the treatment wasn’t simple. Thus, my mother refused to put me on meds, as she had seen the effects they had on other children. She didn’t want me to be a zombie. I’m sure she had her own anxiety about my behavior.
So I would struggle and my self-esteem would take a daily hit. I wanted so much to be like the other kids, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t. I couldn’t sit still or stop myself from blurting out the answers. Teachers didn’t understand, there wasn’t much information about ADHD at the time. They would move my desk into the hall to keep me from disrupting the class like it was in my control to keep it together.
In high school, I began to smoke pot and drink to help me move out of my head. When that stopped working, I became bulimic as a way to try and control my head and behavior. I at least could control that. It didn’t work
I felt horrible about myself and never quite fit in.
How Did This Affect My Kids?
Understandably, my experiences clouded my judgment as my own children entered school. The pendulum had swung and ADHD had become a household word. Teachers had a better understanding, but had anything really changed?
My son entered kindergarten enthusiastic, ready to learn, but soon his all-boy behavior became a constant source of discourse between his teacher and myself. She wanted to play the ADHD card. She asked us to get him tested. All of his behavior problems came from ADHD, in her opinion. My anxiety of old would surface when I picked him up, knowing she would tell me about his behavior. She would have loved for him to just sit and do what he was told. So we had him tested, turns out he was just an active boy.
This would be a challenge for him his whole school career. His early years set him up to fail. He never liked school. He graduated, but it wasn’t an easy road for him.
I Wouldn’t Even Consider the Possibility.
As for my two daughters, the middle child did just great at school. It was her element. She thrived with the schedules and the workload, But with my youngest, she struggled to stay engaged. At one teacher conference, her teacher said to me, “She lives in her own world and doesn’t like to take vacations.” Ouch! Again, the topic of ADD/ ADHD came up again. This triggered all my worst anxiety and my own past experiences. Worst of all, I wouldn’t even consider the possibility. Not after the way my son had been treated.
As a result, I had huge mixed emotions. I didn’t want my youngest to have the same self-esteem issues I had. The inability to make friends. I also didn’t want her to be medicated for no reason. Despite my fears and anger, we had her tested.
She had ADD. Not the hyper part, but the absolute inability to focus or to use her time wisely. She would either become hyper-focused on one aspect of an assignment or she would be unable to start because she didn’t know how to break an assignment down. Luckily I think we caught it in time to keep her self-esteem up and not let it affect her opinion of herself.
My Crazy Made Things Worse!
However, this didn’t stop me from becoming a total wreck year after year. With every new teacher, my anxiety would bloom as we went through the learning curve of how does my child create her best work? The summer would wind down and when we would get the school supply list, it would send me back to my childhood.
I dreaded the new school year all over again. My inability to get excited about the new possibilities took its toll on my kids. Even so, I tried to hide my anxiety. I wanted them to love learning.
I wasn’t good at the deceit. My kids would enter the next grade with my unease on their shoulders. My experience would taint theirs. They were never able to muster the real excitement of the new year.
When, inevitably, we would have to meet with the teacher about my youngest’s work, I couldn’t help but enter with my own fear. I felt her pain and overwhelm to an unhealthy degree. Knowing what she was facing and how hard the struggle was for us both, I couldn’t help but cry for her. I just wanted to take that off her plate.
However, had I been able to take that from her, I now know she would not be the amazing kid she is today. She would have had vastly different experiences. Thank goodness I couldn’t because we love who she has become. Her own quirky, artistic, enigmatic self!
Don’t get me wrong, we still have a ton of anxiety each new school year, but now we are a little better at managing it. When I would notice some outward signs of her anxiety we would get to work on helping her face them and overcome them.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety (in my kid, and according to Google!)
- Loss of interest in things they enjoyed previously
- Withdrawl from friends and social interactions
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss ofappetite or drastic change in eating habit
- Extreme mood swings
- Frequent unexplained physical complaints – like stomach aches or headaches
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Using drugs or alcohol to self medicate
- Avoiding people, places, or things that might trigger their anxiety
Possible Solutions to Help Ease the Anxiousness
- Learn as much as you can to understand the anxious brain
- Get a good night sleep
- Help kids transition smoothly
- Deal with your own shit!
- Learn a few breathing techniques
- Highlght the possitives
- Eat a healthy diet
- Try meditation or yoga
What NOT to Say
- “Don’t worry about the little things.” Everything to them is a little thing and something to worry about. Try to remind them of a time they were able to cope and overcome their anxiety.
- “Calm down.” They simply can’t. Help them try a calming activity like yoga or deep breathing. This is proven to help anxiety.
- “Just do it.” This makes them feel unsuported and defensive. You can try to use empathy
- “Everything will be fine.” They won’t and can’t believe this. Reassure them that their feelings are valid and are okay.
- “I’m stressed out too.” This trivializes their feelings.
These are a few tips we have tried in my house, and for the most part, our lives have become much smoother. We still have a hiccup or two but overall a better beginning. We have conversations. I share my experiences and apologize when I know I have affected them. It’s not a perfect system but it seems to work for us.
Even though it has taken me almost thirteen years to get a handle on my school anxiety, and deal with my own baggage, I never lost hope that this year would be the great one. I asked for help and did the research that would help me get it together! As an adult, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and neither should you. If you are struggling with anxiety or ADHD please reach out for help. It will only make it better.
Here are a couple of articles I think will help. There are also many great articles on The We Spot about anxiety.
Our Teens Are Struggling; How Can We Help?
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates.