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Anxiety is contagious!

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Anxiety is contagious!

My daughter's anxiety became my anxiety. My daughter suffers from social anxiety and it became so bad that it was affecting me. I don't know how to make her feel confident and capable of going to school, shopping centers to see her friend on the weekend . We lost our daily routines and I didn't know when the morning came if I would be able to get her to go to school or not. Frequent texting back and forth when she did go to school. Very stressful for parents. And children are clever, I have no doubts that she has taken advantage and stayed home from school just because she didn't want to go. Finding the right time for tough love and sympathy is impossible. At times I have trouble coping. How do you comfort and encourage a child when the actual issue seems so small to you but it is a mountain for your child?

Re: Anxiety is contagious!

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Hi @Nervous


“How do you comfort and encourage a child when the actual issue seems so small to you but it is a mountain for your child?”


Such a great question! 


For me, I think that being aware that the issue is a mountain for your daughter is a really great first step.  It means that you can approach the hard conversations around your daughter’s anxiety with that always front-of-mind and that is really going to help your family communicate around these issues. 


It is so very difficult for parents as we naturally take the burdens of our children onto our own shoulders and that is really tough.  It also means that the times that we want to be a rock and an effective care-giver as well as set boundaries for our children we are being undermined by our own emotions, concerns and worries.


I would love to recommend the ReachOut Parents Coaching service. It is a free, one-on-one coaching service for parents that will give you personalized advice over the phone.  You can set tactics and goals around having the right conversations with your daughter, setting boundaries with her and making an effective plan to move forward with support for your family.


 You can find out about it by clicking on this link here.


You are asking all the right questions at the moment and the coaching service will really help you get to some answers. 


Please let me know what you think about this or if you have any other questions about the service.


Re: Anxiety is contagious!

Hi @Nervous, wow ! this must be really tough for you and your precious daughter !  It also must  be very draining emotionally to deal with it on a day to day basis. You must be exhausted. What is also hard is that as you become depleted your patience erodes and this compounds the situation for both of you I am sure . You are then not in a good frame of mind to deal with it as effectively as you could. It becomes a feedback loop that is hard to break ! 


 You sound like a very caring parent who is doing the best they can ,good on you for reaching out to us.

Some things to try with  her if you have not  done so already are :


1.Deep progressive relaxation - Progressive Muscle relaxation script  ( PMRS ) is a script that you follow to incrementally relax each part of the body.  


This exercise you could do together for 10 minutes before she leave s for school and on the weekend for 10 minutes before she has a social event. This will not work straight away, she will build up this " muscle " across time .


2.  Mindfulness meditation : "Smiling Mind" has a child friendly app that she can keep on her phone or your phone. I  do it with my son sometimes. Remember she will not get results straight away the benefits are accumulative across time. So she will have to be patient.


3. Depp breathing : There is a worksheet for this on the same link I  gave you above.


4. Challenging anxious thoughts : Most of our anxiety when it is  crippling and stops us from functioning well comes from a tape of messages we tell ourselves. Catastrophic thinking is a part of this. Rarely is there evidence for the negative thoughts we have. Many are irrational fears of " what if" . This worksheet will get your daughter to practice  catching and challenging her irrational negative thoughts with the question so .... " where is the evidence for this ? "

The worksheet for this is on this therapist aid website too. It caters for teens beautifully. 


5. Get her to challenge herself to achieve small feats. : Walking down the street with the dog for 10 minutes  saying hi to a  passerby and coming home. Next time she could pop into the shops  try on some clothes and come back to you. What ever her scariest environments are still with them in small doses.


Avoiding them will not see her grow or master this anxiety. With your help I am sure she could make some inroads.

This all takes time  and regular goals. Have some rewards perhaps for small achievements she makes over time, to keep the enthusiasm and momentum going.  Teens love rewards !! lol

Best of luck . You are doing a great job ! 

Super star contributor

Re: Anxiety is contagious!

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Hey @Nervous, it can be really tough as a parent to watch our kids suffering from social anxiety, or anxiety in any form. It can be so debilitating for them too. And it sure is contagious! It's hard not to worry about our kids when they're struggling and aren't functioning in day to day life. 


My daughter went through the isolation as well, and cut herself off from everything and everyone for a while. I tried all I could to get her making little steps toward recovery, to no avail when the isolation first began. I did continue to ask her all the time if she wanted to do things with me, but I also respected her space when she wanted to be alone. 


As @motherbear suggested, I rewarded my daughter with praise and admiration for her when she did manage to push through her anxiety. We'd also talk about how she felt about herself (as they are often proud of themselves too) and would talk about how good it was to overcome that anxiety and not let it control her. 

We also talked about the physical sensations she would get when the anxiety was coming on. It taught her over time to recognise the symptoms and be albe to do something about it before it became overwhelming for her. 


It used to internally frustrate me that my daughter was like this and couldn't cope with things other kids coped with every day. For me I worked it out to actually be my worry and stress about it that I didn't want to feel, so it manifested as frustration. I wanted to be able to fix it but I couldn't, I had to teach her to help herself whilst being loving and compassionate around the things she saw as mountains. I completely get what you're saying there! Our caseworker taught me that I had to understand that it was a mountain for my daughter, even if I didn't see it that way. There were a lot of deep breaths taken by me!!


It can be really hard to cope sometimes and there were times I didn't. But those times became an opportunity to teach forgiveness and repair which is really valuable too. 


ReachOut has some great info here on anxiety and teenagers you might find helpful to have a read through. It provides some additional things to try to the useful tips already provided by @Nick-RO and @motherbear.


I hope you're taking care of yourself during these stressful times. It's so important to take some time for you, even if it's taking a quiet cup of tea. 


How have things been going over the holidays so far?