It tends to creep up on you. The bedtime routine that becomes a prison. The pattern of the morning that becomes ever more complicated.
Children like predictability. They like to know what’s going to happen and what’s going to happen next. That’s true for all kids but for some anxious kids any variation in a routine feels like a car careening out of control.
“Good night, honey,” You say. “I love you.”
“No,” says your child. “Say it right.”
“Good night, I love you, honey,” you amend.
But then they want you to say it the way you did the night before when the lights were still on. So you have to turn the lights back on and start over. You have to fix the bed just right again because the sheets got “broken” when they wriggled. You have to turn around and come back in. But now they’re crying. Now they’re sobbing, they need you to do it again because it was wrong.
Or the child who freaks out because there was a traffic detour so you turned a different way to take them to school and they don’t know this way. Are they going to be late? They demand to know, they start yelling that they cannot be late. They’re kicking the back of your seat while you’re trying to get oriented and yeah, you’re a little worried about being late, too, but now they’re screaming and your head is pounding and you’re wondering how on earth did you get here?
Anxiety can look like tantrums and meltdowns. Anxiety can look like throwing or hitting and screaming.
Those are the kids who let their anxiety out outwardly. They run away, literally. They leave classrooms without asking. Or they follow you throughout the house haranguing you because they don’t want you to leave or they don’t want to go to school or they’re upset that the playdate didn’t happen the way you told them it would happen.
Oh gosh, these kids are rigid.
So many families look around and don’t know how they got there. They don’t know how to make it stop. People tell them to discipline those kids! “I wouldn’t let MY child get away with that!” But they don’t know what it’s like. They don’t have a child whose anxiety is so big and so overwhelming that the whole family is trapped by it.
But it is possible to take your home back. IT IS POSSIBLE. No, it’s not easy and it will take a lot of loving care and work. Yes, it might get worse before it gets better (in fact I can almost guarantee that it will) but it CAN GET BETTER. With help and good information, you absolutely can untangle the anxious knots that keep you and your child and the rest of the family tied up and held hostage.