My Anxious Child

Through the Mom’s Guide, I’m often invited to review books. So part of my summer reading list included a title that really stood out to me; “Dear Mom & Dad, I Have Anxiety.”

dear mom and dad

Almost no one can believe that my daughter has anxiety because she’s pretty outgoing and well adjusted. But as soon as she learned to talk, Mallory told me about her fears and worries.

As a toddler she was afraid of entering public restrooms because “we could get trapped” inside. She refused to stand on escalators or enter revolving doors. She had OCD-like routines around bedtime and usually resisted sleep, when her little mind would race with all the things she could be anxious about like when I would die.

I didn’t put the word “anxiety” to her behavior until Mal entered kindergarten and started to display a new condition. Although excited about going to school, almost right away she started scratching “down there.” No matter where we were or what we were doing, she would start to scratch her vagina and tell me that it really itched. We visited numerous doctors who poked, prodded, prescribed creams and even gave her shots for what seemed to be an allergy or infection that never went away. After the fourth dermatologist at Rady’s found nothing obviously wrong, she asked, “does your daughter seem anxious to you?”

YES. That was the day I understood that Mal’s scratching was a nervous habit and that she was an anxious child.

mal needs mom

Mal was about 7 when she wrote this note to me. We work together on deep breathing, “changing the channel” on her thoughts, getting exercise and understanding that our brains are very powerful and can truly effect our mental and physical health.

“Dear Mom & Dad, I Have Anxiety” was written by Corine Toren, a recent college grad who has suffered with anxiety since childhood. Corine felt misunderstood by her parents and wrote her book to help families identify the signs of anxiety.  The book is a quick read that takes you into the mind of the anxious child. Corine talks about the things she did to help herself cope. What stuck out to me most was how important it was to her that her parents acknowledge her pain and help her find ways to treat it.

That is also true for my baby girl. After asking me many times, I finally brought Mal to her pediatrician to talk about anxiety. The doctor recommended a child psychologist who Mallory saw once a week for a few months before deciding on her own that she had gained the skills she needed to cope.

mom and mal

No parent wants their child to suffer. I’m hopeful that the steps we’ve taken to support our daughter will help her avoid bigger issues like eating disorders later when life really does get stressful.

My daughter seems to have been born with anxiety. While I wish it was something she could outgrow, I don’t think that it is. But I see her overcoming fears and worries without anyone else’s help more and more. If your child is struggling with worries, doubts and anxiety, I do recommend “Dear Mom & Dad, I Have Anxiety.” I also suggest having an honest conversation with your child’s pediatrician.

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