When fun turns to anxiety
On Saturday my youngest asked me if we could do the slime challenge. I had the slime sitting there a while (part of www.slime-bucket.co.uk for UK charity Action for Children). She was absolutely pumped and couldn’t wait to have the slime poured on her head. Both kids went to the bathroom with their slime powder in containers. They both filled the containers with water and watched the powder become gluggy slime.
But then Miss Four changed her mind. I could see that she was feeling panicked about the slime and I tried to reason with her:
- The slime is clean
- You’ll have a bath right afterwards
- It’s for charity/good cause
- You said you would and you need to follow through
Then I stopped and I took a deep breath. What was I doing? Trying to make my daughter do something that she was no longer comfortable with? She had been so excited about it, and a part of me was worried she would miss out. However, I knew deep down that my fear of missing out was colouring my response to her anxiety. I suddenly felt quite uncomfortable about the tactics I was using. I let her remove herself from the situation and then I took her place for the sliming.
Afterwards, I came out and showed her my green hair. She smiled shyly and I realised that she still was feeling very nervous about the slime. So I told her I would go and shower and would return when I was clean for a cuddle. That cuddle was as much for me as for her. We had a good talk later. I let her know that I had wanted to be slimed like that since I was younger and I thought that she would feel sad for missing out. She let me know that she was not sad about missing out but she was worried I was disappointed. Cuddles, kisses and reassurance that I was not at all disappointed followed that.
The next day, we were at a playground and there was a huge slide. Miss Nine went up to the top of the slide and then sat like stone at the top. She climbed back down and went back up and did this for about 15 minutes. I was trying to hold back, let her work through it herself. Eventually she came back to me in tears. “Mum”, she whispered, “I am scared of the height”. I let her know that was okay, it’s a normal fear and it is okay to feel it. We talked about things she could try if she wanted to get over it. She went on some of the smaller slides to gain confidence and then tried the slide a few more times but just couldn’t get through it.
I realised that the slide and the slime were two halves of the same thing. In this life there are things you have to do, and then there are things that you don’t have to do. The "don’t have to’s", are where the adventure is at. Sometimes they are scary, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes you’ll conquer that fear and jump. Sometimes you won’t, and you have to be okay about that too. Part of my job as a parent is to help my kids recognise the things they have to do (school work, looking after their health, and safety) and the things that are optional. And another part is helping them navigate when fear or anxiety gets the better of them.
My kids surprise me every day. I never would have imagined that Miss Nine would slip about in slime for an hour or more. I never would have thought that Miss Four would be the one going to help her sister down a slide. But what doesn’t surprise me is the anxiety they feel when they discover that something just isn’t for them. Whether it is just in that moment, or if it’s going to be a life-long issue remains to be seen. Hopefully though with the lines of communication open, they will feel they can talk through these things with me as they come up against them.
What "fun" activities have a tendency to make your child anxious? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This blog was written by Kym Moore. Kym loves to write when she isn't working, hanging out with her two awesome daughters, or spending time with her awesome husband after bedtime.
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