My anxious child excels at his violin concert

I’ve written before about Jase and how anxious he gets over different events. He is our rule-following boy and always seems concerned with doing what he is supposed to do. He will have panic attacks if he forgets to do a homework assignment. If he is to bring in something to class, you can bet that he double and triple checks that he has it.

When it has been a day where kids can wear PJs or have crazy hair, he is nervous to participate, worrying that he will be the only one. He will be so nervous until he sees that others are dressed in their PJs or have spiked green hair. (Actually this semester he has gotten better about this.)

So you would think that he would be nervous about performing in front of a group. All eyes are on you now, watching, judging. But nope, this never phases Jase.

Recently, his fifth-grade strings group performed as part of a citywide concert. I expected Jase to be nervous. A friend told me his daughter refused to get out of the car the previous year. I imagined Jase doing the same thing. But he didn’t.

I do think he was nervous. It was just that it didn’t seem to control him. He didn’t have trouble sleeping the night before or eating as we drove to the event. Now because I know how anxious he can get, I do what I normally do. I tried prepping him for what would happen. I showed him pictures of the event from the previous day. (It was a four-night celebration, and he was performing on day 2.)

I think the photos helped. It showed him that he would be in the stands versus on the floor of the gymnasium. No nerves showed up as I dropped him off. Heck, he probably would have been more concerned about being late than actually being there.

My husband and I ended up sitting two rows away from him at the performance. He appeared calm and collected as he waited for his turn to rehearse and then later perform.

So here is the boy who will be panicking because he has to do a science lab experiment with worms or the fact that he didn’t finish reading his required Blue Bonnet book, and now he is behaving as if this is nothing to be concerned about.

Of course, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised. The fact is even though he panics over many small things and worries about dozens of everyday events, he has done this before.

He has tried out for the school play, gotten a part in the talent show and often participates in front of his class. Yes, he was nervous about the audition but not to the extent that missing a homework assignment caused. Yes, he had butterflies about performing in front of the whole school and sped through his routine. But he did it without a panic.

It just baffles me at what he gets worked up about and which things he takes in stride. My husband worries about his anxiety but you know what, he has survived all that and keeps on going. I think he will do fine just as he did at his concert.

Dealing with childhood anxiety

Our rule-follower, Jase, is also our worrier. When we announced this summer’s vacation would be a cruise, he worried the ship would sink. When we went to a friend’s informal wedding reception, he worried about whether kids his age would be there. I knew our friend’s son would be there but that news didn’t reassure Jase, and he seemed uncomfortable with the gathering as we knew very few people there.

AnxietyIt is events like this or talking about the first day of school or the test he needs to pass to be moved up to the next grade that bring out Jase’s anxiety. He is so worried about what will or could happen or if he will get in trouble for something that his anxiety just builds up.

In the evenings, Jase often talks to my husband when he comes to tuck Jase into bed. It is at these times that Jase becomes worked up about issues almost to the point of hyperventilating.

I broached the topic with our pediatrician in July at Jase’s yearly checkup. Since his anxiety isn’t debilitating, she recommended looking online for tips for dealing with childhood anxiety versus sending him to a therapist or prescribing any type of medication. (A friend who suffers from anxiety has had her daughter on anxiety meds since kindergarten.)

Jase’s anxiety isn’t debilitating – yet. He is often worried about situations but still goes into them. For example, he was worried about meeting a friend’s new stepsisters when he went over to play. I told him that the girls wouldn’t probably be interested in him at all. That didn’t calm him down but once he was there, everything turned out fine. But I hate seeing him work himself up.

So lately, I have spent some time looking online at childhood anxiety.

The symptoms include but are not limited to sadness, feeling lonely, trouble sleeping or concentrating, constant worrying, avoiding social activities, feeling like your mind has gone blank, shortness of breath, pounding heart, stomach ache, headache and diarrhea.

I remember being anxious as a kid. I dreaded the first day of school. My stomach would hurt. I wasn’t then nor am I now great in social situations. I feel shy and awkward. As I have gotten older, it has gotten better.

I see a lot of myself in Jase. I just wish I knew what to tell him to relieve his fears. I don’t often know what to do or say and had hoped the search on the Internet would provide some insight.

Most of the fearful situations they listed for kids – dogs, monsters, death, separation – do not fall in line with the things Jase is anxious about so the tips didn’t always seem to apply. And the tips listed were often logical and nothing I hadn’t already considered.

Here is a synopsis of some of the tips.

  • Recognize the fear is real. Don’t brush it off or belittle the fear.
  • Encourage your child to talk about their fears. If you talk about it, it can become less powerful. (Jase often doesn’t want to talk at all about his fears or concerns.)
  • Don’t cater to fears. Don’t avoid situations that your child is afraid of as this will just reinforce that there is something to fear. (In other words, don’t avoid dogs if your child is afraid of them. Monsters are a whole different thing. Definitely avoid those!)
  • Teach coping strategies. This is where it got tricky to find strategies that fit Jase’s anxiety. They suggest relaxation techniques such as visualization and deep breathing as well as repeating positive statements, such as “I can do this.”

I don’t really know if any of these tips will help Jase. (For additional tips, check out this website.) The other day he came in saying he didn’t want to go to school the next day. It turned out that in science they were doing an experiment that dealt with earthworms. Jase is afraid of them. So we did talk about what he could do such as stand a little farther from the group, offer to be the note taker instead of handling the worms, not staring at the worms and taking deep breaths to relax. He made it through the class so hopefully one of these techniques helped.

If anyone has other suggestions on dealing with childhood anxiety, please feel free to share them in the comment section.