An ongoing battle and heartbreak for me has been seeing Michael struggle with anxiety since babyhood. An even bigger heartbreak recently with the onset of puberty, probably diabetes and who knows what else, is see how Michael’s anxiety has progressed to anger and how his anger and frustration is really fueled by his anxiety. The last two nights at bedtime I have had to physically walk out of his room and not say a proper good night because his anxiety at stalling, getting me to stay, and arguing with me if I love him or why am I mad, has gotten so bad. He has been dragging out his bedtime thirty minutes later for the last few nights, and it is all due to anxiety. I think we need to remove some things from his bedtime routine that could be causing over stimulation like some IPAD time, but it seems that everything is setting him off. What’s a parent to do? I have thought that the only thing I can do is allow for more time for him to unwind without technology, but it is more than that. I need to be able to give him room to tell me all that is bothering him in the day and help him find strategies to work through all the pent up emotions. I have learned a lot on our journey so far and from the professionals we have worked with and are working with so am happy to share them with you all.
So, what are the signs a parent could look for to see if their child’s anger is due to anxiety? Here are 5:
- Are they angry about things they can’t control? This is a surefire one. When you need control at all times, that is a sure sign of intense anxiety.
- Are they pushing you away one moment and clinging to you the next? Another sign is the on/off child who switches emotions like car gears. That is a sign they are emotionally unregulated or have trouble with self-regulation.
- They are challenging you on everything: Yep. The child who fights with you over the smallest details, is a worrier and neurotic to the point that they need to learn strategies to calm down. And if they have ones that aren’t working, need to learn new ones.
- Do they threaten you then apologize? Again, this is all about not being able to self-regulate. It is so hard to hear terrible words coming out of your child’s mouth, but until they learn ways to cope with stress in a calm way, this is how they will handle anxiety- with anger and lashing out.
- They need constant reassurance: Kids who need to constantly be praised, kept busy, stimulated and can’t do it for themselves, have major issues with anxiety. CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and medication together can often be beneficial. We have done both and it has helped a lot. However, now more of each is necessary and new ways of explaining to our child how his body and brain work together.
Exceptional Parents, are you struggling with an angry anxious Exceptional Child? Are you trying to remember the last time you had a fun day or evening without having difficulty? It is so hard seeing our children suffer, and knowing that we can’t fix it as their caregivers. However, we can give them one thing to start-love and acceptance, and label what they have as anxiety and teach them that they can find tools to empower themselves. We can also assemble a team of professionals to guide them and us on their journey of wellness. They need to know they have control where it counts, and that they can fix the problems with the right kind of help. As an Exceptional Parent, you also need to make sure you have help for you should you need it. Counseling, parent coaching and regular breaks for you, will make you that much more able to parent compassionately and lovingly. Until next time.