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Challenge: Digging Deep

Anxiety and Children: Parenting your Sensitive and/or Anxious Child

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Read this article even if you haven’t dealt with anxiety and children, special needs, disrespectful children, or otherwise challenging-to-raise children! Chance are you automatically have judgments when you see children having a tantrum or acting poorly in public, even if those judgments are sympathetic to the child or the parent. How you react can be part of increasing peace in the world, or adding to the pain and misery.


Many parents who are dealing with anxiety and children, special needs such as Autism or ADD, or just plain sensitive children, are faced daily with challenges that many more easy going children don’t raise. Your judgments can help the parents feel supported and give them the strength to dig deeper to meet their child’s needs, or merely add to their frustration, which will inevitably backlash onto the child.

If you have a child who is more challenging to raise, read this article to be acknowledged for the tough parenting role that you’ve been in. You may be inspired to see your child’s unique challenges in a new way. I believe from personal experience that we are given the child who will most grow us as a person in order to meet his or her needs. We don’t live though in a society that openly sees the gifts that our unique children offer to us and the world, and so that’s why I hope you read on.

This topic is near and dear to my heart because I have both types of kids to parent. My son is a very easy going, go with the flow type who is relatively easy to parent. He does not require me to be extra sensitive and thoughtful in my dealing with him. With good basic care, love and time spent with him, he flourishes. Yet that same formula does not work for his sister!

My other child is an exquisitely sensitive child who notices everything! If you have heard Robert Munsch narrate one of his amazing children’s stories, think of how he would exaggerate EVERYTHING, and you’ll get what I’m saying. She runs towards anxiety because she can get overwhelmed and lost in her own intense and plentiful feelings.

For example, my kids both swim competitively. My son likes to swim and compete. My daughter knows she has to do a sport and swimming is her favorite of all the choices she doesn’t like. However, she dreads swim meets, despite being a fast swimmer.

On the day of a race, her brother might feel a twinge of nerves in his stomach, which he would easily ignore. My daughter almost always feels intense discomfort from the natural nerves that accompany competition. Those intense feelings can lead to her mind racing, resulting in more physical symptoms, and the cycle can quickly grow.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot about anxiety and children, so I’ve been able to teach her how to deal with her anxious thoughts. For the most part, her sensitivity doesn’t lead to anxiety that rules her life. However, without such knowledge, I have no doubt that she’d have a full blown anxiety disorder.

I love the work of Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. She was the first person to give me the idea that sensitive, or spirited children have their own special gifts, not just challenges! My daughter is an absolute delight, and she amazes me with her observations, her thoughtfulness and her many gifts.

However, sometimes her sensitivity is very challenging to deal with. I can’t just tell her to get over it, or order her around roughly on occasion because I’m busy and not thinking. Many times I observe other parents doing and saying things that I know I just can’t do because of her sensitivity to tone, emotions and criticism.

What I’ve come to see though is that she is pushing me to grow as a parent in wonderful ways. I am a much more gentle, patient parent because of her. I’ve learned to be more sensitive myself. However growth is not always comfortable! If you have a more challenging child to raise, I know you can relate too! I would have picked the easier path if I could, but the road less traveled has made all the difference for me.

In truth, as a parenting educator, she is the perfect child for me to raise. She pushes me to use all the great parenting information I am constantly encountering. I don’t have to be on the top of my game all the time ’cause he just goes with the flow. My daughter gives me empathy and understanding for the many other parents who also have a more challenging, and gifted child.

I used to think my daughter’s sensitivity made me look like a bad parent :) . Now I am ready to finally thank her publicly for pushing me to evolve as a person through learning to be the parent she needs me to be. So if you deal with anxiety and children, or other special needs, take a moment to think of all the ways your child is inspiring you to be a better parent. The paradigm shift could result in that much more fun for you as a family as you reduce your frustration and your rejection of the way things are.

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