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Truths about parenting an anxious child

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I am ashamed to admit this, but for many years, I was embarrassed by my daughter’s behavior. She behaved differently than other kids… acting out, showing defiance, crying, clinging, refusing to interact with others…the list goes on and on. We would arrive at a friend’s house to watch a football game, and she would sit next to me on the couch and cry while other kids ran around and played. At school, teachers would have to pull her off of me while I attempted to head off to work. Parents were talking about us when we left the room. Teachers were thinking that my husband and I were awful parents. I was embarrassed that people thought I was a bad mom and that my actions led to my daughter’s behavior.

Finally, when we started treatment for my daughter’s severe anxiety, and I was educated, I realized that my daughter had an illness. Her behaviors and actions were not a result of our parenting or a result of her choices. Once I gained an understanding of what my daughter was dealing with, I started to get angry at people around me for being so naive, for making assumptions about my daughter and our family. Suddenly, I realized how unrealistic it was for other people to have a true sense of what was happening if I didn’t even realize what was happening until we got help.


This is to educate everyone on what it is like parenting a child with anxiety I hope you take away the realness of our situation and the harmful effects left behind with unsupportive comments and assumptions.

  • Anxiety makes my daughter say and do things that are not really her. She is the sweetest, kindest girl but she lashes out and will go to great lengths to leave an anxious situation. When the anxiety lessons, she feels immense guilt and embarrassment over the way she acted.
  • Anxiety is real. My daughter is not a brat. She does not run away and avoid situations to take it easy. She is genuinely scared to death.
  • Yes, there are times she can appear “typical” or anxiety free. This does not mean that she no longer has anxiety. It means that she is not triggered because she feels safe at that moment.
  • I cannot force my child to do anything during a panic attack. She has no rational thought occurring in those moments, rendering her unable to focus and follow directions.
  • There is nothing that can be done to make her “typical”. She will always be a highly anxious child/person and will have always have to work extra hard to manage her demons.
  • It is not her fault nor our fault as parents that she has anxiety. It is part of who she is and a part of who she always will be.
  • She works harder every day than most people. Everything she does takes immense effort and many days she is exhausted from battling her anxiety.
  • She is very smart but struggles to learn at school because she puts so much energy into fighting anxiety.
  • Her anxiety is not a result of bad parenting. We have tried everything to make life better for our daughter and will continue to do everything we can for her.
  • Telling me that “you don’t know how I do it” doesn’t help. I have to do it. I wish it wasn’t my life.
  • Trying to “fix” my daughter is unreasonable. You shouldn’t either. This is who she is and her weaknesses come with many strengths.
  • My daughter uses fidgets out of necessity. She is not a baby or childish. Her excess energy has to go somewhere.
  • I am not a helicopter mom by choice. I have to help manage school and home in order to help her get through each day. The world is not friendly to anxious people. I do what I can to allow her to be a kid as often as possible.
  • I know everyone experiences anxiety at times and trust me, if I could tell her to “get over it, you’re fine”, and it worked, I would have done that a long time ago.
  • Please tell your children/teenagers to be patient with her. Even if she has declined other social invitations, do not stop inviting her. She may say yes sometime.
  • Appreciate each and every moment that your child walks into school, participates in a sporting event, sings with the choir, or hangs out with friends. I want that more than anything for my daughter but I have to watch other children smile and see their parent’s pride and joy all over social media. Be thankful for what seems ordinary.
  • Just because I look like my life is perfect due to the smile plastered on my face or the pictures posted on Facebook, life is far from perfect. I refuse to walk around seeking pity or complaining. This is my life and it is the absolute best it can be given our circumstances.
  • We never have enough money. Mental health treatment (like most medical care) costs a fortune. We put every extra dime into high-quality care, making immense sacrifices every day.
  • Our future is uncertain. I think positive but I know that her path may not be the same as her peers and that is ok. Stop assuming that every child is going to college. She is going to do something amazing!
  • She may be labeled as “highly anxious” but that is not who she is.
  • I worry all of the time. I worry about her day at school, if she is attending class, will she ever have a close group of friends, how she will pass certain classes, will she find a passion or hobby, how will I pay for the next medical expense, what does her future look like, and so on!
  • Immense guilt is always hovering nearby. Did I saw the wrong thing and make things worse? When I work, I am not giving her all that I can. When I don’t work, our family suffers financially. Why didn’t we get help earlier? Why didn’t I see that coming? Am I spending enough time with my son? Does he think we love our daughter more?
  • I am jealous of typical kids and the ease of which they live life. I wish my daughter was going out with a group of friends or participating in the school play.
  • Adult friendships are difficult for me. Nobody understands my life. I get tired of canceling plans because I cannot leave the house. It is hard to hear about all of the great accomplishments of your children (although I honestly love hearing about your children’s success… I just get jealous). This is something I am working on every day.
  • Trying to get help at school is not something I want to be doing but I must. The accommodations for my daughter are necessary for her success.
  • We may bail on plans often. Activities and events sound great in the planning process, but do not always work out in the moment. I am truly sorry to cancel on you, but I have to pick my battles.
  • I am exhausted ALL of the time from the mental and emotional strain. My mind never stops…always planning for what is next or putting out each fire as it arises.
  • Due to the difficulties of our daily life, I really appreciate each bright moment that happens. We have learned to celebrate the small successes and achievements rather than waiting for big moments. I encourage everyone to find the small moments that make life amazing.
  • I love with a fierceness that I didn’t t know existed. My husband’s love and support make my selfless tasks as a mother possible. The strength my children provide is immeasurable. Without adversity, I do not know if I would recognize this.
  • Our battles have shown us the importance of being judgment free to others. I lift others up whenever possible, spread kindness and support, and refuse to judge since I have not walked in anyone else’s shoes.

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While I wish I was not parenting a child with anxiety, we always find a way to thrive. Use this as a springboard to understanding the world around you. I never expect anyone to understand our life, but I do expect compassion, respect, and kindness. For families dealing with your own struggles, you are not alone. Together, we will make the world a kinder, gentler place.

Do you wonder if your child may be experiencing anxiety? Here are 10 Not So Obvious Signs of Anxiety in Children

You can read all about our journey with child anxiety here.

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