By: Melanie Dugan.
It is incredible how much family and personal history one has to reveal to a psychologist in order for them to understand where a simple thing like a child’s exam anxiety comes from. Revealing my own human condition was quite confronting but necessary. The psychologist needed to understand the source of my child’s anxiety in order to decide on the right treatment plan for her.
I finally received permission from my daughter to make an appointment for her with a counselor. The appointment was at a clinic that runs special programs to help adolescent students with exam/study anxiety. Although it may seem like a baby step, it was an enormous break through for me as a parent because it had been such a long time coming! Recognizing there was an issue and then getting my daughter to finally acknowledge, accept, and act upon the anxiety issue was quite a lengthy process. It was probably a 6-year roller-coaster struggle.
At the first session, I found myself describing to the counselor what sort of pregnancy I’d had, how I bonded with my daughter as a baby and what she was like as a toddler. My daughter toilet trained early, her language acquisition was strong and consequently she learned to read early. She loved problem solving, puzzles, imaginary games, and creative tasks. My daughter played well with other children but was also quite insecure. Looking back she did have separation anxiety issues and was uncomfortable in new situation. All this probing, reflecting and wondering on earth why we were talking about these things and then boom, there it was – the confronting issue for me as a parent: I was possibly responsible for my child’s stress anxiety because of something I did or didn’t do with her as a child.
Hindsight is all well and good but every parent knows that they do the best for their children. We don’t deliberately screw our kids up. I came to the role of parenting with limitations and handicaps that were handed down from my family; as did my husband. Our parents did the best job of parenting that they could, given the circumstances and realities that existed for them. I am not excusing myself but acknowledging the reality. The nature of our human condition is that we cannot love (and parent) our children as much as they expect to be loved. That is difficult to accept but I have read a beautiful explanation of this truth (www.worldtransformation.com/human-condition/) that dignifies and defends us as parents in the most profound way.
I believe that my daughter will learn really useful lifelong skills by taking this first baby step. To address anxiety issues early in life will hopefully enable her to apply similar techniques/strategies for coping with other stress and anxiety issues as and when they arise. After all, they predominantly come from the same route cause – our insecurity (human condition) about being unworthy/unlovable that stems from childhood misreading.
Our hope is that our daughter gets on top of her exam/testing/study anxiety, completes her schooling and finds a fulfilling path in life. In order to do that she will need to have a good understanding of herself and an awareness of why she behaves the way that she does. Understanding our own version of the human condition enables us to take our place confidently in the world.
In summary, if you are reading this and someone in your family is experiencing anxiety issues, there are basically five transition phases to be aware of:
1. Recognizing that a family member has an anxiety issue. It is much easier for someone else to see what is happening than it is for a person to see his or her own reality.
2. Raising the issue with a family member is tricky and needs to be well thought out and planned. Seek guidance if you are unsure how to proceed.
3. Getting a family member to acknowledge that they have an anxiety problem is difficult, but possible. Acceptance may take years and years. In the meantime keep loving, supporting and persisting with the family member. Logic will prevail in the end!
4. Getting someone to act on the revelation is also a major difficulty.
Denial and procrastination while frustrating are completely normal transition phases.
5. Treatment: Support and encouragement whilst the family member goes through appropriate treatment. Counseling for anxiety issues may destabilize a person at first. However, strategies and tools learned during treatment for one issue can easily be applied to other anxiety issues.
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