Update: My nephew Noah (age 9) is currently having much relief from his school anxiety because his parents are using the principles of this program. He is back to his happy self again, and there is no greater feeling than that…
The Anxiety-Free Child Program is a tremendously useful program to help parents with school aged children who are having a rough time with anxiety, panic attacks, and school phobia.
I had the the opportunity to review the whole program and all I can say is, where was this when my daughter Sam was going through her ordeal? This is immediate anxiety help available at your fingertips- strategies you as parents can implement and teach your child right now to empower them and help them start to feel better right away.
As parents your natural instinct is to soothe your child’s fears. This has been your job from day one. So it is very disturbing when your child suffers from an anxiety disorder or panic attacks. You’d do anything to make your child feel better, if only you knew what in the world to do.
The purpose of this article is to discuss panic attacks in children, explain the symptoms, and discuss childhood anxiety disorder treatment from a mother who has been there.
You can learn how to help a child with anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal part of being a child. Nearly every child is afraid of something at some point. But when a child starts to avoid certain everyday situations because of fear, this is not normal childhood fear. This is a phobia.
When my daughter Samantha was in second grade, she was traumatized by a particularly severe thunderstorm, in which lightning actually struck the convenience store we were in, causing the air conditioning unit to implode and glass to shatter.
Soon after this incident, she became hysterical when it started thundering at a small town carnival and we had to rush to get her to the car. Thunderstorms became a dreaded emotional experience in our household.
In short time, she developed a phobia of not only thunder but clouds, even on sunny days. It got to the point where she would refuse to go outside even on a beautiful summer day, for fear of a thunderstorm.
Signs and Symptoms of panic attacks in children:
A child often doesn’t have the words to describe what is happening to him or her during a panic attack. Even if they can describe their feelings they may be reluctant or embarrassed to let you know how frightened they really are. Therefore as parents and caregivers, it is important to identify the signs and symptoms the child is exhibiting.
The symptoms of panic attacks in children are the same as in adolescents or adults. They include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty taking a deep breath
- Intense fear
- Racing heartbeat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Trembling or shaking in the extremities
- Depersonalization, or a sense of unreality
- Fear of losing control, dying or going crazy
If panic disorder in children goes unrecognized and left untreated, the complications can be difficult. The attacks begin to interfere with the child’s relationships, school and normal social development. This was the case with me: my untreated panic attacks childhood from abuse I received in my Christian school led to a lifetime (well, 30 plus years) of agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
Thankfully, this was not the case with my daughter.
Children with panic attacks can start to feel anxious a good deal of the time, even when they are not actually having a panic attack. For my daughter Samantha, her initial phobia of the thunderstorms developed into a fear of clouds in general, making it very difficult to go outside even on sunny days.
The thunderstorm that started the phobia was in August. When the new school year began the next month, she started to become frightened of going from our house to the bus stop. Every day as the bus pulled away, I had to watch my child crying. It was heartbreaking. We had to speak to the school and arrange for her teacher to physically help Sam get off the bus and into the school. This went on every day for weeks.
Her separation anxiety became more pronounced that fall. Social events such as birthday parties were agonizing for my child. I remember one party that was held at a local gymnastics center. Sam was very excited to go, as she loved this friend and also loved gymnastics. However as we drove to the party, her mood changed and she became frightened.
“Mommy I don’t want to go.”
“Sam honey it will be fun.”
“I want to go home.”
“Sweetie, all your friends are there.”
(crying now) “Mommy I want to go home now!”
By the time we got to the party she was highly frightened and almost inconsolable. She was crying and shaking and I had to hold her physically. After what seemed like forever, I was able to get her to calm down enough to go in. She was clingy and wouldn’t interact with her classmates and friends until almost the end of the party. I felt like a bad mom because she was so frightened and cruel because I pretty much forced her go to the party.
Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment
A pediatric psychiatrist stressed that we (we being me and my husband) shouldn’t give into Sam’s avoidance behaviors. This was not as easy as it sounds.
During this phase, we painfully weathered the clouds, the school bus, and the birthday parties. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see her suffer like that. My words and hugs couldn’t soothe her. If you’ve ever tried to sooth a hysterical inconsolable 7 year old girl, and then actually force her to do the very thing she is afraid of, you know how gut wrenching this is.
However, the key is we did seek treatment for her. By following the suggestions of her doctor and not giving into Sam’s panic, we were able to get her to to school every day on the yellow school bus. And we attended every party we were invited to. It was not easy. It would have been far easier to just say, forget this! and go home. And I do admit there were times I really felt like throwing in the towel. I would plead to her doctor, “what the hell good is it for her to go to a party when she’s hysterical?”
Panic attacks in children cause a tremendous amount of suffering, both for the frightened child, and his or her parents or caregivers as well. It is crucial to seek childhood anxiety disorder treatment as soon as you feel your child is experiencing panic attacks. When properly evaluated, like my Sam, childhood panic attacks respond well to treatment.
And speaking of treatment, getting the right help was no walk in the park for us. We saw a total of 3 doctors and 1 social worker to help us with Sam’s anxiety. It was excruciating, expensive, and only 1 doctor helped us at all. If you are deciding to seek therapy for your child, be sure to listen to your instincts and persist until you find one who really knows what they’re doing.
I also suggest you read everything you can about anxiety and panic attacks in children. Our books were the only resources we had in between psychiatrist appointments and they were comforting. Thankfully parents today have even more options.
How to help a Child with Anxiety
As parents, we must advocate for our children. Call your child’s school. Make an appointment with her pediatrician. Ask for a referral to a good pediatric psychologist. Read everything you can. With panic attacks in children, knowledge is key.
I will mention again that the Anxiety Free Child program is an excellent resource if you have an anxious child or if he or she has panic attacks.
Remember: You are your child’s best advocate and support person. If your child suffers from panic attacks, don’t wait 2 weeks until you get an appointment with a therapist who may or may not help. You know your child best and can start helping them right away. What a tremendous gift.
I wish you peace,
p.s. By the end of 2nd grade, Samantha was pretty much back to her old outgoing self. This was due to almost a year of a lot of intense work and the trail and errors I mentioned above. Don’t make your child suffer any longer than necessary. Order The Anxiety Free Child program and start helping your child today.