Hello old friend…
Cue in the anxious mom. The term anxiety is growing more popular, and even trends on our Twitter, Instagram, and news feeds daily. No one is immune to it, and like it or not, we all fall victim to it at one point or another. What is anxiety exactly? According to WebMD, anxiety is classified as a normal condition. It’s your brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting you of potential danger.
As a mom of three, I don’t recall experiencing anxiety until after I had kids. Throughout high school and well into my college years, I was capable of yielding anything life threw at me. Sure, I relied on an obscene amount of coffee to help me plow through term papers and study groups. Taking a long drive with all the windows down blasting “Here’s to Never Growing up” by Avril Lavigne was one of my favorite ways to reset and get out of my head.
Fast forward 16 years, and I can’t seem to get away from mac and cheese splatters or the high-intensity Fornite that has become the soundtrack to my life. Unknowingly, I had fallen victim to the big A, and I’ve noticed that my kids can feel my stress.
I compare it to the ocean on a stormy day. It hits you head-on and causes a tidal wave of emotions and a meltdown to seal the deal. This can be true for your little ones also. As much as I grappled with the subject, anxiety will never disappear, BUT there are ways of outsmarting it and getting back to a more relaxed state.
Sure, deep breathing and counting to ten may work for some, but it took a nose-dive for me and my kiddos when I tried implementing it one day at school pick up (every mom’s favorite time of day). You know the feeling for those working from home or keeping a damn good home, all while finding some happy medium between the two. As soon as that clock hits 2 p.m., your heart starts to beat a little faster. You chug the last of your chai latte (now lukewarm from the morning drop-off) and grab your purse and keys.
You’re doing ok, making good time, and still, in a somewhat pleasant state, a little rushed but still chill. The closer you get to the street leading up to your kid(s) school, you realize the end of your ”me” time is about to expire. You grip the steering wheel tighter and give yourself a little pep talk on how you’re going to make it home today. That’s far-fetched. Let me rephrase that. Make it out of the parking lot without losing your cool while hearing, “He hit me!” then threatening to pull the car over in your “scary mom” voice.
We’ve all been there and selflessly put our kids before us because we love them and know they deserve nothing but the best. We love hard but worry harder, and our kids do the same thing.
Some may not have the ability to pinpoint exactly what they feel when they feel it. They worry also, and most of the time, we may not even realize it. For instance, if they can’t tie their shoes fast enough or manage to fit that last puzzle piece in, they may react by throwing, yelling, and stomping.
From my experience, no matter how hard you try to calm them down and talk them out of their rage, nothing works. To us, their problems are not the end of the world but for them, not having ice cream before dinner is an absolute travesty. Don’t get me started on i-Pads and wi-fi…that’s a whole other level of emergency cease and desist tactics.
One afternoon, while my daughter watched her beloved Paw Patrol, the wi-fi decided to cut out, and all hell broke loose. We’re talking tears, plushies being thrown across the room, and cringe-worthy whining after the thirtieth time attempting to reconnect to get back to our happy place. I gave up. Then it hit me…what do I do when I’m stressed about something, or I’ve had a bad day? I write.
I picked up my daughter and sat her down at the dining room table. I broke out the markers and sketch pads and told her to let it all out on paper. It was worth a shot, and to my surprise, it calmed her down and completely changed her mood. I noticed that she seemed relaxed and content while putting pen (marker) to paper.
After giving her some space to create, I came back only to find that she had drawn a beautiful picture of her and I watching TV together. She was mellow and proud of her art, and I was delighted that she channeled her emotions into something positive and constructive. We have since incorporated this into our routine, and it has truly been an effective way to keep her anxiety in check.
If drawing isn’t their thing, poetry (no rhyming necessary) and other forms of writing are wonderful ways for kids to express themselves. There are no rules to follow when creating. It’s a blank canvas to explore one’s feelings, whether they be positive or negative. Not only do these methods make for a peaceful atmosphere, but it gives our kids a sense of accomplishment and pride.
It’s a long road and not a magic fix, but my little ones have learned how to re-focus their anger into something creative and pleasant over time. It reinforces self-control, but it is also something that we do together from time to time to reconnect. With a little practice and consistency, I believe that these techniques can be a useful tool for moms and kids to channel their negative feelings into something unique and fulfilling.
So next time you feel the urge to lock yourself in the bathroom when the wi-fi goes out, grab your kiddo(s) and go and get creative!
Jen Persichetti holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and is a full-time writer. She is currently working with a publisher on her first book which is a personal project she holds very close to her heart. She is also an active member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors (IAPWE). Jen resides in Westchester, NY with her husband and three young children.