One of my beautiful daughters lives with anxiety disorders. I know that some parents will disagree that I am discussing this on a public forum. I want to help other parents as I learn how to parent around her anxiety with my co-parents. I also want my daughter to learn to live WITH her anxiety and to not allow it to define her. A large part of that equation is acceptance, and part of acceptance is learning to not be ashamed. We saw signs of her anxiety as soon as she started kindergarten. At first we dismissed it as just her age, and attributed to starting school. In first grade there was no denying that something was wrong. My heart ached as a mom, and it broke for my little girl. I just wanted to fix it, and I couldn’t. I wanted her to have everything she chose to accomplish. I did not want for her life to be more difficult. All of this first bubbled up to the surface around the same time that my ex-husband and I separated. I worried that my failed relationship had caused my daughter’s anxiety, which I know now is untrue, she is just made that way.
Why is that so hard for our society to see? Anxiety and other mental health issues are not a reflection of some wrong choice we made somewhere along the way. They are a part of the person’s make-up, the way their brain is wired. I refuse to let her grow up thinking her anxiety is anything to be ashamed of. If she has diabetes or another medical problem she would be treated completely different. I don’t understand how someone can think a six-year old (she was six when we first knew for sure that something was wrong) would choose to be anxious or obsess over every small detail. She did not choose this, and we did not choose this for her.
Co-parenting is hard enough without any added stress, but co-parenting a child with any sort of special needs is a huge challenge. Molly, my daughters’ step-mom, and I are very organized. We coordinate schedules and try to help our anxious daughter to learn new ways to cope with her disorders. Both dads also try to teach our daughter to learn to live with her disorders. The beginning of the school-year is always a very tough time for her. Due to her anxiety, she has a tough time in school, especially socially. Other kids are mean, and they make her cry on a regular basis.
I want her to grow up to be stronger from meeting her challenges. I want for her to rely on herself, and to remember that what people think of us does not define us, unless we allow what they think define us. Molly and I are both Dr. Suess fans, and we have both read a quote to her over and over.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
The night before the first day of school this year I had a fabulous idea! I typed out the latter parts of the quote, and when I got home that evening I placed them inside a locket. I gave it to my daughter and told her to wear it anytime she was scared about anything. I told her to feel it against her skin, close to her heart, and to know that both of her mothers are in her corner. I told her to touch it anytime someone says something mean to her and to remember that those who say hurtful things do not define who she is. She loved it and she had a great first day of school!
Check out Trish’s most recent post talking about shopping with her daughters’ step-mom on Her View From Home.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of ten and fourteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.