My daughter is full of anxiety right now. She keeps saying “What if my house burns down?” She is terrified to go to sleep.
At school, they had the fire practice house come for a demonstration. They had the kids crawl through the house filled with smoke (fog), and climb out a window with the help of a firefighter. This activity has traumatized her.
She started just asking questions about it. And then started talking about how she would have no toys if she lost them all in a fire. And then the tears came at night. She is terrified to be in her room. She is terrified in the morning to be away from me in the house. She is terrified to enter the house ahead of me if she is more than a few steps ahead.
I’m exhausted. Life is exhausting right now – between work, a 4 month old, and everyday life. And my 5 year old has some severe anxiety. This is different than just misbehaving because it involves feelings. I believe everyone has a right to their feelings, no matter how irrational they may seem to other people. So, even though I feel like her fear is irrational, given all the things we’ve done to reassure her- they are her feelings and I have to respect that. So I’ve treated her with lots of love and caring and answered a million questions calmly and patiently.
I told her I needed to go fold the clothes and she said “The house is going to burn down anyways.” She hears the sum pump kick in, or the heat, and jumps- even though it sounds nothing like a fire alarm.
We’ve made a fire escape plan. We’ve practiced the plan. She has a step stool under one window and her bed under another. She knows where to go. She’s given me a bunch of scenarios including how I will get her AND her sister out the window. It’s gotten to the point where I am worrying myself and making sure there is a baby carrier in the baby’s room so I can attach her to me before going out the window, where I will then catch the 5 year old- while wearing the baby.
I had a firefighter come over and talk to her. He even had notes on things we would say to her. He brought her a stuffed animal and a necklace that says 911 on it. (She informed him that she cannot call because she doesn’t not have a phone of her own) He brought coloring books. He practiced opening her window with her and putting towels at the bottom of her door. She was able to ask him questions and made sure to tell him how I set off the fire alarm all the time when I’m cooking . (True story).
After he left she told me she thought of a question. “Will I hear the fire alarm go off when I’m flushing the toilet?” She’s so worried about not hearing the alarm go off. She just had her hearing screening at school (this school activity did not traumatize her 🙂 She can hear just fine. But she has to make sure her music is on just right- not too loud and not too soft.
I’ve tried my school counseling things on her. Visualize the worry coming out. Deep breathes. Count your breaths coming in and out. I wrote her a social story, complete with pictures, on what to do. I read the social story to her. I’ve answered every question she has. I’ve told her it’s my job to worry about taking care of her and keeping her safe and that I’m doing that.
We talked about giving our worry to God. I prayed with her. My friend is praying for us- and she did sleep through the night last night after a rough start- so it’s helping.
Bedtime is a nightmare for me. She won’t stay in bed. For the second night, I’m sitting on a bench in her room typing while she falls asleep. It’s an hour and a half past her bedtime. I’ve given her sleepy time tea. I’ve let her sleep on the floor of the room I slept in. I’ve let her fall asleep on me on the couch and then carried her to bed. (She weighs 50 pounds).
Here she is. Upright. In the baby’s room. With her sleepy time tea in her hand.
I’m tired. I forgot half of my lunch today. The part with the protein in it. So I have a headache.
I was trying to enjoy some hot chocolate and watch my favorite TV show tonight. The baby is sleeping. But I’m sitting on a bench in her room. Frustrated and wondering where all my patience is coming from. It helps that I tell my friends how frustrating it is, so I can be more patient with her because I got it out elsewhere. But I’m still frustrated.
She has a fun school event tomorrow night and I want so badly to tell her we can’t go if she won’t sleep. But these are her feelings. And she has a right to them. And I can’t punish her for that.
I took her to the doctor today. She said her ears were ringing. I thought maybe she had fluid in them- that happens to me a lot. But the doctor said her ears were perfect and it’s just anxiety (I told her what else was going on). So I tried to explain to her that the ringing is worry, and that we need to get that worry out.
I set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes and told her to set it by her bed and that I would be in when it got to 0 to check on her. She came to check on me every minute, until it got to 0. Another attempt failed…
I need to go running…