The hardest part about having a child diagnosed with PANDAS is the anxiety.
The motor tics he suffers aren’t dangerous to him at this point; they are basically just a mild distraction to him and those around him who happen to notice. His OCD is generally manageable. It currently manifests itself in him being anal about pretty much everything, and mild hoarding (he literally has a breakdown if you try to throw something of his away and he has boxes and boxes of “collectibles” in his room). It’s also nearly impossible for him to lose something, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But, the anxiety, at times, has been debilitating.
Things like learning to ride a bike or tie his shoes have caused him to have panic attacks. He struggles to learn new skills or play a sport because of fear of failure. He doesn’t want to go to new classes or join new teams because he doesn’t enjoy meeting new people. Change is hard. Seriously freaking, hard.
In an effort to combat these things and prevent him from leading the most boring and unfulfilling life known to man, we’ve worked really hard to find things that help him.
Having siblings has been a huge help for him. His brothers are super supportive of him when they aren’t punching him in the arm or calling him a fart face and are willing to help integrate him into new situations when appropriate.
But they can’t always be there. Just like I can’t always be there. We are helping him work through some of his codependency issues as well so that he can be successful in those situations where one of his trusted sidekicks can’t be by his side.
We’ve found a few things that help alleviate some of the anxiety.
5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety in Children
Buy a calendar.
His is a dry erase one. We keep it by his bed. He likes to know when things are happening and he often has countdowns for impending events, like birthday parties and weekends. Having the calendar accessible to him so that he can keep track of his “milestones” alleviates some anxiety for him because he has a visual reminder of what’s ahead. He’s all about predictability, and preparedness. He’s awesome for making sure I don’t miss appointments!
Give him a watch.
Just like the calendar, having a watch helps him feel in control of what is going on around him and when. Sometimes he checks the time every two minutes. Imagine having to actually tell him the time every two minutes (we’ve been there, it sucks)! With his watch on he can check until his heart’s content without bothering his teacher or his mom or everyone within earshot at the movie theater.
Get a night light.
The kind that is right by the bed so he can turn it on at night when he is frightened or having insomnia. It is difficult for #3 to fall asleep and, once he is, he often has nightmares that wake him. But, with his night light attached to his bed and his box of books nearby, he has learned to read himself to sleep when he’s having a hard time relaxing for the night.
Turn off the news.
We haven’t watched the news in this house for years. We just think local news reporters and the sensationalized reports they give are lame. But, since #3 has been struggling with anxiety, keeping the news turned off when he is home is critical. He has a great understanding of the difference between fact and fiction. He can watch Thor throw his hammer at people until the cows come home, no problem. But, reports of a hurricane or a tornado, or stories about masked men wreaking havoc in a neighborhood send him into a panic. He lives his life on what-ifs and when he sees them coming to life around him it takes days, even weeks, for us to set him back onto the you-are-safe-your-home-isn’t-going-to-get-blown-up-washed-away-or-ransacked path again. We can’t keep every piece of news away from him, nor do we even desire to, but we like to make sure we are the ones to present it to him in a way he can understand and deal with. TV just sorta sucks at that.
Keep his things safe.
#3 never loses things. Literally, he. Never. Loses. Anything. He is meticulous about where he places his items. He has the memory of elephant. And, he doesn’t share things that are important to him. He really just can’t. Because other kids aren’t trustworthy and they break things and lose things and stick thing up their noses. My baby can’t live like that. So he has boxes. All kinds of boxes. Boxes with latches, boxes with locks, boxes that stack, boxes with tops. We buy them (or make them!) and he keeps his things in them. I wish I was half as organized as he is.