Last week, I discussed how anxiety affects not only the child with autism but the parent as well and how it can even be a back and forth problem. And, what about that child?
What anxiety issues do autistic kids have that can relate to the parent?
Well, imagine you have a child that MUST be driven home from school the exact way every single school day. And, one day, you take a different route.
It may be because you want to do an errand, or a street might be closed – totally not your fault, right? Try explaining it to your autistic child who craves that comforting consistent route home. They could have anxiety from just one car ride home.
Or, what if one day you’re late picking up your child. You told them you’d be there at 5:30pm and you arrive at 5:35pm. In your head, it’s ONLY five minutes.
Try explaining that to your child. Autistic kids tend to be literal and many love numbers – especially time-related. If a class in school is supposed to start at 11:30, they expect it to start on time, and they expect you to pick them up on time. So, if you’re late and your know that your child gets anxious about you being late, you get anxious – and the whole thing explodes.
What can commonly cause anxiety in parents?
I think I can relate to many parents of autistic kids with this example:
Your child is behaving badly and you have to take away a preferred toy. You are a parent, after all, you have set boundaries and you must respect those boundaries. You cannot warn you child twelve times and not follow through.
Just as you’re dealing with your child, you feel a tug inside your body. You dread this or you dread having to follow through with the removing of that toy. But, you follow through because you have to. There’s a whole ton of anxiety right there.
Because, after a while, you know what’s going to happen, you know what’s coming, the meltdown. Which, you guessed it, adds to the anxiety.
Do you sometimes give in to avoid the meltdown?
I’ve done it. I’ve tried not to, but I am not a perfect parent. I have said to myself, “I can’t deal with the meltdown that I know is coming if I follow through on my threat to take away that toy.”
What do I do?
I try to negotiate to try to get my son out of his bad behavior in other ways. And, boy, that’s sometimes a lot of work, too. And, it causes anxiety.
Imagine if you have to handle things like this over and over and over again. Daily, hourly, weekly, sometimes it feels like your child will never progress to the point that your anxiety won’t affect them and their anxiety won’t affect you.
How bad do you feel all because a street was closed and you took a different route home? Is it fair? Fair or not fair is not the point. You have anxiety and you need to deal with it.
How can I deal with my anxiety?
Find times to be by yourself or with your significant other without your child. Take a trip, weekend or one day without your child. Talk to a friend who will let you talk it out. Talk to a therapist.
You have to deal with your anxiety and so does your child. But, you are the parent. You can help yourself easier and sooner than they can.
Then, if you start to help yourself, you being to handle things better, you’re calmer, and that may very well improve the overall situation. It may lessen their anxiety.
There is no reason for you to quietly suffer. There are supports for your child, but make sure to not forget yourself. Get help if you are having anxiety or stress-related issues. You’ll be helping yourself and all of those around you.
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