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8 year old with anxiety
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8 year old with anxiety

My 8 year old daughter has anxiety issues.  These issues are mainly over any new or unfamiliar situation, and especially when she is in these situations without her parents.  Some of these issues are really effecting her self esteem.  Recently my daughter has said that she hates herself for not being able to do some of the things that friends her age have no problem doing.  Lately sleep overs has been a big issue.  My daughter feels so left out when all of her friends get together and have a sleep over, and she just can't find the courage to do it herself. She doesn't even like to spend the night at her grandma's house.  My husband says not to pressure her, but how will she ever get over these fears?  What can I do to help her?  Some days she makes me a nervous reck with her worries.  I want her to be a positive and confident child, but need the skills to help her.  What can I do over the summer to prepare her for school in September?  She's had the same teacher for the past 2 years and I have a feeling she'll worry herself sick over having a new teacher and classmates?  Any suggestions?

P.S.  My daughter is the only child at home.  She has a 16 year old step brother that visits often (she adores him).  I'm a stay at home mom and have been since my daughter was 2 years old.  This is a very loving and stable home.
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Your daughter's separation anxiety is a problem because it keeps her from participating in situations and activities that are the norm for her age. It is wise not to pressure her, but it is also wise to introduce her to situations in a calm, patient, supportive way in order to counter her avoidance. Si it's sort of a balancing act. Should you defer all the time to her worries? No. Should you exert undue pressure on her? No. Should you try to help her acclimate to situations by supporting her involvement? Yes. It would be wise to arrange an evaluation with a child psychologist (or other child mental health clinician) who can assist you and your daughter to manage the anxiety.
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It's such a shame that life doesn't come with an owners manual. When I encountered issues such as this with my kids (my daughter had separation anxiety), I decided to approach the problem by first figuring out how *I* handle new situations and then showing or explaining that to her.

Often new situations bring with them a range of expectations--not only does one need to know what to expect, but one needs to know what is expected of them. That can be complicated and anxiety producing, so it's always good to have a plan when dealing with new things.

So, maybe if you not only encouraged your daughter, but gave her some guidance on *how* to do new things and what to expect it would help. Also discussing the "what if" situations...like what if (at an overnight) she wakes up and finds out she isn't in her own room and gets frightened...maybe she could pretend to be in her room, or snuggle her stuffed animal she brought with her, or think of her favorite story until she falls back asleep, or... you get the idea.

If it's other new situation, maybe she just needs to know (ahead of time) what it is she's supposed to do. Like how *do* you buy a movie ticket? It's like wanting or needing to know the "rules" ahead of time.

As far as the school situation, I would look for books and movies that have characters in similar situations, watch and read them with her and come up (with her) with a plan for how she is going to handle it.

Sometimes all one needs is a little success at a new thing to gain confidence at it.
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My daughter is also 8yrs old, an only child, and going into third grade next year with a new teacher after having the same teacher for 2 years.  She is very shy and does not do well with change.  This past weekend she slept over a friends house for the first time and did better than we expected.  (She took a favorite stuffed animal and a book with her.)  She was never willing to go to sleepovers in the past so we would have her friends sleepover at our house.  This way she did not feel that she was left out of anything.  You might want to try to have one of your daughters friends sleepover your house.  Your daughter will get an idea of what sleepovers are like and might be more willing to try it at someone elses house.
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