I put this in the anxiety forum, but maybe it would be better here.
I am a seperated father of two children, who shares them a weekend out of two with my ex girlfriend. We`re on very friendly terms
Recently we`vebeen worried about our oldest daughter, who seems to be having panic attacks. She will get cold sweats, nausea, and behave in a way I can describe as "acting crazy". She`ll stay seated in the same place grasping her hair and her stomach, wailing and crying. Usually, my ex told me it happens shortly after she`s been put to bed for the night, she`ll wake up and tell my ex she isnt feeling well, and shortly after it will start. She isnt a big girl, and as such for several years, we`ve put more pressure on her to finish her plates, eat a little bit more. Not forcefull, but firm pressure. Now, it`s at the point where she barely eats, saying it makes her sick. I`ve tried to ease off and not put pressure, now she eats less than ever. After speaking with her at lenght, she says she has no idea why she has these attacks, and that they happen by themselves. Her last one was saturday morning, when shortly after arriving at my home with her sister for my weekend with them, she went into a panic saying she wanted to be with her mother. I explained to her that wasnt possible, and she exploded. I tried calming her down, but it got to a point where I myself got angry and yelled at her, in a way I never have in her life. I apologised to her latter on because I said some hurtfull things, which I regretted, and I`m not someone who explodes like that, but I was so angry at her actingin a way she never has in her entire life.
We have made plans to meet with a psychologist who will try and help us understand what is going on, my knowledge of how to deal with this situation is very limited. Iwas reading about disorders and fell upon Seperation Anxiety. Idont know.
Anyways, Any advice on how to deal with this would be appreciated.On how to act with myself as well.
You are right to be critical of how you responded. It's important that you maintain your equanimity regardless of the behavior of your children. It's all the more important with children who might be fearful/anxious. It is possible that your daughter is displaying an anxiety disorder and this will be determined at the evaluation with the psychologist. From a parenting perspective, the most important thig you can do is help her to re-establish her equilibrium at such times. Any intervention, such as yelling, that ramps up her upset is to be avoided.
I`d also like to point out that I am worried sick about my daughter. I`m scared that if this is left untreated, whatever it is, it can have repercussions in her adult life. It was wrong of me to explode the way I did, it did have the effect to bring her back from her "crisis" but I dont want to do this every time. We are takingher to the school psychologist, of which I was initially reluctant, but am thinking more and more by seeing her reactions that i might be necessary, even with the bad experiences I`ve had with them in the past.
I just need to hear how to act when such a crisis happens, how I can get her back. Since yesterday....well, I dont feel like a very good father. It hurtme to hear being this way, profounfdly, as her and her sister arethe two most importantpeople in my life..
Thank you for the reply, doctor. The setting up of a meeting is actually on my ex-spouse hands, she hasn't seen one yet and I`m beginning to question the lenght of the process. I`ve had some more conversations with her about all this during the past two weeks, since there was another incident with her mother. She woke up about half an hour after bed, saying she didn't feel well, and she started throwing a hysterical crying fit, her mother told me. She insisted that her mother sleep with her, which her mom did regularly in the past, but hasn't been doing in the last 2 years. I suggested this might not be a good idea, because it could install a bad habit to which my daughter will be unable to sleep anywhere unless someone is with her.
How do you suggest I help her re-establish her equilibrium? The last time this happenned, for about an hour I tried reasonning with her, getting her to change her ideas, put on some television, told jokes, messed around, yet she kept repeating the same sentence while crying for over an hour. Ironically, when I got angry is actually when she stopped and started thinking about something else. Half an hour latter, it was as if nothing had happenned. I'm at a complete loss with it, because when it happens, I do not recognise my daughter. I`m still hesitant in deciding if this is indeed an aniety disorder, or some unknowingor unconscious manipulation that children often do, not always in a malignant or mean-spirited way. Her mother always let`s her have her way when she throws a fit like this, whereas with me it usually does not work.
When last she threw a fitlike this with me, she was repeating over and over "I want mommy"as if she was a 2 year old again. I calmly explained to her that that was not happenning, that her mother was busy (which was the case, and honestly and a bit shamefully, had she been there I probably WOULD have brought her back, the whole experience of seeing my daughter that way was incredibly hurtful to me as a father). It primed her on more until I got angry. After everything was over, I asked her if there was a problem with my house, with me, if there was something wrong, if she did not love me anymore, other things in that sense. She insisted everything was alright, and that she did not know why she became as she did, in her words, "It happens by itself and I can't stop it". My ex suggested telling her something COMPLETELY off the subject when she throws an "attack" like this, for example she looked at her very squarely and said "your computer just broke" (she loves that computer, and it was fine). That ended one of her hysterical fits in a second.
Interacting with her at such times is unproductive. She is not available for rational intervention because she is so overcome by emotion. My guidance is to let her alone entirely and let the episode wane on its own. The more you intervene the more the intensity is likely to ramp up.
Thanks for the advice. A little progress update, since that episode that was discussed, everything has disappeared almost entirely and her behavior hqas reverted back to the way it was. It`s as if nothing has happenned at all, she acts very rationnally, like she had before. My ex girlfriend mentionned she forbade her from seeing one of her friends at school, whom she said was a bad influence. The timeframe fits. Is it possible this was just caused by some form of peer pressure, or intimidation? Honestly I am at a loss, and my daughter when asked just says she was having a "bad moment". She doesn't mention said friend, all she wants to acknowledge about the events is " you were right dad, I was making a fuss over not much. I'm better now". I'm happy things are going back to normal, but I don't understand anything of it...
My best guidance to you is to move on. I'm sure you have plenty to attend to besides re-visiting this matter. There really is no benefit from dwelling on it. Worry is never helpful - it exhausts mental energy that can be better expended on things you can control.
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