Our 6-year old daughter has almost daily crying spells. She seems to need to cry herself out almost every day at some point. She often has these crying spells in the car or at home - she has never had one at school or in a social setting with her peers. She is bright, energetic, funny, and very popular with her classmates. She has had this behavior since she was about 2 - it seems to be fairly stable but this year is perhaps more noticable. She has a teacher who is quite strict and who doesn't seem comfortable around children. She is our middle child (boy 4, her 6, and older sister 8). Our family is very stable and traditional - we've been married for ten years and have three children. Mom stays home with the kids and dad is self-employed.
She worries about many things that are beyond her years (whether our plane to China would run out of gas, whether the dormant volcanos in California would spring to life, etc.) and we are almost certain that she (like her dad) suffers from GAD. She has many of the characteristics of GAD such as being a perfectionist and likes to please. She has started worrying about which day of the week it is because she worries about school, piano lessons, etc. We believe these crying spells are generally a way for her to get rid of the stress she feels from anxiety about a variety of things.
We are at a bit of loss on what to do - if anything. We initially tried ignoring these spells - ineffective in ending/reducing them. We have tried addressing these spells as a disciplinary problem - also ineffective. Now we have a "mixed" response - if she starts a spell and we are going somewhere special we will delay or cancel the trip/event on account of the spell. This is sometimes effective at shortening the spell. Our most common response is to let her go to her room and cry herself out. When we talk to her about why she does this she will say sometimes she gets so frustrated that it just "comes out."
What advice do you have? Is this type of behavior typically transient (i.e. will she grow out of it?)? We are considering either: 1. Continuing our status quo and giving her space to cry herself out; 2. Taking her to a child psychologist; or 3. Finding additional behavior management strategies that could help her. We are very wary of medication for a child of her age. I suppose ear plugs are an option but we want to make sure we are not missing something big here.
In light of the family history, it is very lilely that you are witnessing the early symptoms of anxiety disorder. There's no way to forecast the direction this will go. Your daughter's level of worry may remain stable (it will liely not lessen); it may escalate over the years. If she is coping well apart from these episodes, I'd continue to do as youe are doing. You're managing the episodes fine from the point of view of behavior management. If the worries start to be an impediment to carrying on with her daily challenges, it would be prudent to seek some psychological help. Try not to allow your daughter's episodes to dictate the routine of the family, though.
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