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Social Anxiety? Separation Anxiety? 5-yr boy

Hello, thank you, in advance, for taking the time to read this.

I am very concerned about my 5-year old boy. He began Kindergarten several weeks ago, and has demonstrated what I’d characterize as ‘intense dread’, prior to going to school, where he cries and nearly vomits. Further, he cried a number of times during school, and when being dropped off.

His anxiety appears to be related to the number of kids that he’s around, and doesn’t know. I’ve gently prompted him to help me understand the nature of his fear, and I think that it has to do with “too many kids”, etc.
He is making progress, slowly, and has created new friendships and is now doing better. He’s funny and playful, most of the time.

But here’s the thing:
In the last several months, we have had both him and his sister (7-years old) in (gentle, easy) Martial Arts classes, twice per week. He often develops severe anxiety prior to, and during these classes. On two occasions, I’ve had to simply drive him home before class even started. The kids have never had to spar, fight or challenge anyone in these classes, by the way.

It’s hard to describe his anxiety: it looks like flight-or-fight, where all he can think of is running out the door as fast as possible. On one occasion, he did just that. Occasionally, he enjoys the class, and participates enthusiastically, though.
I am struggling with this. On one hand, I’m being told that this is normal behavior. On the other hand, I can’t stand to see my boy in distress. He seems really afraid, scared. Maybe this is some kind of separation anxiety; maybe it’s severe shyness (both he and his sister are shy, at first).

His mother and I have divorced; it’s been one year since I moved out. I'm thinking that it's possible that the divorce is affecting the kids, and that it's showing up now, in this context.

Anyway, I don't know what to do, or how to do it. My gut reaction is to get them in front of a counselor or child psychologist, but I don't want to over-react. I am receptive to any input on this important issue.



PS: one other thing: I have an anxiety disorder, apparently inherited from a family member, who also has the same disorder: Panic, Anxiety, etc. I'm wondering whether my son is having panic/anxiety issues? Or is that too early?
2 Responses
Avatar universal
Anxiety is an inherited trait and I suspect your son has inherited this gene.  It was there at birth so the divorce, although this could exacerbate the issue, did not cause it.  Whether your son suffers from separation or panic or social  or some other form of anxieity is irrelevant (although I suspect it is social anxiety).  

Since your son is unble to function in certain social situaitons, it might be wise to educate yourself on this disorder.  I might suggest you google the phrase "social anxiety and children" or "behaviors of children with anxiety" or "anxiety disorders and children" or similar words/phrases.   There's lots of information on the internet as well as many excellent books on this topic.  A counsellor probably would not help a child with anxiety as this is a physcial, emotional and mental health disorder.  If you are going to seek help, then find someone who can work with all three elements of the disorder as a child neurologist or child psychiatrist.  This is not to say your son will require medication but a medical doctor will be able to evaluate all aspects of your son's issues.  Your family doctor should be able to help you find a specialist, if required.

From what you have said, I am wondering if your son is not that severe in his anxiety but I would discuss the following questions with his teacher - can he learn and play at school, is he able to eat at school, can he use the washroom, is he able to speak to other children and adults, could he ask for assistance if required, is he able to sleep at night, etc.  A child suffering from  severe anxiety cannot do many (if not all) of the things that I listed.  This is when medication as well as intervention and/or therapy would be required.  

The main reason to see a child psychologist (after visiting the medical doctor) would be to find assistance with intervention and/or therapy.  Most of these professionals do not work with the child, but give parents a plan on how to help the child overcome and manage his/her fears.  There is no easy way to do this and the path can be long and arduous.  Nonetheless, the prognosis for anxiety in children in excellent and children respond to treatment very well.  Please write back if you feel that I might be able to answer any additional  questions.  I  wish you the best ....
603946 tn?1333945439
excellent advice- only other thing I can think of- boys from divorced families may not easily bond with every male coach/ instructor easily- my son did have a karate teacher that was ok with him but I found one that was much different- he  treated my son "more like a man"- the instructor was never wishy washy- but VERY FAIR and my son never wondered "will this be acceptable today?" He needed that - since dad ran away from home..... he knew this man would do as he promised- it was all good......Just our story and no kidding- he was single and we've been married over 5 years now.....
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