By Anita Ness, Mum & Founder of EMBRACE Calmer Kids
Many years ago I came across an article that both broke my heart and lit a fire inside of me. The article touched on the very serious and sensitive topic of teen suicide. I was shocked to learn that suicide was, and still is, the leading cause of death amongst Australia’s youth. I questioned how this could be? And then, most importantly, what could I do about it?
It really did ignite a fire within me to do something, to create something that might make even a small difference to a child, or a parent that would shift these terrible statistics. Suicide in young Australians is the highest it’s been in over 10 years. And a high proportion of kids aged between 4 and 17 experience anxiety. These are scary facts, but even just the smallest shift in thinking, can move a child in the direction of experiencing a more positive sense of wellbeing.
Like many new mums, I had no idea that one of my precious children would experience anxiety, but it happened.
My eldest daughter started showing signs of anxiety when she was 5 years old and starting ‘big’ school. 3 days after starting kindy my daughter fell off the monkey bars and broke her arm. She is such a gentle soul, but within a week she was having anger outbursts, which was very out of character for her.
In those moments, it was like she was a totally different child. It was all incredibly upsetting. I felt shocked, distressed and so very confused. I had no idea what was happening. And to be honest with the plaster on her arm she was a potential danger to her little 3 year old sister, herself, and basically anything breakable, all without even meaning to be.
It took a while for me to work out that what lay behind the anger was anxiety. We saw several specialists, including paediatricians and occupational therapists, and found a great OT that diagnosed her as possibly highly sensitive, with some anxiety in there as well. Even with the probable diagnosis, it was incredibly difficult and frustrating to know what to do, or how to act. I didn’t know if I should be tough and discipline her for the bad behaviour, or to be loving and try to calm her down, as she obviously had no control over it at the time.
During those days of high anxiety, the slightest bit of unknown would throw my daughter into a spin. When it was Mufti Day at school and they could wear casual clothes, for several days before hand she would show signs of stress and get upset about the most bizarre little things. However, I learnt that the little thing she got upset about wasn't what the issue was, it was the anxiety underlying the anticipation of the upcoming mufti day. So, we worked through a lot of things, sought the help of professionals, and tried many different techniques to help her manage these anxious thoughts.
And I am thrilled to say, that from the beginning, where she was anxious for days or maybe a week leading up to an event like mufti day, she shifted phenomenally. As an example; within a year or two of us implementing some of the strategies that I have discovered on our journey of researching anxiety in kids, she embraced Harmony Day. You may have heard of it, the kids dress up in either orange, or wear their families’ traditional clothes. She dressed up in a traditional German dirndl with her hair in plaits and everything… for a whole day… and loved it!
My girls are now 9 and 11 years old and are doing really well. My eldest is part of the year 6 leadership team at her school, and both my girls just love performing at dance concerts – Anxiety, what anxiety!?! The truth is that anxious thoughts still come, but now we know how best to manage them. As a family we believe, that no matter what is going on with our thinking, no matter what the ‘bully in our brain’ is saying, we won’t let it stop us from doing what we really want to do.
Looking back, what strikes me is the amount of information and different opinions in themselves, were incredibly overwhelming and stressful. I wished there had been a hub of resources for parents of children with anxiety when we were going through it. A place to go, to find the resources I needed to support my anxious child. And so, I discovered my 'why'. This is the reason I created EMBRACE Calmer Kids.
My mission is to create a place for parents (and kids) to go, where they can find tips, ideas, suggestions and courses that can help make life just that little bit easier and lighter… with the goal of Happier Parents and Calmer Kids.
EMBRACE Calmer Kids brings together many useful anxiety-related resources for parents and children, and puts them all into the one place. I have researched (and continue to research) everything and anything that can help parents and children manage anxious thoughts better. In the Parents Resource section, you can find links to books, courses, apps and websites, which I have personally found so incredibly helpful over the years.
I would love if you would help grow our community, create awareness and provide more support for parents and children, to reduce some of these devastating statistics. So please click and share on Facebook, Instagram, forward this on to a friend and join our community.
Help our children to not feel ‘broken’, but instead feel accepted, loved and empowered to manage their own anxious thoughts and behaviours. Be part of helping reduce the impact and stigma of anxiety.
Spread the word… spread the word that it’s ok to ask for help, to share your stories, your challenges, and your concerns.
Thank you from the top & bottom of my heart for sharing this and supporting the mission of Happier Parents and Calmer Kids .
Mum & Founder of EMBRACE Calmer Kids