About 6 weeks ago my happy, well-adjusted 12 year old daughter started exhibiting signs of anxiety. She's fine during the day, but around bedtime she starts "worrying" about all sorts of bad things happening; storms, tornadoes, me or her brother being hurt or worse, and she has a terrible time getting to sleep. She's been a little better as long as I lay with her for awhile and talk to her, and she leaves her light on at night. But, her 6th grade camping trip is coming up and she's afraid to go because she's afraid she's going to have a major anxiety attack. Her biggest fear seems to be that either I or her brother won't be here when she gets back. Her dad died when she was 11 months old, I suppose that has something to do with it.
Her brother went thru a very similar type of anxiety about thunderstorms when he was her age, but sleeping wasn't really a problem and he was able to go to camp without problems.
It's only 2 nights but I don't know how to convince her that she should go and have a great time. What can I do?
I think the camping is just a part of the anxiety itself. I would focus in more on going back 6 weeks when it started. Do you perhaps live in the states where Hurricanes Frances, Charley and Ivan hit ? Even seeing these news reports on TV for a kid can be frighting, everyone in there cars being evacuated, trees blown over, damage widespread, power outages. I know of adults who live in Florida that has been experiencing extreme anxiety after the second hit, with the 3rd one approaching.
So now it seems more like seperation anxiety, she needs you to comfort her before going to sleep each night, leaving the light on, etc. So the mere thought of not having you for security and comfort at night, also coupled with the fact that wont be permitted to leave a light on for her on the camping is causing extreme emotional distress.
Until she can desensitze from the fear of things, either from a school pyschologist or just talking to reassure her, etc. I wouldnt get extremely upset or pushy about a 2 day camping trip, if she absoultely gets overwhelmed not to go. The worst is to be forced into a situation, when she is already so over sensitized at the moment. If she doesnt have a very very close friend that is not going, or perhaps you could call beforehand to one of the camp counselors about her situation, and what will they do to ease her anxiety so she will enjoy her trip. If she doesnt go, possibly set aside a day for just you and her for going to the park, zoo or something of that nature. I wouldn't in my opinion jump the medication route first, until you find exactly the root cause of the fear, when it started, and what was happening at that time.
Thanks for your response. We live in Ohio, and have had relatively mild weather this summer (although a little cold). I don't know what has triggered this. The thing about the camping trip is that it's the annual 6th grade trip, she'll be with all her friends from schools plus her teachers, including her music, gym and arts teacher who she's had since kindergartern. So she'll definitely be with people who are loving and supportive.
Yesterday I had a talk with her teacher and she assured Amy that she could come to the teacher's cabin and call me if necessary. Amy felt reassured and I thought that was the end of it. Then last night she started saying she didn't know if she wanted to go. I would never force her to go, but the camping trip is such a big part of their last year of elementary school, and if she doesn't go, then she has to hear "what fun we had at camp" for the rest of the year from all her friends. I just know she'll regret it if she doesn't go.
It just breaks my heart to read your post. It reminds me so much of myself when I was younger, I was right around her age when I started having anxiety attacks, and to this day I have no idea what triggered them. The only thing I can think of, I went through puberty right during the time and I think maybe just the changes in my body messed with my mind? But, I started off just like your daughter, not wanting to sleep alone because I would start worrying about everything and my imagination would just go wild. I stopped doing a lot of the "fun things" that kids do, I missed out on so much because of what I always called being home sick. I never went to slumber parties or away to camp and the only trips I ever went on in school, my parents were the chapperones and that was the only way I would go. I always had to have a "crutch" with my, my parents, sister, or my best friend. My point is, it just continued to get worse and by my second year in college when I lost my best friend I just crumbled, I stopped going to classes, I drove home every weekend.... Finally after becoming almost a recluse, my parents finally let me go to a therapist. And after a month of just talking - no medications - I learned how to control my anxiety and started living a normal life. I look back now on all the fun experiences I missed growing up and I still sometimes is challenged in going on an adventure, but that memory of missing all the fun convinces me to keep on going.
My point is not to scare you or to say that your daughter is going to end up like I did, but just to watch it carefully. You already are doing more than my parents did, they were in denial and I think somewhat embarassed to bring me to a counselor when I was younger, and if they had, who knows how the story would have turned out? I wish you luck and my advice would be to be supportive and encouraging to her to do these things, but don't be a pushover either - b/c I just think that if my parents had made me do some of the stuff, I might have freaked out at first, but then I would have been sidetracked with fun and would have forgotten my worries. If your daughter like to read, you might suggest she brings a book and if she starts getting worried, to read or listen, that always helped with me.
Good luck, and you are already being a great parent in my opinion by acknowledging and seeking out answers. (Don't put her on medication unless you absolutely have to, there are so many ways to work around having anxiety w/o being drugged up and that just follows you around for the rest of your life).
Hi. Thanks so much for your reply. I'm sorry to hear that your parents didn't take action sooner. I remember being anxious as a child and suffered from depression starting in high school, but back then depression wasn't recognized and especially in kids or teenagers. I guess that's why I want to nip this in the bud because as you say, I missed out on a lot because of ignoring my anxiety and depression.
The funny thing is that she's fine durign the day - looks forward to going, is already talking to her friends about what to pack, etc., it's only at night that she gets worried about going. I just hope I can talk her thru this. I've even told her if worse comes to worse, I'll drive the hour-long drive and come pick her up! Also, can you believe they're not allowed to bring books with them!