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Understanding and navigating my child’s anxiety

By Heather Nardi

“Stop trying to fix me,” were the words that came out of my ten-year-old daughter’s mouth two years into her mental health journey. I have never forgotten that statement, and I have played it over in my mind many times.

When my daughter was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I wanted to fix things and make them better for her. I tried to take away her scary feelings but I wasn’t accepting the truth of who she is.

As a parent, I had a lot of emotions when my child received a mental illness diagnosis. I felt angry at myself for not being able to help her and scared about what the future holds. I was disappointed in myself for not having been able to keep her from struggling. I’ve heard a lot of other parents express the same feelings in their own experiences.

It is important to remember that our children are not their diagnoses. This challenging time isn’t our fault, and it isn’t our children’s fault either. Remembering that at the centre of it all is a child—not just a diagnosis—can help us stay grounded during what can often feel like the craziest ride of our lives.

As empath/HSP (Highly Sensitive Persons), my daughter and I process information differently than others do. It’s a trait that affects about 15-20 per cent of the population and is characterized by increased sensory sensitivity, greater reactivity to stimuli, and a tendency toward deep processing. If you’re an HSP, your nervous system has a more stimulatory response than the average person, making you more sensitive to things like light, noise, smells, touch, and busy environments.

My daughter needs different things from her environment to feel safe, calm, and centred. She is very intuitive, aware of the emotions of those around her, creative, and prefers quiet or one-on-one activities. I knew that what my daughter needed was not more medication, but more time to herself, meditation, yoga, journaling, listening to music, and reading books.

I have found that maintaining a sense of compassion and connection with your family helps build a strong, supportive unit that feels fulfilled and loved.

In my own journey with my family, I have found that the greatest strength was to lovingly accept our children for who they are and be compassionate toward them; Release judgment and replace criticism with love. 

Heather Nardi, author, speaker and coach dedicates her career to supporting highly sensitive and empath moms in living healthy, empowered lives. empathmama.com.

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