Could My Daughter Be Developing Anxiety?

Today was the school nativity.

I remember being so proud of you last Christmas when you learnt all the words to your class song. You even nailed the later verses that most of the children just mumbled through.

As the lights shone on you, your face shone back, relishing every moment and so proud to show us what you had been working on.

Roll forward 12 months and I’m worried that you are developing anxiety

Anxiety - Children playing in a nativity stable with sheep

Off to a good start

This morning, I queued up in the sleet and gale for 30 minutes so that I could get a seat near the front of the school hall.

I wanted to see you shine again.

I imagined seeing you in your costume. I knew your one line off-by-heart and my camera was poised to capture it on film. I smiled to myself as I thought of the actions you’d made up for yourself to go along with your words.

As I found my seat and searched for your beautiful face in the crowd of wise men, tea-towelled shepherds, and assorted stable-related animals, you waved excitedly! You motioned to me to take a photo of you, and pulled your favourite camera pose.

There was no sign of the anxiety that was to become so painfully obvious in just a few short moments…

anxiety child dancing in the garden

The creeping anxiety

But as the lights dimmed, a change came over you. It was subtle at first and you launched into the first song with vigour. But I clocked it.

You stopped making eye-contact with the crowd, stepping back so that you were less noticeable. Then you started touching your face and licking your lips – the first tell-tale signs of the anxiety welling up within you.

I have always prided myself on being switched-on to your moods and feelings. It’s one of the reasons I was desperate to be a stay at home mum – so that I would know you inside out and so that I would have time to work things through with you.

But as I sat watching, the pieces started to fall into place. I realised that you had been displaying these anxious behaviours recently, and I had not picked up on them.

Child with anxiety - fitting the pieces of a Nativity jigsaw together

The constant face-touching and flicking of your head – I had put it down to your fringe being too long. I figured your hair was tickling your face and had given it a quick snip ready for the big show.

The lip-licking was always noticeable during trombone lesson. I thought you were preparing your lips to play and I was annoyed that you would do it at inopportune moments. I got frustrated when you would lift your instrument to start playing and then suddenly put it down again to lick your lips. It made you late in the music.

I thought you were messing around.

Now I see that you were anxious during the lesson. Maybe you feared you would miss the beat or play the wrong notes? Maybe you were worried about messing up?

My irritation will have made the whole situation worse for you. I can see that now. And the realisation cuts deep into my heart.

And today, as your big moment approached, the fidgeting was off-the-scale! You couldn’t keep your hands still and your mouth was looking red and sore. And even though you delivered your line with clarity, once the show ended, you burst into tears in my arms.

How has this transpired? How have only put the pieces together today? What happened, my little one, to strip you of your confidence and leave you with such intense feelings of anxiety?

anxiety child drinking hot chocolate outside from a yellow cup

What now?

So what now? Where do we go from here? I have done everything I can think of to help you build a positive sense of self. It’s a project I have been working on since the day you were born.

  • Every morning before class, I make you tell me 3 amazing things about yourself – I want you to learn how to be proud of yourself and create a positive inner dialogue
  • I actively look out for you doing something well so that I can compliment you on it
  • I tell you daily that you are special to me and that I love you
  • I try to model quiet self-confidence myself so that you know what it looks like

But maybe this isn’t the point. Maybe it’s not about me at all. Maybe the anxiety is inevitable – it could be character trait deep within you or perhaps just a phase that you will grow out of.

Whatever it is, I want you to know, Little One – I am still proud of you. I still think you are amazing. Even if you doubt yourself, I DO NOT. You walked up to that microphone and delivered your words despite the whirlwind that was swirling around inside you. That makes it a huge accomplishment.

anxiety - child holding mother's hand, looking at the floor

Little One, I don’t know what the answer is, or if there even is an answer, but I will be with you every step of the way. I will do my best to coach you to deal with these emotions.

I will sit with you when you need to be still. I will listen when you need to share. I will make you laugh when you need a distraction. I will cheer you on when you need some encouragement.

Today I saw the anxiety in you, and today is the last day you will ever face that feeling alone. x


UPDATE – To find out what happened next, see this next post – Childhood Anxiety: The Plan That Went Wrong


Have any of your children ever suffered with anxiety? Were you an anxious child? Did these worries eventually pass or do you have any advice on dealing with it? Please let me know in the comments section below.

How I Tackled My Daughter's Anxiety -Primary School Child With Anxiety - mental health in children, gentle parenting, supporting a child with anxiety

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  1. 1
    Heather Keet

    My best friend as a child had very deep anxiety. She saw a counselor and it seemed to really help her as she navigated elementary school. She still has anxiety as an adult but she can manage it well and knows what things will make it worse. I hope your daughter can learn to manage hers, she’s got an amazing mom to help her! #BlogCrush

  2. 3
    Enda Sheppard

    I think the thing to focus on maybe right now is the fact she GOT THROUGH it. She showed great heart and self-discipline to do what she had to do despite her anxiety. The experience will stand to her: facing a tough task and knowing she can pull through. That’s invaluable. “You did it, baby girl, you did it!” would be my feelings on it, and conveying my pride in her achievement to her — and I am sure she was great anyway!

  3. 4
    Pamela lorimer

    Hard to know at that age as it can just be a sign of her development but sounds like you are doing everything you can to support her. Anxiety is a witch and Im glad people are learning to accept it and try to understand it a bit more in society now. Great poy #blogcrush

  4. 5
    Noleen Miller

    As children grow older, so much are expected of them at school, sports level, society and at home. I think the expectation of them achieving something without failing sparks anxiety. Every year my youngest daughter is anxious before school starts for the new year. The anticipation of having a new teacher, whether the grade work will be difficult and her whether she will have the ability to cope with the work makes her anxious. But a couple of weeks into the grade she eases up. Last year it was so bad that she was off sick the first week when school started. I really hope it doesn’t happen this year. She is doing well academically but I think the unknown makes her anxious. What helps is that we don’t put extra pressure on her and give her that reassurance that we are there to support her. So just continue to support your daughter when she feels anxious about something – it makes a big difference.#Blogcrush

  5. 6
    daydreams of a mum

    How amazing that she was feeling that way ,yet did it anyway. I had a similar thing a few months ago when I realised that my 17 was suffering with low mood. There had been so many hints and I’d missed them for months , I felt so awful. I think maybe though now it’s identified you can help her , sounds like you’re doing a fab job to me !! #blogcrush

  6. 9
    Fi Anderson

    Such a touching, reliable post! My daughter is going through the exact same thing but I’m hoping it’s just a phase. Love your idea of asking her to tell you 3 amazing things about herself! Pulled at my heartstrings!! You’re such an amazing and focused Mum ♥ #blogcrush

  7. 10
    Alice | Letters to my Daughter

    She’s a very brave little girl for saying her line when feeling all those emotions. And you’re amazing for picking up on it. Don’t beat yourself up for not noticing it earlier – as you said, there were lots of other reasons why should could have been exhibiting that behaviour, the fact you were able to put it all together shows what a great mum you are. I have no advice I’m afraid as my little one is still very little and flits between shyness and tackling strangers in the street on an hour by hour basis! I hope she is ok and you find a way forward <3 #BlogCrush

  8. 11
    Jemma @ Popcorn for Lunch

    Oh Lucy, this was such a raw and honest post, so full of emotion. Whether or not your daughter suffers from anxiety, she is incredibly lucky to have a mother who is committed to lessening the burden in every possible way. My daughter is turning 7 this week and I have similar concerns for her. In many ways, she is so confident, then at other times, wracked with worry and anxious thoughts. Part of me feels that she has reached the age of realisation, where she is aware of the scale of challenges life can throw at her, and this is bringing a new sense of fear. Like you, I’ve resolved just to muddle through it with her the best we can, however, as an anxiety sufferer who had very loving parents, I know that so much of it is a personality trait that really can’t be altered or, dare I say it, helped. As I said, either way, your daughter is very lucky to have such a loving mum by her side. #BlogCrush

  9. 12
    Tracey Bowden

    Oh bless her, growing up with anxiety I know exactly how she is possibly feeling. I was exactly the same and still am these days. My daughter also suffers from anxiety, although she is much better now she has moved to secondary school and discovered drama. But from experience, the best thing is mostly that you know and you are aware and you can help her. #blogcrush

  10. 13
    Matthew Blythe

    Well done you for putting the pieces together. So easy to miss the signs. Keep doing what you are doing. Be present. Catch her being good. Compliment her, Do a commentary of how you are feeling – helps her make sense of her own feelings. Do a commentary of her feelings, again can help her make sense of her own feelings. Say I wonder to her – about her feelings – she laughing because…she looks anxious because …
    You are doing fab!

  11. 14
    Nicole - Tales from Mamaville

    You are such a patient and hands-on mum Lucy, your girls are genuinely lucky to have you as their mum! This could just be a passing phase at the age she’s at, but with your support I’m sure she will overcome all odds. hopefully, this too shall pass…

  12. 15

    Awww this was so hard to read, I am so glad that she did a wonderful job saying her line. I worry about passing on my anxiety over to my daughter, and I am trying really hard not to be anxious in front of her, but it’s hard. I love your strategies, I will be borrowing a few of them! #blogcrush

  13. 16

    Raising a child sure does come with it’s challenges. I understand that you want to do your best and raise a happy and confident girl. I myself like to praise my girls, high five them and clap when they’ve achieved something. #BlogCrush

  14. 17
    Nat - Awaybies

    Such a great post Lucy, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can to support your daughter at the moment. And she sounds like she did an amazing job at the show despite the anxious feelings, overcoming her fears. Hopefully it is just a phase but it’s a leap forward that you’ve identified it and are so clearly there for her!

  15. 18

    So amazing for her to have got up and read her mine despite feeling so anxious about it. Sounds like you are doing everything you can lovely and if things continue down this road you could always talk to the staff at school about it and see if they can offer counselling or some other solution to help your little one get through these feelings xx #blogcrush

  16. 19
    Kel K

    I suffer with anxiety, and it seems my son has developed it too. Actually, I think it’s been there for a very long time, but, like you, it took me a while to spot it for what it is, despite knowing all about it. It breaks my heart that I don’t quite know what to do to help him. Thanks for sharing your story. #blogcrush

  17. 20

    Hi, thanks for sharing this honest post, I guess its hard to say if it is developing into anxiety or it is just age related. Whatever it is you are obviously doing you very best in a difficult situation #SharingtheBlogLove

  18. 21
    Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons

    I was always an anxious child, and I often worry about traits I see in my son. I’ve decided for the moment that I’m over worrying though, and trying to relax about it a bit more, but I can understand how upsetting it is to see it perhaps more clearly. Something like a school concert is always a stressful situation though – I can imagine it might improve with time and more experience of it all. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job in supporting her though, I’m sure that will make a huge difference. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  19. 22
    Emma T

    Thankfully N hasn’t shown any anxiety. But his good friend at school has just started ever since the Christmas performance this year. His mum is also highly anxious though, so she’s concerned he’s learnt it from her. #sharingthebloglove

  20. 23
    Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    Well done for spotting this is your daughter. I was and still am an anxious person and I often wonder if my girls will be like me. At the moment they seem to be taking after their daddy and are full of confidence, I hope that it will always be that way. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

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