The first six-week period of school has come and gone and we are well into the second…and yet my anxiety ridden six-year-old is still crying every day when I drop her off. I had expected some resistance at the beginning of the year…moving away from family, trying to make new friends, adjusting to a new house, and starting kindergarten in general are enough to send a little girl into a complete tailspin. But as the weeks progressed I expected the challenge to get a little easier. I tried all strategies I could gather…bribery, punishment, extra snuggling, getting up earlier, sleeping in later, walking away quickly, sticking around longer. I read “The Kissing Hand” and offered a family photo to take to school. I have a list of people praying for her. We have had long talks about what goes on at school…she likes her teacher, she has friends, she isn’t struggling to learn, no one is being mean to her. Her response is always, “I just miss you too much.” And in combination with all the other issues we have been dealing with (fear of elevators, panic attacks over running bath water, worrying over the weather and an overwhelming fear of the dark) I came to the conclusion that her problem could be boiled down to one root issue…anxiety.
Following my discovery, I stumbled on a Bible verse that I never thought would be applicable to this situation, yet in the moment it screamed for my attention as I contemplated what my next move should be. I have used Philippians 4:6 over and over in counseling adults and have memorized it myself to help in anxious situations…but the conclusion I have always drawn from it was that if I’m anxious, I should pray about it and God will give me peace. But lets look at it together…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We are asked to pray in every situation but what else are we to add to prayer?…yes, THANKSGIVING! Throwing up an exasperated prayer is not the ticket to a peaceful and anxiety free life…but add thankfulness and you are on your way to experiencing the peace that God has promised. Through my research I have come across actual scientific studies which conclude that gratitude actually physiologically reduces stress in the body by altering the hormones that are produced. (Find some more info in this article) So this made my parenting strategy take a whole new turn that I had never thought of before. Though it seems a bit unconventional, it is extremely Biblical…and even scientific…to help my anxious child, I have decided to saturate her life with encouragement to be more thankful.
So on the way to school this morning instead of offering a bribe or getting frustrated with my daughter…I told her that even though she would miss me, she could be thankful that she gets to see her mom everyday…some kids don’t, and I pointed her to some of her friends whose parents are divorced so they only get to see their mom every other week or on weekends. And I talked to her about how she could be thankful that she gets to go to school…and we talked about kids in other countries that have to work like grown-ups instead of getting to play at school with friends. Eventually, I would like her to come up with some examples of her own…but today was the start (for both of us) of hopefully a new outlook for the school year…and of a new, thankful way of looking at life.