How our whole family learned to stop worrying and “C” our way through anxiety.
by Kristen Caven
When Enzo was little, he loved doing sleepovers. But that all changed one year, the year he realized lying awake in strange place wasn't any fun. When he was about six, he stayed overnight with his Uncle Zoom, who had a new baby in the house. Between the distracting sounds and his underlying sleep challenges from ADD, he was up at 4 AM, dressed, ready for the strange night to be over.
After that, he would become hyperaware of the fact he was lying there awake when his friends were dropping off. And then he would start worrying. He’d call to get picked up. Then he’d start planning not to stay over. His dad was sympathetic because that’s the kind of kid he had been. He could never sleep away from home, even if the whole family was with him.
This became a problem for Enzo in 5th grade, when he really wanted to go away to Science Camp with his class, but could not imagine how he would cope.
We signed up for a great class at Kaiser called the “Family Worry Class.” The therapist explained that the people who took the class all had a superpower called sensitivity, which runs in families. She gave us her “Five C’s” for handling anxiety while you’re in the middle of it. They work for your kids, and they work for yourself. In my words, they are:
1. Calm: Take deep breaths. Slow down and don’t rush through it.
2. Cheerlead: Be positive. Tell your kid they can do it — they’ve done so much before.
3. Change the Channel: A distraction can help, like food, a game, or TV; another option is to find ways to cope. (Look, another "C"!)
4. Check In: Let kids talk about their experience and how they're feeling.
5. Continue: Keep going, keep trying, don’t give up.
It was good to learn the therapist's Five C’s. We had been relying too much on our own favorite C’s: Catastrophize, Criticize, and Check (i.e. Freak) the Heck Out.
Thanks to the Five C’s, Enzo made it to Science Camp, and although he didn't sleep much, he felt very proud of himself. The C’s helped him in so many other ways, too — taking tests, going to a new school, and even trying sleepovers once again. Now he’s away practically every weekend, and can think about leaving home for weeks at a time without worrying. His world is opening up.
The other great thing about the class was that we went to go help our kid, and ended up helping ourselves as well. Now we don't worry on the weekends he's gone, and can be ignored for weeks at a time.