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Anxiety & fear in 6 year old


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#1 StoneFoxArrow

Posted 07 September 2019 - 08:09 AM

Long post ahead.
I need some help figuring out what to do for my daughter. She's 6 and lives with her dad 50% of the time. We've been separated for almost 5 years and at my house we live my DP of 4 years.

She's having a lot of separation anxiety at the moment. It's probably been going on for the last 2 months. She'll get a sore stomach any time we need to part. She's been going to school without any issues until this started and still likes & wants to go to school i.e. Never says "I don't want to go to school", just "I don't want you to leave".

It's also happening at bedtime. It's sore to the point where she'll say she feels like she needs to throw up. But she's also gassy at the same time. Originally I thought it was food related, so we cut down on her dairy intake (she had issues with dairy when she was much younger). But then I noticed the regular nature of it and realised it's more likely anxiety.

It's not just with me, it's also with her dad and my DP when he drops her off to school.

The other thing that's happening is that she's been getting scared overnight (something that's never happened before). This only started when her dad's house was broken into a few weeks ago but seems to be really messing with her sleep. They turned up when the people were still in the house, didn't see them or anything, but he would have talked about it all while it was happening. He was obviously very stressed at the time, but I really wish he hadn't gone in and hadn't said much to her about it. This obviously isn't his fault, but he has a habit of telling her too much/not being entirely age appropriate. But I digress...

I've found a way to get her to sleep ok (although that's probably only because she's so tired from waking overnight and getting up early), but then she'll wake up to 3 times overnight, and not short wakeups. She tried to get up at 10pm last night, thinking it was morning. And then gets up for the day at about 5:45 (I'm sure this is normal for some, but not for her). I've been telling her she has to stay in bed until 6am (when I usually ger up).

I think she's sleeping really lightly, because she's waking a lot easier and is always very awake, not half asleep. Prior to this, she slept all night, only waking up very occasionally to go to the toilet overnight (but was always half asleep when this happened and never woke me up). Now she always comes into my room too and says "I'm scared and my stomach hurts".

If I was in a better place myself, I know I'd be coping better with it, but I'm really struggling right now. My own MH isn't great (I suffer from anxiety, among other things). So the lack of sleep, and in fact lack of control/clarity about her problems are quite overwhelming for me right now. I also have her full time for two weeks (almost one week down luckily) because her dad has gone overseas, so I'm not getting a break from it. I know how lucky I am to get a regular break - plenty don't - but it's been my normal for a long time, so that's not helping.

I was thinking about seeing a child psych to get some tips. Most of the stuff I can find online is geared towards younger kids (both for the anxiety and being scared) but I've also tried everything I can think of. I've suggested some of my own strategies (such as telling yourself a nice story in your head to help you get to sleep) and I obviously tell her she's safe and nothing bad is going to happen. But she won't accept that, especially after what happened at her dad's place.

Does anyone have experience with this/any suggestions for me? I'd appreciate anything right now! Thanks if you got this far.

#2 Orangecake

Posted 07 September 2019 - 06:54 PM

I'm sorry you and your DD are going through this. I would definately see a GP asap, firstly to rule out any physical issues/illness, secondly they will be able to arrange a mental health care plan and visits to a psychologist.
We saw a great child psych for our DS at the same age and he really did benefit from talking, playing games and completing fun activities together. It was far more fun and less intense then I had imagined. He seemed more receptive to hearing strategies from someone new too.

One of the books we worked though was the huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside. This helped a lot in getting him to talk through his worries and decrease anxiety. I'm sure it's different for each child though which is why it's great to get some expert help.

Good luck

#3 StoneFoxArrow

Posted 07 September 2019 - 08:07 PM

View PostOrangecake, on 07 September 2019 - 06:54 PM, said:

I'm sorry you and your DD are going through this. I would definately see a GP asap, firstly to rule out any physical issues/illness, secondly they will be able to arrange a mental health care plan and visits to a psychologist.
We saw a great child psych for our DS at the same age and he really did benefit from talking, playing games and completing fun activities together. It was far more fun and less intense then I had imagined. He seemed more receptive to hearing strategies from someone new too.

One of the books we worked though was the huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside. This helped a lot in getting him to talk through his worries and decrease anxiety. I'm sure it's different for each child though which is why it's great to get some expert help.

Good luck

Sorry, I should have mentioned that we've seen the gp multiple times and she hasn't found anything physically wrong with her. The second time was for some quite serious eczema (which she's never had before) and I was fairly concerned at that point about the stomach pain + eczema out of nowhere, so she was thorough. Turns out the eczema was from swimming (ex takes her on one of his nights).

I asked about a mental health plan, but the gp seemed to think it wasn't something I could get at this stage for DD. She suggested I go see a child psych and suggested a couple. I was thinking I'd just go by myself at this stage to get some ideas and go from there.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I'll have a look at the book.

#4 Grrrumbles

Posted 07 September 2019 - 08:17 PM

Given the break in at her father’s house, you might be eligible for some counselling through the Victims of Crime.

Cool kids is a program you can do online - it is training for parents and teaches strategies for overcoming fears.

#5 WaitForMe

Posted 07 September 2019 - 10:59 PM

View PostStoneFoxArrow, on 07 September 2019 - 08:07 PM, said:

Sorry, I should have mentioned that we've seen the gp multiple times and she hasn't found anything physically wrong with her. The second time was for some quite serious eczema (which she's never had before) and I was fairly concerned at that point about the stomach pain + eczema out of nowhere, so she was thorough. Turns out the eczema was from swimming (ex takes her on one of his nights).

I asked about a mental health plan, but the gp seemed to think it wasn't something I could get at this stage for DD. She suggested I go see a child psych and suggested a couple. I was thinking I'd just go by myself at this stage to get some ideas and go from there.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I'll have a look at the book.

She thinks she shouldn't have a mental health plan but does think she should see a psych? Isn't that the point of the mental health plan?

I'm wondering if it was dismissed because you went in about eczema. At my gp, they require a double appointment for a mental health plan. They have to get you to complete a questionnaire for severity and I suspect theres some paperwork.

#6 StoneFoxArrow

Posted 08 September 2019 - 06:55 AM

View PostGrrrumbles, on 07 September 2019 - 08:17 PM, said:

Given the break in at her father’s house, you might be eligible for some counselling through the Victims of Crime.

Cool kids is a program you can do online - it is training for parents and teaches strategies for overcoming fears.

Thanks, I'll look into both the counselling via that avenue and the program.

View PostWaitForMe, on 07 September 2019 - 10:59 PM, said:



She thinks she shouldn't have a mental health plan but does think she should see a psych? Isn't that the point of the mental health plan?

I'm wondering if it was dismissed because you went in about eczema. At my gp, they require a double appointment for a mental health plan. They have to get you to complete a questionnaire for severity and I suspect theres some paperwork.

No, she definitely didn't think it was needed at this stage. I have a mental health plan myself each year, so I know how they work. We were in there to talk about the stomach pain and after checking her out and having a conversation with me about the pain, the gp said she thought it was psychological.

The eczema appointment was later and with ex, not me (although I spoke to the gp on the phone at the appointment as I was pretty concerned and wanted a referral to an allergy specialist).

She suggested a few psychs. I said I thought I could go on my own initially to get some strategies and then asked about the plan. She said it was possible if it was an ongoing issue but also pretty much pointless because all the questions are geared towards adults so don't make sense to ask kids.

She can be a bit dismissive in general though and I've had to see other gps in the past to get an acceptable outcome. I figured I'd wear the initial cost of a psych and then see what happened after that.

She's been up at 5am for the last few mornings, hence I have too. Reading the other current thread about a 6 year old waking overnight, I'm grateful it's not that bad for us. But I'm still exhausted. She only got 9 hours sleep last night. She's always been on the lower end of necessary sleep needed for her age bracket, but this is so different from her normal.

#7 Smoo

Posted 08 September 2019 - 07:10 AM

If you need something to try at home while sorting out a child psych, DS's was using the Superflex program (for different issues) and we're trying to continue using the materials at home which we've gotten from Social Thinking. They also have some anxiety specific resources. It doesn't replace a psych but it can really help in the meantime.

#8 yellowtulips74

Posted 08 September 2019 - 07:52 AM

Hi OP, I was brushed off in a similar way when my DD1 was aged 4-5.  Also huge issues with tummy pains and some separation anxiety.

I finally went to a different GP when she was 6, who immediately put her on a mental health plan.  She's now 16 and she has (and I have) benefited enormously from her psych visits over the years.

My advice would be to find a psych first.  (If you're in Melbourne I can give you a couple of names.). Find someone who doesn't have a ridiculously long waiting list, who can see your DD regularly to begin with.

Then go back to the GP and say "we're booked in with XXX and they have said we need a mental health plan."

If you get onto it now, you'll get up to ten visits before the end of the year.  In my experience it's worth starting with several weekly sessions so the psych can get a good understanding of the history and start to build a rapport with your DD.

Good luck!

#9 StoneFoxArrow

Posted 08 September 2019 - 08:19 AM

View Postyellowtulips74, on 08 September 2019 - 07:52 AM, said:

Hi OP, I was brushed off in a similar way when my DD1 was aged 4-5.  Also huge issues with tummy pains and some separation anxiety.

I finally went to a different GP when she was 6, who immediately put her on a mental health plan.  She's now 16 and she has (and I have) benefited enormously from her psych visits over the years.

My advice would be to find a psych first.  (If you're in Melbourne I can give you a couple of names.). Find someone who doesn't have a ridiculously long waiting list, who can see your DD regularly to begin with.

Then go back to the GP and say "we're booked in with XXX and they have said we need a mental health plan."

If you get onto it now, you'll get up to ten visits before the end of the year.  In my experience it's worth starting with several weekly sessions so the psych can get a good understanding of the history and start to build a rapport with your DD.

Good luck!

Thanks, I'm not in Melbourne unfortunately. Did you go straight to sessions for your DD? I wonder if having one on my own first, with the psych I intend her to see might help give some background. I feel like I need to explain my own issues first without DD there.

#10 cabbage88

Posted 08 September 2019 - 04:05 PM

My thoughts are heavily biased by the fact I just discovered my highly anxious 6YO is anxious because she's ASD. She is significant stomach issues when she's anxious which is an ASD thing too. But have you ever considered something like that? Even just what you said about her dad not always being appropriate made me think of how my hubby can do that and he's high functioning ASD also.
Just a thought. I wish I could tell you how to manage it but we are seriously not managing it right now :-(

#11 WannabeMasterchef

Posted 08 September 2019 - 04:35 PM

Hi OP, not to dismiss anxiety because that's obviously an issue but its probably worth eliminating some other causes of stomach pain - tonsils, uti, constipation, worms and food allergies.  (Im going through very similar with my 8 yo. The doctor was very thorough)

Edited by WannabeMasterchef, 08 September 2019 - 04:36 PM.


#12 Fizgig

Posted 08 September 2019 - 07:40 PM

As PP said the Cool Kids program is a great online program for parents to learn to deal with anxiety in kids. Brave is another online program well recommended. Offhand I can’t remember if it is for the parent or the child. If you want to look for resources I find Anxiety Canada a great website with lots of strategies for parents.

The one thing that I would add to what you are currently doing is acknowledge her anxiety/worry. When we try to reassure our kids we sometimes forget to validate their feelings. For example, “it was really scary for you when your dad’s house got broken into. It is scary when that happens. It makes us feel unsafe in the one place we should always feel safe, our home. I want you to feel like you are safe to go to sleep at home, and that everything will be safe at home when you are at school. What could we do differently that would make you feel a bit safer?” And then you just need to listen to her suggestions even when they seem a bit wacky. My kids sometimes have difficulty with separation but they feel much better if I leave something of mine with them (a token or trinket, once even my Fitbit).




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