Teaching Compassion for Kids with Anxiety Disorder

Editors note: Earlier this spring, the Bergen Record published a series about kids and anxiety. The series focused on how anxiety affects North Jersey kids, their families, school systems, and the mental health community. TS Parents Online contributor TomO was inspired to write the following letter in response.

Photo illustration: JOHN TOMAC/The Record

Photo illustration: JOHN TOMAC/The Record

Anxiety disorder

a serious issue

Regarding “Child’s fear can become parents’ nightmare” (Page BL-1, April 12):

I am hopeful that parents, schools, friends and neighbors take the time to educate themselves and understand that this is an illness. It is not something that a child, or adult, has any choice about – they must live with the anxiety, and the disease has control over them. I am a father of a 14-year-old and I am very proud of him. He has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

As The Record article states, it is very difficult for families to deal with these illnesses. It wears you down, poses a financial burden, and you never know what to expect next. The lack of understanding from colleagues, families, schools, communities and friends is heartbreaking to experience.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times my wife and I get “the look” in a restaurant or have had to leave a social or family function.

“What’s wrong with you?” “Can’t you control your child?” “What kind of parents are you?” These are the negative messages conveyed by the judgmental glances.

I once offered to a school official a chance to have a content expert come into the school and talk about the impact anxiety disorder has on people. I was told by the school: no. I was told that school wouldn’t be the appropriate place.

If not at schools, then where is the appropriate place? Anxiety is one of the leading illnesses in children and teens today. What is more important than teaching our children compassion for other children’s struggles?

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