We heard her walking in the hallway around 1:00 am. Living in an old house where you can hear every squeak and creak, makes it hard to move around unheard.
We had thought that our eldest daughter was just getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. It turns out, she was walking around the halls of our second floor in the hopes that my wife or I could hear her. It turns out that she stayed up until 4 am because she couldn’t get back to sleep. She turned on her light, read for a few hours and then finally grew sleepy and packed it in.
Winter holidays are always difficult when it comes to sleeping and children. More times than not, their schedule is off because there isn’t a clock to punch and there is no need to get them up early unnecessarily. So, we let them stay up and let them sleep in. The hard part is getting them back on that regular schedule prior to school starting.
But, not being able to fall back asleep until four in the morning is a bit concerning. We later found out that she couldn’t fall back asleep because she had a lot on her mind. Since she is in grade 9, she had mid-term exams to start thinking about and then starting into a second semester with a selection of courses that are pretty intense (including math, science and french). She was experiencing anxiety over her ability to get through exams (a new concept to a newly minted high schooler) and then start into a bunch of new and difficult subjects in the second semester.
Anxiety at the age of 14 is understandable. Between transitioning from middle to high school and the routine and pace of the transition, coupled with the social component of the shift, the anxiety she must be experiencing is something any adult can relate to.
But, even our younger child who is 10 is also experiencing anxiety. Her’s stems from academic struggles in school. While we are having her formally assessed to determine the most appropriate and effective course of action, her frustration is in herself for not being able to learn at the same pace and level as her contemporaries. It is upsetting to her and is upsetting to us as her parents. She just wants to learn and enjoy school.
I recently watched a documentary on HBO that reported on a handful of children, each dealing with learning disabilities and how it was impacting them personally.
In the case of one 14 year boy, he had actually contemplated suicide. His belief, triggered by an innocent comment made by one of his teachers, was that because he said dumb things all the time, the world would be a smarter place if he wasn’t around saying.
Imagine how that innocent child felt? Simply because he had a learning disability and because he wasn’t properly supported and nurtured by adult educators, he developed these low feelings of self-worth.
Kids don’t have it easy.
I sometimes think how much I miss being a kid and how great it would be to be a kid again; living a relatively carefree and simple existence. But then I think back to my own childhood and some of the pressures and stresses I had to deal with and realize how hard it can be to be a kid.
Social pressures begin in the playground for a child. When I was in grade 5 I remember being put through a “test” by my so-called friends. I wasn’t very athletic or agile when I was young. At our school we have a new playground installed with all kinds of very cool climbing apparatus; very enticing to my friends..not so much to me.
One day, my friends all decided to put me through an obstacle course using the playground. If I was able to complete the task, I would be allowed to stay friends with them. If I didn’t, then they would ditch me as their friend. The killer part for me was that one of the friends I had who laid down the law for me was a boy I had known since kindergarten. Yes, the story does not have a happy ending as I was not able to complete the task. In retrospect, I know that these clearly were not my real friends, but when you are 11 or 12 years old…it can be crushing (and it was!).
The pressure to fit in…to perform academically and to not be influenced by negative people starts very early on for our kids.
I know…it sucks. It is our responsibility as parents, to nurture, protect, love and equip our kids with all the things they require to minimize their stress and anxiety. We must try our very best to acknowledge their fears and anxiety by listening to them and empathizing with them.
Being a kid ain’t easy…kind of a precursor to adulthood!