These smiles on this picture is all any mum wants to see. Their children being just that. Children – happy, smiling, laughing and playing.
But from the age of five, to being nine, my daughter told me every night that her tummy hurt. It was as though at 6.30pm every evening, just before we started our bedtime routine, tears would run down her cheeks as she would hold her stomach, often ending in her running to the bathroom with diorreah.
As a mum I felt helpless; not understanding why she was always in pain. Our trips to the doctors were frequent, and was often told she was just unlucky and was picking up bugs. Something just didn’t make sense. I could see schools reaction each morning as I would drop her off to say she had been unwell or would call her in sick. I began to feel embarrassed as many teachers began to give me the disapproving look of “the over protective mother.” Perhaps it was in my head, but still comments were made as to how could she always have a tummy ache. One friend even said to me, “your too soft with her.” I cried a lot. What was I to do? Send her into school with the runs and in pain.
One visit to the GP Surgery was different. One doctor, asked Summer when did the pain start each day? She explained it was worse in the morning and at night. She chat to her about her daily life and what school was like. I cried to hear that she was struggling with childhood anxiety.
My daughter was so incredibly anxious over her weekly spelling test, that she felt physical pain every single day. Trivial to some, but to her, it was everything. As much as we tried to home to help her to learn her spellings, her fear was absorbing her.
Night time is when many kids anxiety intensifies. Its dark, they’re alone, there are no distractions.
Since then we have worked together to conquer her anxieties and she now knows, and I will remind her, that her tummy is fine, its just her worry.
My son on the other hand, used to tell me his tummy hurt every morning. He had separation anxiety and didn’t want to be away from me. He cried a lot. Each morning as I tried to take him to nursery, ended in tears, with him being peeled off me as he cried, he really did feel sick.
Every morning and bedtime was a challenge. Quite often I would cry as I just didn’t know how to best help my kids.
So why did they say their tummies hurt?
Were they making it up?
Was my little boy just copying his big sister?
Was something wrong?
These are the things I would question myself with daily.
But no….. they said their tummies hurt because they actually did!
The stomach is home to the enteric nervous system and is even often referred to as your second brain. Big nerves and anxiousness create a real sensation in your belly.
As an adult you may have said, “ I feel sick with worry.” And indeed you probably have. I know the sensation all too well.
And well it makes for quite a cycle, as the anxiety creates a tummy ache and the tummy ache causes even more anxiety; and so it continues on.
As children and as parents and careers, it can cause great stress.
To see your baby in pain. To doubt them as “putting it on.” To question everything you do. To see that disapproving look at the school door.
But the thing is….. there needs to be a greater understanding of childhood anxiety and more easily accessible tools out there to help. Children deserve more than to be suffering with anxiety. Our children deserve to see just how incredible that they actually are. They just need the tools and support to know that they are ok. That they are safe and that how they feel right now, is just that….. right now and that with a little help and love it will pass.
It breaks my heart to see little ones so worried about such big things, when all I want is to see them, play and have fun…. to be kids.
So here it is….
Our contribution to our kids and indeed to the world.
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