Your Child’s Bad Behavior May Actually Be a Sign That They’re Suffering From Anxiety

I’ll be honest. The water scares me. Whenever my children are in it or near it, anxious thoughts creep in my head. I even get nervous in boats, large or small. That’s why I was hesitant when we were invited to float down the Shenandoah River in Virginia with friends. Just in case you haven’t experienced a float down a river, it’s typically done in an innertube and is mostly a slow, fun-filled, and relaxing time.  It’s a popular summer activity in Virginia, West Virginia, Oregon, and many other parts of the US. My husband and three children were excited to go, so despite my nerves, I agreed.  To help with my anxiety about it, I made plans in my head about the trip. I planned to keep the innertubes close together, would keep a close watch on the children, and I constantly reassured myself we’d all be okay.

The day of the trip was mostly uneventful.  We linked up with friends, checked in, got our life jackets, briefings, signed paperwork, and loaded a bus to head upriver. Once in the calm water, I told myself we were fine as we floated down the beautiful river. Hearing the children laugh and splash was a refreshing sound that calmed me. Good right?  Well, about an hour into the float, the serenity quickly left me as we approached what we later discovered was a class 2 rapid. The worst part? We had no choice to go through it. Several tubers had stopped short of it, examining the best route through.  We followed suit.  Others proceeded through, smiling and laughing as they came out the other side.  After watching a few tubers pass through without issue, we charted our course best we could and continued toward the rapids.

As we approached, I was filled with fear as I watched my three children start to go down the rapids on individual tubes. We proceeded partly through unscathed until suddenly, two of my daughters flipped backward in the rocky, heavy flowing water. My middle daughter hit her knee and emerged from the water with a few cuts. I was relieved to see her head pop up. However, my youngest daughter was nowhere to be seen. The water was flowing swiftly, and the white water made it difficult to see anything. Fortunately, the water was shallow enough that my husband and I could stand, albeit with difficulty due to the rapids. As we searched the area, people could tell we were in distress and were trying to stop their canoes and rafts, but they couldn’t. The current was too strong.  Meanwhile, our friends had successfully stopped 100 feet downstream, grabbed our two older daughters, and had made their way to the bank.

Knowing my youngest daughter was in trouble, I let go of my fear and frantically searched the water for her. The current was strong, and my bare feet hurt as I stepped on each sharp stone. I was scared, cold, wet, and in pain, but I wasn’t about to give up. She needed help, and as her parent, I was willing to do anything in my power to help her. My husband was upstream about 100 feet doing the same. We had both assumed she separated from her innertube, but I noticed that it was stuck on a rock near me.

When I finally arrived at her upside-down innertube, I pushed the heavy tube aside and found her. Her life jacket was caught under a rock, and she was face down. As I grabbed her, she gasped for air and cried, clinging to me like crazy. With the panic of the situation over, I quickly examined her, and other than the scary experience, she was fine. After a few minutes of calming down, my husband made his way to us. The three of us then floated downstream using our life jackets to link up with our other children and friends. The worst part? We still had 3 hours of the river left to float but no worries, there were no more unannounced rapids. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this experience foreshadowed a groundbreaking moment in our future. Let me explain.

When my daughter was diagnosed with anxiety at the age of six, much like the rapids, I was taken by surprise. Up until her diagnosis, I thought she was just misbehaving. She was disruptive in class and would abruptly run to the bathroom to hide. She would scream and have angry outbursts. She would slam doors and yell at me all the time. She would rip up books, ruin her toys, and refuse to eat. When she would raise her voice, I would raise mine. When she slammed a door, I would slam mine. When I got the dreaded phone call from the school saying she did something wrong, she would get in trouble at home. It was a never-ending cycle, and I couldn’t figure out why she was behaving this way

Jamie Edelbrock
Jamie Edelbrock
Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, Jamie is married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have three beautiful daughters. She has worn many hats, some of which include a homeschool mom, preschool director, family ministry director, and author. Through years of experience working with children, and raising her own, she knows how difficult parenting can be. She encourages others by sharing her own trials, triumphs, and sometimes hilarious stories. She is an advocate for children's mental health and is best known for her creativity, optimism, and kind heart.

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