Having a child with an anxiety disorder can cause a parent to be overly protective. But someone has to step up and be their voice, advocating for them in this cruel world. I recall an incident where my son’s diagnosis was ignored at a pediatric dentist office and a worst-case scenario happened. Here’s a piece from my upcoming book:
“My protective mom-mode kicked in at the pediatric dentist office … Their office rule did not allow parents to go back with their children, not even a child with an anxiety disorder. The whole room was geared towards kids, colorful little furniture everywhere you looked. Unfortunately, as my child returned to the waiting room from his cleaning, he was silently crying. What the heck?! I leaned down so he could whisper into my ear, out of view from the office staff. His timid voice quivered, ‘the lady wouldn’t let me point to bubble gum flavor,’ sniffling, he finally managed to explain the rest after gulping back a few more sobs, ‘she said if I didn’t say which flavor I wanted, she would mix the two and it would be yucky.’ The fact that cherry flavor, bubblegum flavor, or a combination of the two all probably tasted equally yucky, was irrelevant. The dental hygienist ignored the note in his chart about his Selective Mutism disorder, which was the only relevant issue. I was furious, and everyone in that office and the waiting room heard how furious. Did I overreact? Possibly, but who can control ‘mom-mode’ when your baby is being attacked? Sure, ‘attacked’ might be a slight exaggeration, but controlling the emotional roller coaster can be challenging once set in motion.”
It’s difficult not to let emotions lead us, especially when they’re heightened by perceived blatant actions of others against our helpless children. In my situation, I am pretty sure I overreacted by screaming my head off, making a huge scene at the dentist’s office. The exact opposite my child needed. I thought I was doing the right thing, defending him against the “bully”, but inadvertently, I brought unwanted attention to him.
Our children do need us to protect them, but there is a line. If your child is suffering from Selective Mutism or social anxiety, prevention from mistreatment is the best course of action. In my situation, as stated above, I was fully aware of the pediatric dentist’s rule about no parents back in the room with the children. At the time, I didn’t think I had any other options than to follow the set rule. I had already discussed with the dentist my son’s Selective Mutism diagnosis, and she had declined allowing the rule to be broken under any circumstances. So, I went forward with allowing my son to enter this unchaperoned situation at the young age of 4. A better choice would have been, find another dentist who would allow parental chaperones, at least initially. Ultimately, that is exactly what I did, but unfortunately, not until after my child was mistreated (and probably mortified by my “Momma Bear growl” for all to hear throughout the building).
Support your child, but don’t add to their distress. Try to react with logic rather than pure emotion. Educating everyone your anxious child comes in contact with can help prevent many issues. But we cannot control every situation. Take a deep breath, think about how your reaction may affect your child, then proceed. Be the child’s advocate, not antagonist.