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Anxiety in Children {Post Surgery}

20140727_4399 blog

Eight year old Tucker is still struggling with anxiety and what I believe are some sort of panic attacks. This began as soon as he heard that Apollo needs surgery again. The surgery he is Β having is minor, but that doesn’t matter to Tucker. The attacks are intense. He gets sick, feels “weird”, his face becomes flushed, his heart races. The worst part of these is they are so unlike Tucker. This is a kid who walked into first grade at age six without a backward glance. The kid who walked right up to his teacher, looked her in the eye and said, “I’m only here because my baby brother has a heart defect“. He’s always been a wild, fearless rascal. Not timid, shy or fearful. It hurts my heart to see how affected he’s been by all of this.

Since this began, we’ve been using Bach’s Rescue Remedy. It seems to help a bit. I’m not if it is a placebo effect or not, but either way he will ask for it if he is feeling anxious.

Yesterday Tucker panicked when I attempted to leave him for his first day at Missoula Children’s Theater. Despite having four older siblings with him, he just couldn’t do it. He face clouded and he fought valiantly to keep the tears back. He has done Missoula before and loved it. He wants so bad to be there. In the end, I called a friend who picked up Mordecai, Avi and Apollo (who were with me) and dropped them off at home with Judah and Tilly so I could stay with Tucker.

I don’t know what will happen today. I can’t sit there with him each day. Today we will go in armed with a Bible verse (I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me) and Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

I really don’t know what we are going to do when Apollo has his surgery later this month. We know he will spend at least one night in the hospital and if the doctor ends up doing a supraglottoplasty he will have to be intubated overnight, likely extending his stay to a few days.

If you are the praying type, we could really use some right now. And if you have any recommendations, I’ll take those too.

I just ordered Tucker beads from theΒ Beads of Courage Siblings Program. I am really, really hoping they arrive before August 27th.



  1. sonja snowflake

    I’m not sure if it’s possible or if it will be something that helps Tucker or rather makes him freak out even more…but I’d consider taking him to the hospital as well and explain what’s going to happen to Apollo – an let him visit him afterwards so he understands and sees that it’s ok…might help, if sees things and understands better why and how everything works…
    But sure you know him best, if you think it will frighten him even more, than of course it’s not an option…
    It’s just my experience from working with kids that if they see and understand things they are afraid of, they usually can cope with their fears a lot better πŸ™‚

    I’m not the praying type, but my thoughts go with you and I hope everything will work out fine!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      He has been to the hospital many times for Apollo’s various appointments. Taking him to visit after surgery isn’t really possible as the hospital is 100 miles from our house. I think I will get some books on tonsillectomies…

  2. Tanya Redfield

    That was my thought too… arm him with knowledge! But I suspect that his fears come as much from knowing that a sick sibling can take mom and dad away from everyone else for long periods of time, and also from thoughts that he himself might also be seriously ill someday, and maybe even to “what if mom and dad get sick like that?”. I’m sure he’s worried for Apollo, but I would imagine it goes much deeper into things that Tucker probably doesn’t even realize himself. Maybe he needs a pastor or someone who is experienced in these matters to talk him through some of it? Perhaps there is a chaplain at the hospital? I’ll be praying!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      You hit the nail on the head- his real fear is that something will happen to. He has suddenly realized that bad things can and *do* happen…

  3. Julie

    Wish I had a magic bullet. When I have anxiety, I recite these verses from Philippians,
    (4:6-8)… you know, preaching to myself.

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    I’ll be praying those for Tucker.


  4. Tanya

    I sure wish I had an answer for you. I have an adopted 15 yr old who has anxiety since we got her at 4. In therapy, takes natural mess and of course covered with prayer…but social sh had rather just stay home.

  5. bstillandknow

    I don’t know if you can give Bachs in advance. If you can’t, Benadryl about 30-45 min prior to an anxiety producing activity can do wonders for anxiety. I have an anxiety disorder and Benadryl is a tool in my arsenal that I pull out if I know ahead of time that I’m going to have to go into a crowd, etc… The worst part about anxiety is there are times I am completely fine, having a great day, not worrying about anything and then am flooded with anxiety. I will be praying for Tucker.

  6. Michele P@Family, Faith and Fridays

    Oh Renee, I am so sorry to hear this and will be covering Tucker in prayer. Anxiety and fear are such powerful things. I agree, arm him in knowledge, let him know that God is control so he does not have to be and give him something concrete to do each time he feels afraid, whether it is repeat a verse in his head, do 10 jumping jacks, whatever. Something that takes his mind off the situation for a minute. SOmetimes just breaking that thought process helps. We also talk about taking each thought captive- ask “Is this fear real? Is this from God? (can you tell we have experience in this??!!) We have used Young Living’s essential oil blend, Peace and Calming with HUGE success as well. Whether or not it is the oil combo or just the power of suggestion, I do not know, but either way I will take it for now!!

  7. Kate @ MGR

    Some will put there babies to sleep with music, and lets be honest, I think it calms the adults too. Do you have any soothing music for in the car or around the house? I’m thinking like classical Beethoven or hymns or some such. One of my old babysitters would play their Mennonite Accapella music and I Wanna Go There by the Harbor Lights in particular. Good luck getting your hands on a copy, tho :/

    • Paidi Violi To Alithino

      Maybe Beethoven is alittle too intense for this occasion. In such occasions I would try Pachelbell’s Canon, Chopin, Viotti’s violin conserto 22, etc. I also find very helpfull walks in nature, mountains and forest always have a calming effect on me. And excersing. I wish all the best for you all. πŸ™‚

  8. Melpub

    If Tucker is willing to talk about the things that make him worried, this might help, but if it makes him anxious to do, it won’t. If instead he might be willing to draw, write about, or sculpt his fears, that would mean something both to him and to an audience. Extreme sensitivity is a great advantage for a child who may be born to be an artist, a musician, or a writer. I believe that when he finds a means of self-expression that appeals to him he will feel much better.

  9. Cecily spencer

    Two b supplements that he can take daily and when he needs and extra boost . Choline and Inostitol. You can get them at GNC they are chewable although choline tastes nasty. You can have him take them 4 times a day They really helped my daughter. Also look into a supplement called empower plus. They have a website. they have a help line. It was a life saver for us. Fish oil supplements can also help. Anxiety can have physical causes that show up in times of stress. You leaving is his trigger apparently. I know prayer can and does help but I believe that we can and should do what we can too. I know you are doing your best. I’ll be praying for you.

  10. Amanda Scholtz Mostert

    Hi you, I know you have a lot more experience than me. But I would like to go with Sonja’s suggestion. My middle child is super intelligent (29 years old by now). She always coped better when she new what is going to happen with the one who needs to see the doctor or what ever other reason the family member had to go through and how that person is feeling ext. I usually took her with. So, take Tucker with.
    My one nephew (super intelligent) is a anxiety ball as well. I think these children don’t think the same as us.
    I am the praying type. So be sure I will be praying.
    (Hope you understand my English)

  11. Debbie

    My daughter has been doing quite a lot of research regarding essential oils. Two in particular that she read about are helpful for anxiety. Here’s a couple links in case you’d like to check them out. The first is called Peace and Calming by Young Living. The second is lavender from Beeyoutiful. We have had good results with the oils we have tried so far. Pretty amazing actually. Will pray for Tucker ! And you too as you seek to help him through this.


  12. Alex

    This sounds a lot like what I have dealt with. I have undiagnosed agoraphobia, and have dealt with it since early elementary school ( I’m going into my senior year ). It has gotten better as I’ve gotten older but it still flares up sometimes. Tucker’s recent panic attack sounds a lot like what I dealt with when I was younger. I would want to go to different things so so badly, but I literally could not force myself to leave my house and go to it. I would feel extremely sick to my stomach ( to the point of vomiting ), suddenly exhausted or freezing cold, heart beat faster, tingly hands, and I definitely know the “weird” feeling πŸ˜‰
    I recommend b vitamin supplements for the overall mood, and ginger tea or ginger supplements for the nausea. Also, it might help to have him talk about how he feels…I found that sometimes it helped me to tell my mom “I’m having a panic attack over ___ and I don’t know why”. Or to write/think about/talk about how I was feeling, but in a detached sense, as if I was talking about somebody else. Part of what’s frustrating is that sometimes you really have no idea why you’re panicking, you want to do this thing and you aren’t afraid of anything and in fact you’re excited about it, but your body and mind just doesn’t want to cooperate.
    One thing that’s important for the family to know about anxiety is that you really can’t push him too much, because that will put more pressure on him which will make the panic attack worse. When he says he can’t do something, know that he actually can’t. He might feel like nobody understands, and that’s ok. Because unless you’ve experienced a panic attack, you really don’t.
    kudos on not forcing him to go when he was panicking and arming him with scripture for next time! My verses I cling to are “But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness…..for when I am weak then I am strong” and knowing that he’s my prince of peace!! πŸ™‚

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, I know “pushing” him too much would be a mistake. I let him make the decision yesterday and he chose to stay home. We left it like that, tried not to make a big deal out of it, tried to make sure he didn’t feel embarrassed.

  13. Fatcat

    We had to do couseling for a while when one of my sons was terribly afraid of storms and it began to take over his life. It worked wonders.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, we are certainly considering counseling, but I don’t think we’ll have time to get him in before the 27th.

  14. elaine

    I would contact the child life department of the hospital. They work with siblings as well as patients. Perhaps they could work with Tucker and help to empower him through understanding the process better.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      This is a good idea. I’m not sure how much they can do since we live so far away, but I’ll look into it.

  15. ARV

    Hi RenΓ©. Tucker reminds me a lot of my eldest son, Elliot. Elliot suffered from very bad anxiety attacks after the still birth of his two little brothers that he had been looking forward to welcoming so much. He was about the same age as Tucker and also an extremely intelligent little boy who was constantly taking things apart to see how they worked. Unfortunatly at seven or eight years old he could just not understand that some things are totally out of our control. Up until that point Elliot had always been fine when i dropped him off somewhere… until the anxiety set in. He just wasn’t able to deal with being apart from me. Thankfully he had a great and very understanding teacher who was able to deal with the situation. For all non school activities I gave up trying to drop him off for about a school year, i figured he just needed some more time. If i did try to drop him off he would just start crying uncontrollably while his whole little body shook. It broke my heart, and as a young mom at the time I really thought that he would never get over these anxiety attacks. With a lot of support and love from family, friends and a great teacher his attacks did start to lessen with time. We also used Bach Rescue Remedy and I gave him a special stone to hold on to. He would “charge” the stone with positive energy when feeling good and he could then rely on that energy when he needed it. He really liked that idea! Whatever works! πŸ˜‰ Now age 13 he hasn’t had an anxiety attack in years! People are always commenting on how independent and strong he is for his age. I will be thinking of you all and wish all the best for Tucker and little Apollo.

  16. melodygross

    I have an 8 year old who suffers from extreme anxiety as well, although his stems more from the fact that he has Aspergers’s and the world is often a very confusing place for him. Ultimately we chose to put him on medication because his anxiety became all consuming. We use some others tools as well, but I’m not sure they would be helpful for Tucker as his type of anxiety is a bit different. But I’ll throw it out there anyway, just incase it MIGHT be helpful.

    So for my guy, Elliott, we try to take as much unpredictability out of the day as possible, with the idea that uncertainty breeds anxiety. Every morning at breakfast we go over a visual schedule. This gives him a good idea of what will be happening that day. It also gives him the opportunity to ask questions, and it also gives me the ability to perhaps see what parts of the day may be anxiety inducing (by his reaction when talking about the day) and where I might need to tweak things a bit to help decrease his anxiety.

    Tucker (and YOU!) will most definitely be in my thoughts and prayers!

  17. Helena

    This will likely be an…unpopular opinion but, the Bach’s is obviously not helping. The placebo effect isn’t working.

    He will simply get worse with time if you don’t attack this head on. It could greatly impact every aspect of his life.

    He needs to speak with a therapist. The hospital likely provides programs and therapists for siblings. That is what he needs. While he’s open, he may not want to worry you more with his stress and fears as he can see how much you are going through already. That then builds to the point where it is now.

    Modern medicine has helped Apollo. It’s time to step back and see that this is the start of a crisis that essential oils won’t help.

    He needs help. Real help. And he needs it now. Prayer will help. God’s hand is in all of this. But he’s beyond oils and flowers.

    Talking to someone that is not a parent or family member, someone that he doesn’t need to worry he will upset or disrupt is what he needs. The child and sibling therapists are trained for this, they encounter it daily.

    Ask for that help. He is in desperate need for it.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Helena, I totally agree. I hope I didn’t come off sounding like I thought essential oils would replace therapy or other interventions. Our family doctor (a regular MD) suggested the Bach’s when Apollo was suffering from extreme anxiety after his first heart surgery. I am *not* one to replace modern medicine with herbs πŸ™‚ If they work, great, if not, lets bring out the big guns!

      I totally think he would benefit from seeing a counselor. The problem is I don’t think we can get him in before Apollo’s surgery. It took six months to get Mordecai an appointment with some pretty extreme symptoms.

      Since the root of his fear is losing ME (brought on by his brother facing another surgery) I believe he will benefit from therapy even AFTER the surgery, I just think it will take time to get him in.

  18. Molly (@roneydapony)

    If he can find a good therapist, they can use cognitive behavioral therapy to help him understand what’s happening (kid friendly ways to explain fight or flight and anxiety), as well as help him identify the precursors to anxiety (body changes, thoughts, etc) and give him coping strategies. Does he ever do belly breathing? Are you guys ok with the idea of meditation (not religious just a way to calm himself down). Phobias (especially specific ones, like being without mom and dad) are very treatable and have good proven protocols.

  19. Jess Guest

    The anxiety sibs face is very different to the anxiety other children face in my experience. It is a response to a stimulus, not a mental illness. It can develop into an illness, but that’s not the starting point. Complementary therapies like rescue remedy, music and essential oils are absolutely worth the time and effort in my opinion. The fact that he is actively managing his own anxiety by asking for the RR is a great sign. The social worker who is attached to my daughter’s cardiac unit told me that she is far more concerned about children who seem fine and never miss a beat when their sibling is unwell/needing surgery/undergoing testing etc. as they tend to implode later down the track. A powerful tool with my kids has been Flurry Talks – where we talk, individually or in group/s, about the fears and worries swirling around inside us. During these talks the kids are encouraged to say whatever is on their minds, even if it seems silly or they are worried it will worry us. Not always easy talks to have, especially when the big worries (my sister might die, you may have to go away for months again in the hospital etc.) are completely realistic. We have been able to demystify the process a little through these talks. Last surgery my two oldest sons were worried that a doctor or nurse my accidentally bump a machine and kill Kaylee. We talked through the surgery, the training the doctors and nurses get etc. and it helped, but I had no idea this was even on their minds. Sometimes just knowing that everyone is worried about xyz helped. I talk openly about how I manage my own stress and anxiety too (journalling, prayer, scripture, talking to Daddy, remembering times things did turn out OK, meditating on good things, having a cuddle session etc.) A counselor could help. I worry that my oldest has trouble confiding in us sometimes because she doesn’t want to worry us. She is OK now, but if Kaylee goes downhill and she doesn’t open up or seems to be slipping I’d get a counselor for her. I’m also considering a flurry box where we write our fears and worries, lock them in the ox, then reflect on them later. Beads are a brilliant idea. Oxytocin is a stress hormone and it pushes us to reach out and strengthen bonds (i.e. maternal bonding after birth, bonding on mission trips and difficult projects). With my kids it would help them to know that God designed their bodies so that when they were freaking out, they’d get a hormone boost that pushed them to reach out and love someone. Being me, the insane list maker, I’d probably sit down and make lists of ways to reach out and love someone in our “down” time, when we were starting to feel anxious and when we were freaking out. Praying for your boy!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks, Jess, your insight and experience are very helpful. I agree, this is different then general anxiety and definitely brought on by his brother’s health issues.

  20. sarah

    We had a foster gal come and go, some time back. It caused my son to stop bonding with people. I ended up taking him to a behavioral therapist and she has done wonders. I would like to think I’m the only one he needs, πŸ™‚ but he needed outside help. He went in with a 12 week plan, and it is looking good. She said by the end of the month he should be good. Maybe the hospital will also have recommendations?

  21. Erin

    It sounds like a childhood anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be very successfully treated, but generally doesn’t go away on it’s own. If you deal with one source of anxiety another can very quickly replace it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a very successful form of treatment for anxiety, and in kids it’s often just a matter of a few sessions to give them a few tools to help them deal with what is going on for them. Often they won’t associate the things they are experience as being to do with worries or fears. They will just report the somatic experiences they are having – eg stomach feels funny.
    I’ve tried the ignore it and it might get better approach. It hasn’t worked. I would really recommend seeing if you can get him some help. I’m sure there are probably some great sibling programmes available to you given what you have gone through with Apollo. In Australia we have a great organisation called Beyond Blue who have some fantastic options for kids as well. Kids Helpline is another.
    Will pray for him.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thank you, Erin. I believe his anxiety is directly related to and brought on by his brother’s illness. Thank you for suggesting something specifically for siblings. I am going to look into this today.

  22. Peg Billingsley

    Is there a program at the hospital for siblings of the child patient who is ill? Sometimes being with peers and working things through that way can really help. I spent a couple of summers working at a very special camp for children with cancer. Each child had their own counselor. The unique part of this camp is that siblings were able to be campers too and they had their own counselors as well. As kids got together and talked I was privy to some very emotional and tenderhearted conversations. The kids needed each other.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I believe there are, but we live 100 miles from the hospital. I will be looking into similar local resources, however.

      • Talia

        If the school he went to for a year has a school psychologist or social worker they might be able to point you in the direction of some local resources.

  23. Jess Guest

    As a side note, many of my big kids manifested pretty big stress and anxiety symptoms in the lead up to surgeries – one actually got acid reflux so badly he’d have attacks where he was hardly able to walk, another expresses his distress by urinating in unusual places (yay.), we also had impulse control issues, aggression etc. It was hard for all of us – really hard. It did resolve once the surgery was over and we were home for a while. Our next surgery is about 18 months away and I expect we will deal with a whole new bunch of reactions, although I am hoping not as extreme. People who have not tried to keep a family together with a medically complex child really cannot wrap their heads around what our kids go through. While I think a 3rd party, especially one trained and experienced with siblings of medically complex kids, can be very helpful – I’d hold off diagnosing Tucker with a mental illness or disorder just yet (especially over the internet πŸ˜‰ ). Most psychologists would want to wait until after Apollo’s surgery anyway.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, I am positive this all stems from Apollo’s illness. Regardless, he needs some help to cope right now. As always, I appreciate your experienced words.

  24. Maura Klene

    Our daughter has an anxiety disorder, and has struggled with anxiety since she was tiny… a lot of that anxiety has been connected to her brother’s serious psychiatric problems. We have had good luck with “L-theanine” an amino acid supplement, it’s a chewable and helps with both stress and sleep. (I’ve taken it and it really does help me sleep!) You can get it an Sprouts or Vitamin Cottage, etc.

    I would also recommend a book that we got when my daughter was young… What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety. (

    This book helped my daughter begin to understand and feel some control over her anxious feelings… It’s a workbook kind of self-help book and uses CBT type techniques. We also homeschool and worked through a lot of the book during our school time. She still looks at the book sometimes and learns from it.

    Good luck, you’ll be in my prayers…


  25. Tony

    Classic separation anxiety. Older children can be shown how to use deep breathing or muscle relaxation, or be taught to talk themselves out of fear-provoking thoughts. You can also sit down with him and use toys/puppets/drawings etc to help him put words to his feelings. When he knows that someone truly understands his fears, and when he can put those fears into words himself, then reassurances are much more effective. Part of the problem is that he probably doesn’t fully understand why he even feels the way he does….or why. Start by helping him to understand what he is feeling, what triggered it & then work on allaying those fears.

  26. Tony

    Oh…forgot to mention. That portrait of Tucker is superb. Except for the blurred foreground object in the lower left and the table/desk along the right hand edge, it’s perfect. Also…is it just me or does the photo make him look years older?

    • Tanya Redfield

      That’s what I loved most about the picture…that Tucker is in sharp focus with the background all softened! πŸ™‚

  27. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    Awww, praying for Tucker and everyone in your family for that matter. My oldest has anxiety, it’t not nearly this level but still she has bouts of it. I really encourage deep breaths with her (we usually breathe in a strength and choose a word – like “peace” or “Jesus” and then breathe out “nervousness” or “fear”).

    Like I said, I’ll be praying for you and your family.

  28. one of your blog readers!

    Naw Renee, it must be hard for you! Praying for all of you at this time!

    You’ve probably heard of it before, but what about Magnesium? It’s referred to as the ‘calming’ mineral. It’s good for sleeping issues as well as stress etc. Google it for more info πŸ˜‰ x

  29. Rebecca

    I’m sure you’ve heard all of these by now, but here are a few things I use to ward off anxiety attacks.
    1. Music. Mainly not calming music per se like others have suggested, but music with lyrics I can concentrate on. The Steve Green Hide ‘Em in Your Heart series has several great songs targeted at younger kids. Others I will listen to are Still, My Soul, Be Still (Keith and Kristyn Getty), By Your Side (10th Avenue North), Beloved (10th Avenue North), Help Me Find It (Sidewalk Prophets), Faithful (Hawk Nelson), Praise You in This Storm (Casting Crowns), Come On Back to Me (Third Day), and Call My Name (Third Day).
    2. Prayer/meditation. In the moment this can be as simple as repeating over and over the Serenity Prayer or Breath Prayer (breathe in, “Lord, take away my worries;” breathe out, “Father, fill me with Your peace”).
    And don’t forget the bananas. They’re tasty and great for nerves (and green ones are easy to eat even when you’re nervous.
    I will be praying for your family, especially Apollo and Tucker.

  30. Sunny

    My daughter had some anxiety as a little one. The above mentioned book was also helpful for her ‘what to do when you worry to much’. It helped me too.

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