Thursday, February 11, 2010
My five-year old - my bouncy, smiling, intense, smart five year old girl is troubling me.
She's had a bout with odd stomach pain lately - never a fever, never any problems with either end, happy to eat, happy to run about, nothing odd. Just these ever-present stomachaches and a quiet "Mama, my tummy hurts.'
I called the doctor's office after four days of her staying home from school and asked if there was any sort of virus going around. Assured there was, and that keeping her home wasn't going to be any different than sending her to school, I didn't feel bad sending her back, fortified with a few Tylenol and the knowledge that I would be home if she suddenly worsened.
The tummy trouble lingered. One week, two, three....never worsening, never getting any better. I was still convinced that this was nothing, that it would just go away....
But I thought I might talk to her doctor, just in case. I ran into him at the hospital and just casually asked about Rosey's tum. He asked a few questions, (Where is the pain? Right in front of her bellybutton. Does it get worse? Sometimes, but not enough that I think we need to come in to see you. Is it constant? It seems so.) then stunned me by quietly saying ' It could be anxiety.'
Anxiety? In a five-year-old?
According to Health Canada, it's not so surprising. Mental health problems among Canadian children and youth are predicted to increase by 50% by the year 2020. As children enter school earlier and earlier, and our lives get more complicated, more kids need help with transitions and social skills. The most common mental health problem among children and youth is anxiety. An estimated 6.5% (2009 figure) of all children in Canada struggle with anxious feelings, symptoms, and disorders.
That's a lot of kids with stomach-aches. A lot of young people unsure how to handle events in their lives, how to use coping skills, how to work through new situations.
I'm gob-smacked. How do you teach a child who you've never noticed holding things in, who has never seemed maudlin or mopey or bothered by things - that it's okay to let go?
The report goes on to say that with the appropriate investments and access to treatment, it is estimated that 70% of childhood cases of mental health problems can be solved through early diagnosis and interventions.
Which is great news - really great! Awesome! But doesn't really help me, as I worry and second-guess myself and call conferences and wonder how on earth my intuition didn't tell me that this tummy ache was serious.
This is an original Canada Moms Blogs post. Jessica blogs at daysgoby and various other places.
Photo by the author.