An Anxious Third Grader


My nine-year-old son is experiencing anxiety and anger. My husband and I follow a traditional style of parenting and we are firm, have high standards for behavior, and are very loving. I believe our son's anxiety is primarily due to two factors:

1. HEALTH: His SEVERE peanut allergy and allergies to dogs and cats. All of these things exclude him or significantly limit his freedom in nearly every aspect of life outside of our home. This causes stress and makes him feel like an outsider. He also wears braces and glasses.
2. TIME MANAGEMENT: The stress of managing his time. He has a lot of homework each night, he has his regular daily chores (make bed, fold laundry, etc..) plus a 15-minute assigned chore (i.e. vacuum and dust family room), and a few extra tasks related to managing his peanut allergy. He is frustrated because even after working really hard all day before school, at school, and after school, he has only about 30 minutes of free time each day. He does not participate in any after-school activities but comes straight home, empties his backpack, eats a snack, and gets started on homework.

I've made him an after-school/evening schedule to help him stay on track without me hovering over him. It is truly a tight schedule but that's how it has to be to get to bed at a good time and be ready for the next day. When he does dawdle, he gets very overwhelmed and angry with himself. We have purchased a punching bag for him to hit when he gets this way.

He is a very perceptive boy with a tremendous desire to learn. He loves to read the Bible and is developing a close relationship with the Lord. Several weeks ago, he was extra upset and told me something that stopped me in my tracks. He said that Satan is telling him to do really bad things to himself, like kill himself. I was very alarmed but I did my best to not show it. I want him to feel that he can tell me what is on his mind. The very next day we started to have nightly family devotional time. We also began memorizing Scripture as a family in an effort to fill his mind with God's Word. We thought it would be a good idea for him to see a counselor who could help him with anxiety and anger. However, after listening to John's most recent podcasts about children and therapists, we changed our minds.

At this point, we are not sure what to do. I don't want to overreact to my son's comment about Satan but I don't want to ignore a cry for help either. I am becoming hesitant to discipline him out of fear that he'll get mad at himself and then hurt himself badly. He has allergy testing each year and knows that even eating 1/200th of a peanut (so small you can hardly see it) could cause life-threatening anaphylaxis. That is a lot of stress for a third-grader. I am concerned that he might get so angry one day and do something eat part of a peanut (they are all over the place at school lunchtime). He is very responsible with his allergy and knows not to eat anything that I don't provide for him but he is still a nine-year-old boy and could easily have flawed judgment.

I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts and even advice from John himself on this issue. Thank you.

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