As the new year begins, we have been dealing with high emotions-again! My daughter has some anxiety-I’ve talked about that before. One way it really affects her is during transitional periods and on special occasions(think holidays and birthdays.) I call these her “trigger filled” days; or days and weeks that everything and anything can trigger a meltdown and fit the size of Massachusetts.
As I know many foster and adoptive parents out there deal with this, or possibly biological parents who are raising children with anxiety, I wanted to share some of the things we do to help her through these seasons. As an adult with PTSD, a lot of these are things I use on myself as well; traumatized brains are the same over a large age gap, ya know?
I am so not a licensed therapist or doctor and please don’t think we have it all figured out-because we don’t. But I have been living this life in my brain for almost ten years and I will continue to mom it for another…well forever!
Here are some of the ways we try to make the hard seasons better.
Avoidance and Distraction. During the two weeks that the school year ends and begins, the week surround Christmas and her birthday, I put on my kiddy gloves with Princess. We don’t let her get away with things necessarily, but I do take notice to approach it less intensely if something does come up. During those times, something as small as saying “It’s bed time” in the wrong way can trigger a full fledged meltdown. The battles are loud and exhausting; so I try my best to avoid them. If it’s something small, like she wants to take her shower after Monkey, I let it happen. Giving small allowances can change her entire day and in turn change the entire families day. I also use a lot more distractions during these times. It’s the time of year where I may stop her from getting emotional or distraught by offering a treat or a family hike or movie. I am one of those people who loves to let their child work through their emotions on their own…but triggering seasons are one of the times to not do that.
Preparation and Discussion(And possibly prayer). Oh man, this is life changing, y’all! We do this especially for Princess when it comes to changes in her life(moves, school year starting, camp, etc). For weeks before school starts, you will hear us talking about the fact that it’s coming; that life is changing in a few weeks. We discuss every part of it-how she will get there, what will happen after school, the basic schedule. If you know me you know I hate schedules. A lot. To the point where I dislike doing extra curricular activities because it makes me follow one. Instead of a schedule though, we go over the simple routine our lives will take most days. That way, she knows it’s coming when it does. W discuss how holidays will be spent(this helps with my Monkey’s special needs with structure as well!) and what our plans are for birthdays. And we pray. Princess has a beautiful little heart for Jesus and we spend time praying before days and changes, that it goes well and things work out. We also try to keep that door open, so if any feelings during the season come up, we can pray with her and Jesus then too.
Acceptance. Here’s the thing-this might be something that is always hard on her. The beginning and end of the school year mostly because of her anxiety over not having a schedule and changing her days around. We hope that will get easier as time goes on. But the end of the school year is also very close to their placement day, which will always be a memory to her. Holidays are joyous and beautiful; but as an adopted child who knows her biological parents are out there, she may always deal with missing them on those days. Part of dealing with her anxiety and these seasons is accepting they are there and they may always be there. I want Christmas to be wonderful and beautiful and make it through the week without being told that she hates me…but right now, her big emotions in that little body of hers are still healing from the life before and comprehending this thing called life after. We as parents have to accept that. As she gets older, I will encourage her to find the good in these transition and holiday times. I will also continue to put in place guidelines that she should follow so it’s not a hard season on everyone. But I can’t take away her emotions, trauma or anxiety surrounding these times-I know, I’ve tried to do it with my own mental health stuff.
When it comes to children who are traumatized or struggle with anxiety, some times, days and seasons will be harder than others. Parents out there-remember this isn’t forever. Hold your babes through it and care for yourself as well! Plan some extra loving with friends, take an hour for yourself, give yourself grace for the times you don’t do it “perfectly”.
And for your friends, you can do these three things and help them as well! Offer them distractions when you know things are going to be hard-movies, dinners out, drinks on you. Discuss it if they need to-and pray for them and with them. Accept they will have these rough times and give them extra loving. As a woman who deals with PTSD and anxiety, I have so much respect and love for people who do those things for me through my hard seasons.
What would help you through your rough times?