By Morgan Myers, LPC therapist to burned out mamas (read more about Morgan here)
1. Your kids are as anxious as you are!
We’re all anxious as we think about the risks of returning to school during a pandemic! The visual of walking up to your kids school, everyone in a mask, no one social distancing, germs, and coughing and all of it! It’s overwhelming! Your kids are taking in all of that too. They are processing the fact that they haven’t been in a classroom for 6 months. We all know what our anxiety feels and looks like. Kid’s anxiety can look like:
- Whining and complaining
- Fixating on the plan and the variables
- Wanting to escape
- Getting aggressive
- Extra tired
- Overly emotional
- Bigger fits and meltdowns
2. Your kids NEED socialization
Whether you’ve decided to send your kids back in person or keeping them home until the risk lessens, we’re all having to juggle all of our kid’s needs. Obviously their physical health is really important, but consider their emotional health and social development. In case you’re feeling guilty about planning play dates, or getting them back in school, they will benefit from being with other kids. Their brains need to be reminded about social skills, self-control in the classroom, not being bossy (speaking from experience!), learning competence, etc etc. So as their parent, remember not to leave out this aspect of their little bodies and brains! It’s easy to focus on the physical risks, but there are benefits to being around other kids too!
3. In light of all of this above, be kind to your self and show your kids some grace.
We’re all taking in A LOT of change right now! Our lives are almost unrecognizable from what it was this time last year. So show yourself some grace, and when your kid is balling on the floor, or whining for another snack, or trying to control the outcome of everything, give them some grace too. This is how kids respond to situations out of their control (and I would guess its the way we respond to situations out of our control too).
For more on parenting and motherhood, check out my side project @Motherlift on instagram.
You (& your child) get to decide how and when to share your child’s diagnosis and details related to their functioning with people even when they ask. Being curious doesn’t entitle someone to an answer. It can be helpful to have a planned response for such times, such as: “ Thanks for being concerned/interested in (child’s name). We choose not to discuss that with you right now.”
1. Have an “elevator pitch answer” ready to go.
Sometimes people will ask about your child’s difference and you may want a quick way to explain it. Think of this like the elevator pitch that salespeople learn. They have a speech where they can pitch their product in the time it takes the elevator to get them to their floor. I have Cerebral Palsy and my elevator speech to a curious adult is, “Thanks for asking. My diagnosis is Cerebral Palsy. It is a neurological problem caused by premature birth and it affects my balance and the tightness of the muscles in my legs.” I also explain this to kids a lot, in the playroom at work and in public places like the grocery store. I usually say something like this, “ You’re really paying attention! You noticed that I walk differently from other people. I have Cerebral Palsy, that means that my brain which is like a big computer has a little difference. Instead of telling my muscles to work like most people’s do, my brain tells my muscles to be tight all the time and my body is always a little off balance.”
2. Look to your child to see how much is appropriate to share.
If your child is able, discuss with them how and when they want to discuss their difference with friends, classmates, etc. If they are unable to communicate verbally, pay attention to the ways they do communicate with you to gauge their awareness and level of comfort with these conversations and adjust accordingly.
3. Sometimes it’s helpful to officially share about your child’s differences
For some families, it feels most helpful to have the child address their class at the beginning of the school year and explain their difference so that they can have some more control over how their difference is understood.
4. This isn’t the end all be all, you can adjust the way you communicate at each developmental stage.
These conversations will need to be tweaked over time as your child grows both developmentally and socially. Sometimes different people or situations will require different conversations. Be willing to shape and change your explanations, as it feels right to you, your child and your family. Trust yourself and your child when navigating these situations. Also, be patient with yourself and your child. These conversations may bring up difficult feelings or painful interactions.
5. Remember to prioritize self-care!
Having conversations where you or your kid explain their difference can be difficult but even when they are good conversations they can still leave you feeling depleted. Self-care is important. This could be journaling, going for a run or making time to talk to trusted friends. Your child also needs self-care during this time. It can be time alone doing a favorite activity or engaging with family or friends to play or talk through their feelings.
By Kate Miller, LPC
As adults, it is easy to edit our childhood memories to an idyllic time in our lives. It’s true there are things about childhood that are wonderful: having long summer days to play, ride bikes, play Barbies or get lost in the Harry Potter series until your parents tell you to come home to eat a dinner you didn’t have to plan, cook, or pay for. You could just be a kid.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always look like a scene from the movie The Sandlot. The reality of childhood often looks different from our rose-colored memories. There are lots of challenges and transitions that children feel deeply leaving them feeling: disconnected, frustrated, scared, anxious or afraid. There are many challenges that children face and just as some adults handle changes differently the same is true for children. So, while for some the transition from one school to another is exciting and new friends are made easily, other children will struggle to find their place there. Your best friend’s oldest child may have easily transitioned from being the only child to being the big sister and took on her new role with excitement. However, your child is throwing multiple tantrums every day (maybe even after you thought the tantrum phase was over) and trying to send the new baby back to the hospital (or worse)! You may find yourself wondering what you’re doing wrong, that your child cannot adjust to normal life transitions.
Childhood may have brought challenges to your child’s life that even you struggle to understand and accept. Maybe your child has a been diagnosed with a disability or ADD, anxiety or another child mental health disorder. You may find yourself grappling with how to help your child. It’s so easy to have endless what-ifs, doctor’s appointments…
It is often the case that when a child is given a serious diagnosis all of the family’s focus and energy goes to the child with the diagnosis and the sibling or siblings can feel lost and forgotten. You may find yourself feeling completely unprepared to parent in these circumstances.
For your family this may not be ‘a difficult season’ but ‘your ongoing reality’ and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
If you found yourself resonating with any of these scenarios, take courage, there is help and hope. Your child is not ruined or lost forever. They need support to find their voice, process their pain and find their own way to connect and contribute to others. Play therapy can help children and parents on this journey. They will not have the idyllic childhood of our edited memories (because those childhoods are only real in our imaginations) but there are moments of connection and fulfillment yet to come.
Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate way for children to process what is going on in their lives. We are highly trained and ready to meet with you. Read more about our child therapist here.
As a counselor working with kids one of the most important parts of my job is being present with my clients. My mind is swirling with to do lists, my expectations of myself and the client, my hunger, my body language, even my language! I continually push it aside over and over so that I can show my clients: I’m here, I see you, I’m with you.
This was never more apparent than when I had to film a play session with my first born. She is 4 years old. She commands a lot of attention. She is constantly saying, mommy? Proclaiming: Mommy! Yelling: MOMMY! SCREAMING: MOMMY! And I snap back to attention. I am constantly fixated on the future- anticipating dinner, cleaning house, planning, worrying, dreaming, self-helping myself mentally. Meanwhile, my 4 year old is eternally in the present, as is my 5 month old whose immediate physical needs are basically all she knows.
After that play session with my daughter, I have started to think about how we all actually live only in the present moment, we create, feel and experience everything in this moment. Our relationships are built in the present- the current second, minute, hour, and day we spend with our children. In the present is where we all relate to each other. Each moment we spend fixated with the past or future is a moment we are not “with” others.
So, as a quick and simple parenting strategy- try to be aware of where you are mentally. Are you in the room? Are you wishing or hoping or worrying about something else? Turn your attention to the little one (or medium or big one) in front of you and engage. You’ll find the present is full of surprises. There are moments to connect and deepen your relationship with that child that you might miss otherwise. Sometimes you are wrestling with your child’s flaws, they might be throwing a tantrum or complaining. Sometimes your attention sparks a conversation, a hug, or allows them to process an idea. It’s not always heavenly, but your kids will notice even if they don’t let on that they notice.
5 tips for Being Present
- Get on eye level with the child.
- Put phone on silent- Phones are time machines that take you everywhere BUT the present
- Be with the emotion they are feeling. Let them express how they feel without questions or a lesson. (Read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk for more on this!)
- Practice mindfulness- Bring your awareness to your body and your breathing. Take a deep breath in 5 seconds. Hold 5 seconds, Out 10 seconds. Click here for free audio guides or open spotify
- Take care of yourself first. Just like the flight attendant says, put your oxygen mask first, we have to take care of ourselves so that we have something to draw from. That means meeting your present needs so that you can meet their present needs.
Morgan Myers is an LPC-intern at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Morgan Myers got her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from Texas A&M-Commerce. She has received training in adolescent counseling, play therapy, sandtray and group therapy. She has worked with a wide range of people including the homeless, young adults in a community college, and adolescents. She has worked with moms dealing with postpartum depression and she is passionate about helping people find hope through self discovery and healing. She provides a safe and accepting environment for all her clients.
We’re starting a parenting class for east Dallas moms at Bethany Lutheran Church! This class strengthens the foundation of your relationship with your child while still providing practical answers to common questions! There is no cost, but donations are accepted for materials.
Topics include: appropriate discipline and limit-setting, outbursts and anger, helping kids cope with emotion, managing sensory issues, feeling overwhelmed and tired as a parent.