For those of you new to my blog, our oldest daughter spent 18 months between ages 1-2.5 undergoing medical testing. This meant we were in and out of hospitals, had labs done weekly and then bi-weekly, had a handful of blood transfusions and finally a surgery. Between 2.5-5, she was a hospital in-patient a few times because of extreme fevers.
It wasn't until she entered 1st grade (she's now a 3rd grader) that we started paying attention to some things that just didn't seem right. She's a bright girl. She likes to learn. She loves to create. But she cried nearly every school night. And it was extreme. We thought it was just the transition from half-day kindergarten to full-day first grade.
But then it followed her into 2nd grade.
And we finally realized it for what it was. Anxiety. Full panic. Big emotions. (Like we had witnessed any time she had to step foot into a doctor's office or hospital...even if it wasn't for her). And it is all God's grace that our eyes started opening...
Practical things we have done:
1. Counseling | Through some networking with a friend in Wichita, we located a Christian child therapist. She began working with our daughter through play therapy at first. Later Miss G went through a trauma packet to work through her medical trauma.
2. Research | I began reading many books about the brain. At the therapist's recommendation, I read "The Whole Brain Child" by Dr. Dan Siegel. I also gobbled up the "Boundaries" books by Cloud and Townsend. "Switch on Your Brain" by Dr. Caroline Leaf, while not directly geared for children, was also very helpful. Additionally, I've started doing research about trauma's impact on a child's education (fascinating!)...and it has proven itself true in our family!
3. Partial School Day | This was a decision we didn't make lightly. But even with therapy, Miss G's school days were not improving. She was not absorbing her education like she should have been...particularly with math. Her anxiety shot through the roof anytime she had to do something timed or take a test. Recess was a source of stress. Lunchtime was unbearable. So, we worked with school administration to move her to a modified school schedule where she would go half-days a few times a week. I taught her math at home and it really allowed me to see how she approached it and what we could do to help her succeed. Doing this helped her get over a hump last year. This year, so far, has gone better.
4. HS Art | On the recommendation of the school counselor, we worked to set up a time for Miss G to work with a high school art student once a week. This allowed her to skip a recess and do something she loves. It was such a great success that we are continuing that this year.
5. Prayer | I think one of the largest impacts has been in the last several months when I finally realized that, like me in my own recovery, in order for Miss G to really recover, she needed to own her emotions to the Lord. Over the years, she developed a victim mindset...and felt like she didn't have control over anything. In order to combat that, she needs healing only the Lord can provide. And while it is, of course, beneficial for others to pray for and pray over her...it was vital that she started doing that for herself. We're teaching her to pray honest prayers..."God, I feel anxious. I know your word says not to. Please help me." "God, I am so scared. Please help." In this way, she is becoming an active part of her recovery, and it has added a wonderful dimension!
6. Pushing through passivity | I've started to realize that with Miss G, it's important for those of us working with her to push through her passivity. This isn't easy. It feels hard. There are tears. But while reading "Boundaries with Kids" I realized how detrimental it would be for her to stay in her walled-up comfort zone. She appears good. She hates to fail. So she would never try. If we let her dictate what happens in counseling and at home, she would choose to continue living in the effects of her trauma because it's easier. But it's NOT BETTER. Pushing through her passivity is something that will be vital to her healing.
7. Talking | A huge point that stuck with me while reading "The Whole Brain Child" was the importance of talking. Telling her story. Letting her tell her story. She and I are working on an experience book where I provide the words and she illustrates. Talking and telling and re-telling and re-telling and re-telling makes the trauma not feel so "out-there" in the brain. Even though it doesn't change the trauma, it normalizes and settles it. And it has been good for Mom and Dad, too.
I will admit that we are no experts. We're learning as we go. We're doing our best to ask for help, listen to the Lord, and obey...no matter how crazy it makes us look. Ultimately our children will have to answer for their own lives and be responsible for their own health...and as parents, we are trying to arm them with information and tools for doing just that.
What practical tips could you add to this list?