Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The Sensational World According to Jaimie: Do's and Don't's Of Dealing With Anxiety (A Child's Perspective)
When Jaimie went back to school after the Christmas Break, she found out that her class had won tickets to an Oilers game (For you non-Canadians out there, the Edmonton Oilers are a hockey team!) Jaimie's school has a strong connection with the Oilers' team, who help to support the school's reading program. Pretty cool, right? So, winning these tickets is a very big deal. And since it's a reward for reading--something Jaimie loves and probably helped push her class's recorded reading hours up over the top on her own with all the hours of reading she's put in!--it means alot to the kids, especially to Jaimie. I didn't have a problem with her going to a game, if she chose to do it. It was some of the details that worried me.
Here's a rundown: First, this is a night game. Jaimie has to be back at the school at 5:00 p.m. in order to meet with her class. That means her after school routine will change and she won't have time to do her Jaimie's Games to come down from her day. They'll be taking a school bus to the arena. This is the same place that the Wiggles play at when they come so she's familiar with the place but not with the environment during a hockey game. And I don't care what her Dad says, the two settings are very different. At a Wiggles concert, it's 'child focused'. There are many other kids there, she's familiar with the people, the music and the noise level in that setting. And I'm there. During a hockey game, the noises are different. There are people yelling at players, cheering, the sound/music made when a score is made, etc. (and I'm not including what happens when you have over-enthusiastic hockey fans around you!) She won't get back home until 10:00 p.m. and, probably won't be in bed until 11:00 p.m. That doesn't mean she'll be sleeping, though; only in bed. It takes Jaimie a very long time to come down from that kind of stimulation and because it'll be too late for her Jaimie's Calm Down activites, including her shower, massage, reading and Mama cuddles, she most likely won't go to sleep for hours (and won't stay asleep if she does). On top of ALL OF THAT, it's her birthday tomorrow so she'll be pumped up about that too.
All of the italicized things above are HUGE triggers for Jaimie. You see, for a typical kid, any of these things can be overwhelming but they adjust and get through it. For a kid with Spectrum issues, SPD and HUGE genera/social anxiety issues, these are mountains that obstruct her ability to enjoy a simply funtime activity, like a hockey game.
And Jaimie's been stressing about this trip all week. I knew it. She's been extra sensitive and cranky. The stuff she's usually able to work through on her own has been torture for her. She hasn't been sleeping well, melting down with the tiniest things and the foods she was starting to get used to are making her gag again. I knew something was up but I can't press her on talking to me. She always reaches out when she feels she can.
This morning as I was helping her get ready to go to school, I said, "Jaimie? Why don't you ask Daddy to go with you on this field trip? Then Mama can stay here and get stuff ready for your birthday."
With tears pooling in her lower lids she says, "I really want you to come."
"Is it because you're nervous about this hockey game tonight?"
She nodded. "Please come."
"Have you been worrying about this all week?" I asked, pushing her bangs out of her eyes.
She nodded, wiping a tear that dared to escape.
So, it looks like I'm going to a hockey game tonight (Yay, me. LOL!) Jaimie has been so brave and strong doing some things on her own the last few months. I'm over-the-top proud of her. She's such an inspiration to many kids and families out there! But this experience shows how important it is to be constantly tuned in with our kids' anxiety about certain activities or situations and give them the tools to work through it. Jaimie is a kid that needs the information so I've always given her the 'right words' for what she's going through or needs. That helps her understand why she needs to do what she does to feel better. That works for her. But it doesn't work for all 'sensational' kiddos.
But Jaimie has some tips for other kids out there to ease anxiety. These are brilliant whether you're a 'sensational' one or a kid who just feels a bit nervous sometimes. And the most important thing I've learned as a caregiver is to never stop exposing my kids to these experiences. Yes, they may be scary at first but they're learning, practicing those social and coping skills and being the best 'ME' they can be in the world. And that's amazing.
This is Jaimie. Something really cool happened when I got back from Christmas! Our class won a draw for hockey game tickets! We got it for all the reading hours we did and our teacher put us in for the draw and WE WON! I thought it was really cool and my friends were soooo excited. But it sort of made me nervous too.
The game is far away from my house over at the same place we go to see concerts. That place is really big, loud and smelly. It's kind of echo-y, you know? That hurts my ears. Sometimes when it gets too loud there, I can't hear anything and that really, really scares me. Usually Mom is there to help me hear better again.
Then it's going to be at nighttime when I'm usually in bed. I told Mom that I've stayed up from not sleeping sometimes until, like, 10:30 or even later, but she says it's not the same thing. So every day the game was getting closer, I started worrying even more. Then, I guess, I was super cranky this week. I even got into trouble on Monday. Mom had to go to the dentist and I got super mad because I couldn't do my normal computer and homework stuff. So, I yelled at her and everyone else. I guess that wasn't very good. And I couldn't sleep because my brain kept waking me up. That and Jordy's snoring kept waking me up. Ugh!!
So, today when Mom told me that she thought Dad should go with me, I couldn't help it. I got really sad and scared and told her that I was worried about it. I guess I should have talked to her more when she was asking me about it. I think she knew what was wrong. She always knows. But I just didn't know what to say to her. I didn't want her to tell me I couldn't go. I mean, I want to do this thing with my friends but I'm worried that I'll get as scared there as when I went on my Field Trip last year and had to go home.
I think she's coming with me. She says we can talk about everything afterschool while she gives me my massages. But she says I should share what DO'S and DON'TS other kids should have when they are scared or nervous or anxiety (Mom told me that 'anxiety' is when you are so worried or nervous that it makes your body feel funny and you have to do special things to calm down so you can focus. That's sort of the same thing as when I feel sensitive.)
Here's what I think:
DO talk to your parents. If you are closer to one, like me and Mom, just talk to that person. It's important to use your words so people know what to do.
DON'T just keep everything inside. That can just get bigger and bigger until it hurts and you start yelling like I did. That is NOT good.
DO use all the things that help you feel better as soon as you start worrying. Mom says the bigger worries are allowed to get, the harder they are to deal with. So squash them right away. You know, like I like massages and reading and bubble baths with the lavender stuff Mom gets. Those things make me feel all calm and sleepy.
DON'T say nothing is wrong when there is something wrong. I do that sometimes and I know it's not good. The more I don't talk, the worse my stomach hurts. UGH! If you don't know how to tell someone what's wrong, just say you want to think about it until you can tell them. Or show them in a different with with a picture or a story or something. That's what I do.
DO figure out a plan. That always makes me feel better. So if the first plan doesn't work out, you have another one you can follow.
DON'T be so scared that you stop doing stuff. Even when I'm super nervous about something, I hear Mom's words in my head that trying is the most important part and that if it gets too much for me, I can stop. If you don't try doing stuff, it's boring.
DO special deep breathing when you feel your stomach and heart go crazy. I know when my heart starts beating fast that I'm worried so breathing helps and so does making myself really small and hugging Lamby.
DO your best. I always do.
That's all I can think of. Mom says if I think of anything else, she'll come back and add it. I'll make sure to tell you how the game was!