Michael did it to me again. He both shocked and surprised me in one breath, something that is commonplace for my little boy. He has been struggling for a few months now with identifying what is causing him anxiety and anger, and seeing how the thoughts cause the actions he chooses to take. The other day though, he had a massive breakthrough. It was late Sunday afternoon. He had come back with his Dad from his usual busy day of going to his favorite shopping center, a father/son drive, tennis, and an outing to a fair that had face painting and rock and roll music. To say it was a busier day than normal is an understatement. I heard them come in from my basement office where I was working, and then the rush of excited little feet pounding down the stairs to share with me the adventures of his afternoon with Dad. This time though after quickly giving me the rundown and basic details of his day, the next words out of Michael’s mouth shocked me:
“Mommy, could we go walk around a shopping mall now? I know it’s raining so we can’t do a nature walk.”
He was happy, but I recognized an urgency in this voice I hadn’t sensed before. I quietly told him that it was five o’clock. He’d been out all day, dinner would be soon and he still had homework to do. Then, totally unlike himself he burst into tears:
“But Mommy, I have to go out. I can’t stay home. I don’t want to think about my vaccination on Tuesday morning. I need to be away from home so I don’t think. Please, please Mommy.” And he cried even harder.
Are you as shocked as I was? He actually uttered those words. The vaccination in question was the HEP A/HEP B which is recommended for children in grade four like Michael, and we had talked about him getting it. I knew he was nervous. It was the same thing when he had blood tests and got his chicken pox vaccine, but we had talked about it on Thursday evening as Friday I had to sign the forms and return them to school for processing. I did not know he was still turning around all that stress in his little mind.
“Honey, you’ll have to come home eventually. You can’t stay out forever. I’m proud that you are recognizing your fears and how you cope with it. But we can talk some more .You don’t need to suffer alone. Here are some things you can do.”
And that we did. We went over what would happen, how he would cope and that his classmates and teachers would be there. I am still amazed and proud of how he is starting to connect things. Even when he talks about his “Stimming Lady” telling him what to do, he seems very much in control of where he wants to go and what he wants to do. He likes reminders about expected behavior and what happens with good vs bad behavior. He is growing up. Another thing I noticed which pleased me. Twice this week unexpected things happened to our after school plans. Michael not only handled it well, but was calm and matter of fact about the change.
Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children handle change and anxiety? Are they learning to use words or actions to describe how they feel? Do they have strategies to manage it, sensory, verbal or whatever works for them? The worst thing a parent can do is minimize the stress even if it is something small. Always listen. Always wait for them to finish talking or expressing themselves. Then offer strategies, show pictures or videos of what they could do. Remember, they are little sponges and will pick up what is being said to them over and over, good and bad. You are their role model. Until next time.
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