Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Calm Parenting Secrets: Christian and Mainstream

A concussion follow-up appointment yesterday revealed some bad news, most of which we expected, based upon my son's on-going symptoms. He cannot concentrate on anything, either academic or in play, without getting a headache behind his eyes, often accompanied by blurred vision. Even being read to requires a concentration that gives him a headache. He loves to read and be read to, so without that in his life he feels a sense of hopelessness, as do I. His condition requires a nerve-wracking and depressing brain rest. Only complete boredom is available, for even playing Lincoln Logs right now bothers him, as does painting a simple watercolor picture.

The Children's Hospital neurosurgery department revealed that most children have no symptoms two weeks after their concussion accidents, and we're beyond the two weeks. Not all concussion patients lose consciousness, but if that does happen, the concussion tends to be worse. My son did lose consciousness for less than a minute, so his concussion is probably between mild and moderate, but patients with pre-existing health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, can take longer to heal and can suffer from Post-Concussion Syndrome, with some symptoms lasting up to a year or more.

I knew all this from my research, but I was thinking positively, hoping for some miraculous reason they would take off his neck brace and give him an okay to do an hour of school a day, or say something resembling hope.

But no, in addition to all our other appointments, I have to take him back for an MRI to check for a sprained neck (requiring either surgery or extended time in the neck brace), and I have to take him for a two-hour appointment at the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic to have him checked for lingering signs of concussion (concussion is labeled Traumatic Brain Injury). If there are no lingering signs, he would probably then be referred for a vision evaluation with a pediatric ophthalmologist.

He no longer confuses time and place and his long- and short-term memory seem completely intact. The day after the concussion he underwent cognitive testing and could not repeat five random numbers. I tested him briefly yesterday and he could repeat up to seven random numbers, so I don't expect them to find lingering signs of concussion, except for the headaches, trouble concentrating, and blurred vision.

I don't have to tell you that I left that appointment yesterday in a sorry state of mind. My son is driving all of us crazy with his boredom, and we all wish we could go back in time and keep him out of that tree. Never have any of us felt so desperate to erase something.

After purchasing The Total Transformation by James Lehman, I became the fortunate receiver of regular and excellent parenting emails delivered as a newsletter to my inbox. I learn something valuable every time I click on them.

Guess what I learned today? A calm parent raises calm children. Yes, the stress around here is all my fault (being facetious), even though my frame of mind is normal under the circumstances. I don't know what we're about to face or how long the discomfort will last. I do know that speech appointments, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis appointments, excessive ear-wax appointments, eye appointments, anxiety-disorder therapy appointments, ADHD/OCD medicine follow-up appointments, and your standard dental and winter-illness doctor appointments, fall just short of doing me in as a homeschooling mother.

In case you also deal with that overburdened feeling, I want to go over a couple Christian calmness techniques, as well as some standard psychology techniques for controlling our emotions and reactions.

First, the Christian perspective:

Think Purpose and Plan: God's ways are not our ways. When circumstances like excessive appointments, or a tough diagnosis, or seasons of life overwhelm us, we need to get over ourselves and keep our eyes on God and his plan.

Occasionally I'm blessed with comments from strangers, such as "Your children are so polite and well behaved. What is your secret?" The other day a lady followed me out of a consignment shop and said the above to me, smiled at my children, and then offered me a large bag of clothes her teenage son outgrew. She was as sweet as could be. Paul smiled and joked with her over the "what is your secret" question with "Mommy gives us a lot of milk."

These encounters occur in doctor's offices or thrift stores or grocery stores, but always, they surprise me because my children can drive me nuts in doctor's offices, grocery stores, and thrift stores. These are not calm outings for me--my kids being the creative, overactive types. But somehow, passersby see something that I miss. We are God-followers and that makes us different than about 75% to 80% of America. When God is the center of the family, it shows, even when we're overwhelmed and overburdened.

All our appointments get us out into the world and when Christians are out, they shine. God makes them shine--it has nothing to do with what we've done right, but everything to do with God's power and grace.

So the first Christian technique for remaining calm is to remember that God has a plan. While that plan may make us uncomfortable, it serves a greater purpose and we need to trust in that.

Think Servant of Christ:  Not only do we have to trust in God's plan, but we need to be a willing servant, or instrument in his plan. We live to serve God, not the other way around. He saves us and loves us and sustains us, and much is required of those who call him Father. We have been given salvation instead of endless suffering; in gratitude for that we give up our lives for the Lord. Whoever loses his life will gain it. Our best life comes from serving our Father, not ourselves.

Luke 12:48 ESV But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Luke 17:33 ESV Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

I want to save my life by getting back to routine, starting school, getting a chore and errand chart going, having fewer appointments, etc. I want to restore sanity, but God wants me to learn to smile amidst the unknown and unchartered.

Think Psalms: Need I say more? Psalms sooth and remind and teach, and give us a divine hug.

I also find it helpful to use standard psychological helps, such as:

knowing our triggers
knowing what we can and can't control
distinguishing between fear and facts
digging for the root of anxiety
staying in the present
finding better ways to communicate
practice calming strategies
choosing our battles
using calm language
finding support
being forgiving of ourselves

See these two articles for explanations on the above strategies:

Parenting Anxiety? 5 Ways to Relieve the Worry

Losing Your Temper With Your Child? 8 Steps to Help You Stay in Control

I often turn to Psalm 46 when I feel overwhelmed. It contains so many soothing truths. On your worst days, you can start there:

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.


Anonymous said...

It's horrible when you're bored but everything is too much effort, poor lad. Will pray.

Beth said...

Thank you for the reminder to stay calm. J told me the other day that I was stressed and stressing everyone else. He was right.

Christine said...

Thank you both for taking the time to comment. It is always an encouragement, and it is so true that when we are stressed they are more stressed.