Moms, Let’s Be Brave

Moms, Let’s Be Brave

To my momma friends and fellow educators who love and are invested in outside-the-box children, let’s be brave for our kids. ❤️ 

The children who are constantly hearing that they are not enough. 

The ones who will never live up the expectations of the adults around them. 

Like the kid back in school who was considered a troublemaker and ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him… 

The “loser” with a life that went nowhere. 

There is an underlying belief in our homes, schools, churches and our culture as a whole that there is a one-size-fits all approach to “unacceptable” behavior. We may try to deny this in the name of political correctness, but we must be honest about this reality for the sake of our outside the box kids. 

 

When we cannot control 

When adults cannot “control” the “challenging” behavior of children, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child. 

The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with the more “challenging” kids rarely comes to mind. 

Again, the adults blame the child and continue with the same ineffective, life-sucking discipline strategies… and the behaviors increase as the child’s sense of self-worth decreases. 

 

Set Up to Fail

So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations as they continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them.

These expectations are often based upon benchmarks of development academically and behaviorally… Except these kids don’t meet the benchmarks and are always behind. 

They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed. 😔 These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults, and their inability to please the adults and even other kids around them.

 

 

 

 

Mental Illness Hamster Wheel 

These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life. Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, cutting, and suicide are growing. 

We need to wake up to the fact that there are so many kids out there suffering under the pressure of inappropriate adult expectations. 

We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.

 

Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.

 It’s time to be BRAVE for our outside-the-box children. 

Let’s stop approaching those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t respond to traditional discipline, with the belief that these kids are WILLFULLY making a choice to disobey. 

It is time for us to be our child’s cheerleader and coach. Let us coach them well while we encourage them on to be the best outside-the-box kid they can be. 

 

God Intentionally Chose You 

Moms, you know in your gut there must be another way for your “outside-the-box” kid.

You know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child. You KNOW IT!! 

Yet, fear takes over. However, you don’t know what to do, but you know your child cannot thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.

We must be brave for our children who have been created differently. We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids. 

Let’s equip our children with tools and strategies so that they can live a life of confidence and purpose. 

Or we can continue to listen to the world and it’s rewards and punishment mentality. How is that working for your child? 

Every child needs an adult who believes in them… let’s be that for our kids.

  

Wisdom of Moms Raising Outside-the-Box Kids

 Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children. 

It’s time to be BRAVE for our unique outside-the-box children. We must be brave for our children who dare to be “DIFFERENT.” 

 

The Irony of “Different” 

Interestingly, referring to our outside-the-box kids as “different” is insanely ironic. Why? 

Hello?!! There are hundreds of thousands of them in our country. However, many of them are hiding out at home suffering alone because the culture’s expectations have destroyed any shred of their confidence. 

These kiddos need to be raised, educated, disciplined, and loved in a way that best equips them to flourish into healthy adults. God has equipped our children to be “salt and light.” 🥰 

Many of our kids display behaviors that are perceived as pure willful disobedience… Adults mistakenly believe that these kids are choosing to behave poorly. 

Further, we adults reek of hypocrisy and confuse our children. When we lose it, fly off the handle or meltdown in some way, we justify it by listing all the stress in our lives.

  

“It all just built up and I lost it.”

 

We give ourselves and other adults grace, but rarely our children. 

On the other hand, when children dare to meltdown in the grocery store after a long and exhausting day at school, we shame them. Onlookers often pass judgment and whisper, “He just needs a good spanking.” The self-righteous mom with her “perfectly” obedient, shakes her head a the mom wrestling her son into the cart. 

Unfortunately, I’m ashamed to say that prior to the adoption of my son with “hidden” cognitive special needs, I was incredibly oblivious to the severity of my pride and self-righteousness. 

The reality is that as a culture, we act as though we are surprised when a young, immature and growing child has a meltdown. 

 

Fear Leads to Meltdowns in Adults Too 

More importantly, when we as adults feel out of control, it scares us… 

Adults often respond to socially unacceptable behaviors from a place of fear and insecurity.. Because we believe we should be able to control children, we feel like failures and become increasingly frustrated.

Think about it. When we feel fear and insecurity how do we most often respond? punishment, aggression, anger. 

Let me repeat that: Adults respond to internal fear and insecurity very often through behaviors that look like anger and aggression. 

Could it be that children who behave through anger and aggression are actually struggling with fear?  This is a rhetorical question. 

Unfortunately, mom friends, if we really allow ourselves to go there, we will likely recognize that we often parent out of fear. 

We fear for the child’s future. ‘What will happen to him if I don’t stop behavior X, Y, or Z?’ 

Because we don’t know what else to do, we often fall back on the influence of a culture that is not invested in the heart, mind, soul and spirit of our “outside-the-box” child. The culture and traditional approaches often just want the inconvenient behaviors to stop. But at what cost?

 

Who cares most about your child’s future? 

The culture tells you that it is your kid that is the problem. You had better find a way to mold your child to fit in the box.  Discipline harder. Be more consistent.  Ignore him.   Your outside-the-box kiddo is expected to ‘suck it up’ and behave regardless of his capability to do so.  Parents are told that there is only one way. You are told to force your child to fit the mold. If you can’t change your child, people perceive you as a poor parent. 

Momma Friend, I hear it every day. 

  • The school called. My kid flipped out and hit a little boy in class. Now he is suspended.
  • My daughter clings to me at church because it is so loud and crazy in there. She started melting down in the middle of the foyer last Sunday.
  • The teacher said that my child is off in lala land and that’s why she can’t learn to read.
  • My son comes home from school every day and screams and has meltdowns. No one believes me.
  • My child begs me not to send him to school (church, sports, etc) each day.
  • Getting to get my child to do her homework always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
  • I just found out that my daughter is cutting. She is under so much pressure. How do I help her?
  • My child can’t sit for circle time. She is going to get kicked out of preschool.
  • My son came home sobbing because he was back on red today. He told me that he tried so hard to sit still but when he did that, he couldn’t focus on what the teacher said. The teacher then moved his card down because he wasn’t paying attention. He can’t win.
  • The mom down the street won’t let my child play with hers because he had a full-blown meltdown when it was time for him to share.
  • The counselor says I shouldn’t coddle him…
  • The list goes on.

 

We Know God Does Not Make Mistakes 

We know deep down inside of us that there must be a better and different approach in order to thrive. 

And yet, out of FEAR of the culture (the schools, the teachers, the church, our friends, the lady in the grocery store…), we mommas cave and anxiously try to force our child to meet the world’s expectations.

We don’t know what else to do so we then push harder, yell louder, punish longer…  Sometimes our kids acquiesce out of fear or exhaustion… having learned nothing about how to handle tough situations in the future. 

 

Immediate Obedience at What Cost? 

The cost of quick obedience through shame and punishment is HIGH... broken parent-child relationships, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, cutting, increased suicide rates… 

The price is exponentially higher for children with cognitive differences or delays. So many of these kids do not have the capability to comply appropriately through rewards and punishments because they are stuck in fight-or-flight. 

As a culture we say celebrate diversity and yet we have virtually no tolerance for children who are “different.” 

For the child who doesn’t fit inside the cultural box… the ones who are “different.” 

Let’s be brave together, Moms.

  

Let’s Equip Our Kids 

Our children need to be equipped with the skills, direction, tools, LOVE and support of adults so that they can learn to appropriately handle big emotions, thoughts, etc… 

When children are not taught these crucial life skills in a way in which they can receive and process, they fail and disappoint the world around them… over and over again. 

My heart aches for the children whose sense of self-worth and ability to function in this world are often dictated by a perspective of children that assumes the worst of them. 

No more sending our kids to their rooms yelling, “Go to your room until you can behave!!!” 

Let’s actually look behind the behavior FIRST. 

Let’s teach them to behave appropriately by equipping them with lifelong emotional regulation skills and tools. Momma, we must give them the education they need. Our children need to understand the LARGE sensations they experience inside their bodies… (aka feelings). We need to engage them in conversations about how their thoughts impact their feelings and behaviors. 

What if we rally together to equip them instead of shame them?

  

God Chose You to Parent Your Child 

Every adult remembers that kid from school who couldn’t get it together and behave in class… The troublemaker…  Maybe you were that kid.  Maybe you beat the odds… but most don’t. 

Eventually after never being able to please and “obey right away,” that childhood “troublemaker” believed that he could not ever do it right.  He was forced into the cycle of “I suck and I can’t do anything right.” 

These are the ones who will never know real relationship and love because they were never taught how to appropriately handle their thoughts, emotions and such…. 

These are the kids from school who never succeeded. 

 Is that what we want for our children?

 

Fight for God’s Gifts to Shine Through Your Child

 Let us parent our children from the perspective of the gospel. God loved us before we loved him. God sought relationship with us while we were still sinners. He looked beyond our behaviors and showed us love through his Son. 

When our children mess up, let’s pour out the grace that God has gifted to us. Let us pour into our relationship with our child and show them that they are valuable even when they mess up… even when they struggle to focus, are impulsive, can’t learn math, struggle with social awkwardness.  

God has a plan for each of these children.  

Let’s be brave, Friends, and do something different for our kids.  

Imagine fearlessly raising our “different” kids into confident, healthy and productive adults…🥳

God has made us all unique!!   We say we believe in individuality and diversity yet we expect all kids to be the same in development, wiring, behaviorally and we shame them when they don’t comply!!!

 

 Children are adults in the making…

Is it possible that perhaps there is a different, more peaceful, relational way to raise our children so that they can be “wired differently” and that be seen as a blessing?  

It is time that we rally together to love, relate to, teach and ultimately influence these more “challenging” kids in a way that equips them for their best.  

Every child can succeed.  I firmly believe that God has blessed us with so many amazing and UNIQUE children with strengths that may currently be perceived as weaknesses… 🥰 

What happens when we look behind the behaviors and see the strengths of these kids?  What happens if we choose to love them well even when they are behaving in ways that make us uncomfortable? 

Imagine what would happen if we as adults allowed ourselves to focus on what our child needs in this season in order to later be able to function and love others well in the future. 

One step at a time, let’s connect with our kids and equip them with a vision of who they CAN be…. ❤️

 

outside-the-box kids, adhd, autism, aspergers, aspie, asd, sensory, moms, parenting, homeschool, christian parenting, aspie girls, aspergers, autism, adhd, aspie girl

Let’s be ok with parenting naysayers’ judgement and focus our attention on what our hild needs to grow into the person God has equipped him or her to be… 

Moms, let’s be brave and rally together to fight for the different and outside-the-box kids… 🥳

 

Let’s be Brave for Our Kids Together.

 Join the private Facebook Group and find community, encouragement and actionable strategies to equip your unique child well. 

 

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Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.  Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

Special Needs Adoption & Parenting- Podcast Interview

Special Needs Adoption & Parenting- Podcast Interview

Our Special Needs Adoption & Parenting Journey

I was about to finally share my family’s story of special needs adoption and parenting publicly.  

A couple of weeks ago, I slyly grabbed my laptop and quickly snuck up the stairs. Once on the landing of the second floor, I briskly tiptoed into my master bedroom. Locking the bedroom door behind me, I settled myself down in the middle of my walk-in closet.   Yep.  Nestled in a pile of jeans, dresses, and shirts that apparently I liked enough to try on that week, but not enough to put them back on their respective hangers, I sat.

Earlier that morning, I had dragged my teal cushioned ottoman into my closet earlier that day in preparation for that moment. Yep… the outside-the-box mother that I have become transformed the ottoman as the perfect “desk” for that Dell. And… it would fit perfectly in my closet.

Special Needs Adoption Requires Parents to Hide Sometimes

‘Lindsay, why were you hiding in your closet?’

Well, that would be because of my son. I was sitting in my closet about to share my family’s story because of my son. Relying on uninterrupted time is not a wise decision in my house. It is always a good idea to add an extra layer of sound-proofing in my house.

The Podcast Interview- Mom to Mom

Rachel Olson of the Sweetest and Toughest Podcast interviewed me that day… we discussed so much.

  • My story of infertility
  • Special Needs domestic adoption,
  • Parenting through the most volatile behaviors of an “uncontrollable child,”
  • Learning about “hidden” special needs,
  • Mom-on-mom judgement,
  • Letting go of the lies that suffocated me,
  • The isolation of special needs adoption and parenting,
  • and God’s redemptive story in this whole journey.

Adoptive Moms Parenting Children with Special Needs 

Mommas parenting children with “cognitive special needs are in every community.  Often, however, they are isolated and alone.  I know because I was and am one of them. Except now I don’t hide in shame and judgement.

This is why I am sharing. This is why I have captured EVERY valuable strategy that I WISH I had known when I was completely alone, depressed and had no hope for our family’s future.

Somewhere there is a momma hiding in her closet. Except she is not hiding for a podcast interview, she is hiding because she cannot bear to face another day living in a warzone. Share this with her. There is so much hope!

Teen Moodiness, Meltdowns & Mexican Food

Teen Moodiness, Meltdowns & Mexican Food

Parents have been navigating teen moodiness and meltdowns since the creation of man. Generations of moms and dads have been plagued by the hormonal roller coaster of their teens’ mood swings and attitudes. No fun.

I am no exception.

Many of you have heard me share about navigating my adopted son’s severely volatile behaviors. It was our family’s brutal journey with him that led me to a life completely shattered and God rebuilding me into a completely different parent. For more about our story through adoption and special needs, start here.

However, it is not only my son who continually needs support with his meltdowns. Like generations of girls before her, my oldest daughter has morphed into a young lady with all of the teen moodiness and meltdowns.

Let me share a story with you.

Two nights ago, I took my girls out on a little date out for dinner.  Of course, we all agreed on Mexican… chips and salsa are my jam!

The date was supposed to be just my middle daughter and me.  However, at the last minute my oldest begged to join us.  Middle graciously agreed that Big Sis could tag along on our date night.

Fast forward… we enjoyed our chips, salsa, queso, nachos and a burrito (yes!  we shared)… we had a great time… silly convo… yep!  It was a success…

Until…It wasn’t.

 

Teen Moodiness to Meltdowns in 30 Seconds Flat

In what seemed like a thirty second window of time, my oldest daughter shifted.  Her face changed… she was no longer laughing at my stories about how Aunty Jamie used to be obsessed with Davy Jones from The Monkees…  Anyone else remember The Monkees on Nickelodeon after school?

“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!”

“Daydream believer and a homecoming queen…”

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Nobody cares?

Ok… apparently my cousins, my sisters and I had strange taste in entertainment. We still had tons of fun.

Anyway, my girls had been asking questions about my life as a kid and we were having fun and laughing.

We were chomping down on our chips and salsa when she began complaining about “being full” and wanting me to drive her home.

I asked her what was wrong.

Classic teen meltdown response, “Nothing.”

Pushing her further, (I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth), she responded with, “I’m just tired.”

‘Oh! That’s how she is going to play it. Great!’ My frustration was beginning to creep up into my voice.

 

Teen Moodiness & Attitude? Or Something Else?

My initial reaction was to become a little P.O.ed at her.

‘Great!  After she begged her little sister to jump in on our scheduled date night… she gets what she wanted…she got her yummy Mexican food and now she is done with us.’

Does anyone see what was happening with me? We will get back to that.

Let’s be real… teens do have a knack for being just a little ego-centric… I couldn’t be that off in my assessment of her new shift in “attitude”. Right?

In my own heart and mind, I began to feel sad and disappointed that this change in my oldest’s engagement in our light-hearted fun, could possibly ruin my middle daughter’s date night. As the adult I had to make a decision.

I could have just started laying into her about ruining her little sister’s date time and being a bit selfish… But I didn’t. Not this time.

In the past, I likely would have pointed out her self-centered motives and “mood” swing. Because my oldest errs on the side of taking too much responsibility for others’ reactions and responses, she would have likely shut down and apologized profusely before I finished even speaking.

Her typical response would have likely satisfied me. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate it when anyone takes responsibility for their actions? An apology would have been a satisfactory response, right?

Maybe… or I could have slammed a door on our relationship… even if just temporarily.

Fortunately, this is not how the interaction went down. Praise God!

By God’s mercy, all that I have learned over these past several years navigating my son, has taught me so much more than just how to handle a special needs toddler meltdown… I’ve learned how to navigate relational conflict. Period.

Teen Moodiness as Meltdowns

My daughter was having a meltdown. Yes, this was her version of a meltdown. I know what to do when one of my cubs has a meltdown.

No, it wasn’t a drop-down kicking and screaming meltdown that the whole restaurant was privy to… but it was my teenage daughter’s (lite) version of a meltdown.

I made a mental pivot from the perspective that told me she was being willfully selfish and could care less that her negative mood and sudden lack of engagement were putting a damper on our girls’ night out. I shifted the lens to view this sudden change as, “Something just happened. She had a thought or something just came to mind and she is responding. Let me investigate.

Four Steps to Resolve My Teen’s Meltdown 

Enter in the Four Steps to Capture & Influence Your Child’s Heart, Beliefs & Behavior.

Step 1: Relationship

I looked directly at my girly and made eye contact.

Step 2: Provide Emotional Vocabulary & Reflect

“What happened, Sweet Girl?  You went from happy and laughing to ‘shut down’.  What are you thinking?  You look like you are feeling sad.”

Step 3: Provide Physical Input

I rocked her in my arms like a baby…

Step 4: Shift Attention & Distract

I began pretending to her cell phone in a baby voice to make her laugh and distract her.

OK.  OK.  I didn’t have to work through steps 3 & 4… the first two steps opened up conversation between us all.

The Result

Her defensive wall of perceived teenage “moodiness” crumbled down almost immediately. My girl opened up to us.

“I just heard a song that reminded me of Grandma,” she managed to confess as she held back tears. My mom passed suddenly about 9 months ago and she has been struggling terribly with her grief.

My teen daughter’s sudden change of mood had nothing to do with selfishly “using” her sister and me for Mexican food. Her perceived “attitude” was actually sadness.

Had I engaged her through a more traditional lens which simply looks at outward socially unacceptable behaviors as problems to be eradicated, I would have blown it big time. I would have missed out on an opportunity to be my daughter’s safe place of refuge… to be her trusted ally who ultimately points her to Jesus.

Praise God that I didn’t jump to conclusions and praise God that I have learned so much through this journey with my son.

Meltdowns Don’t Cease Simply Because We Age

The reality is that we all have meltdowns… ALL.OF.US. Adults and children alike. Adults lose it all the time. Adult meltdowns simply “look” different from a teen meltdown.

When was the last time that you snapped at your child or hubby because you have reached the end of your rope?

Meltdown.

There is no judgement in this. We are all just human beings living in a broken world. Meltdowns simply appear differently depending upon the variables. We will all have meltdowns likely until the day we die. However, there is incredible grace for us all.

Whether a toddler tantrum, an elementary-age explosion, or a teen meltdown or moodiness… let’s equip our children to work through the tough thoughts and big emotions that lead to meltdowns.

Then watch them smile and say, “Thank you, Mom.”

Just wanted to share…

Feel free to grab a free copy of the Behind the Behavior Intro Bundle  and begin to reframe your relationship with your child… toddler to teen.

Perspective Shift on Discipline, Part 3

Perspective Shift on Discipline, Part 3

Shifting My Perspective on Discipline:

An excerpt from the ebook Embracing Parenting Imperfection.  

I remember trudging into the pediatrician’s office one morning after my 65th night of no sleep.

We were there for Little Man’s 3-year well-visit.  I was a mess.  Sleep-deprived, no shower, (not even sure if I had brushed my teeth that morning), and in the same clothes I had “slept” in.  It took every bit of my strength to wrestle my screaming son into his own car seat to make it to the appointment.  (Like I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2, he was literally ALWAYS screaming.”)

Our doctor finally entered the room.  The humiliation flooded my soul the minute he stepped in to meet with us. My son could not sit still.  In the few minutes that we had been waiting in the tiny primary-colored holding cell (ahem… office?), my son had literally destroyed the space.

He pulled out almost an entire package of sterile gloves. My boy sucked on more than 10 cherry-flavored tongue depressors while leaving a trail of wrappers in his wake. His curiosity led him to open every cabinet and drawer. A need for visual stimulation had him switch the lights on and off more than 100 times. He completed all of this while screaming in frustration.

I had nothing left.  I had tried everything with him. As our pediatrician entered the room, the tears poured down my face in utter exhaustion and mortification.  I was flooded with the idea that I was truly an utter parenting failure.

Grab Your Free Behind the Behavior Bundle!

Grab the ebook and the cheat sheet in one bundle!

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

Resources to Combat Childhood Anxiety

Resources to Combat Childhood Anxiety

Raise your hand if you have a child who struggles with anxiety! Anyone looking for tools and resources to knock out childhood anxiety?  Just recently, I posted the following question to a Facebook group.

If you could solve one major problem that you are currently navigating with your child, what would it be?

The answers to that question revealed a lot of common issues that these parents are struggling with. The top problems that these parents wish to magically solve according to this non-scientific polling data were:

  1. Childhood Anxiety
  2. Child’s Lack of Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills
  3. Child’s Lack of Friendships

Interestingly, I have found this to be true of my personal experiences within my own special needs community. Honestly, I don’t really like to use the term special needs. I believe there is a general misunderstanding about who special needs children are. For lack of a better term, I will use the term SN to describe all children who struggle with cognitive differences that significantly impact their daily functioning.

How to Define Special Needs?

For all intents and purposes, the following brain differences give us a general idea of how I am using the term Special Needs.

  • ADHD,
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder,
  • Aspergers (I know DSM-V has changed this but I believe it is still a useful term),
  • Sensory Processing Disorder,
  • Auditory Processing Disorder,
  • Visual Processing Disorder
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  • dyslexia
  • dysgraphia.
  • General Developmental Delays
  • speech and language processing delays
  • anxiety or depression (including PANS/PANDAS)

Symptom Overlap (Comorbidity)

The above list is not all-encompassing. Interestingly, this list of diagnoses share common symptoms. and are not mutually exclusive of one another.

Think about children on the Autism Spectrum. Many of them are labeled High-Functioning (in-line with an Asperger’s diagnosis). Sadly, these kids tend to struggle terribly with focus and attention. Additionally, these same children often have anxiety and depression.

Children who were at one time labeled Dyslexic, today may also be diagnosed with Visual Processing and Auditory Processing Disorder.

A child with speech-delays often has an underlying Auditory Processing Disorder (whether officially diagnosed or not).

The point is that all of these cognitive “brain” differences share many of the same symptoms. Therefore, they also have the potential to share many of the same solutions.

Now the term “solution” may seem a bit flippant and inappropriate. Those of us with kids who struggle in any of these areas know that these symptoms are not easily “solved”. We are aware that resolving the symptoms in our children are not easily achieved. In fact, for most parents and children, the road to improvement is often one step forward and two back.

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Hope in Numbers?

Knowing that so many of our “differently-wired” children share similar daily struggles actually offers hope for our kids.

Why would I be hopeful when so many children are struggling? I am hopeful and encouraged that our children are not alone in this. I am grateful that more and more people are aware of the need for children and parents to have tools to support them in the journey.

The reality is that our children (whether or not they have a diagnosis) are bombarded by so much stimulation. Whether through screens, ear buds, school, sports, and social dynamics, the increase pressure and stimulation is overloading and stressing them out.

On a Saturday morning just a couple of months ago, I sat with a group of 9th grade girls from my church. We had just begun a Bible Study about their Identity in Christ. So many of these ladies honestly shared about their fears and stresses. As I looked around this table of 7 typical teenage girls, it hit me. Every single one of them struggles with pretty intense anxiety.

Anxiety Hit Our Home

My own family has navigated anxiety issues. I absolutely understand how debilitating anxiety can be and how much it can negatively impact life. Coping with anxiety is hard enough on adults. Pushing through life with anxiety is beyond exhausting. As our children begin to show signs of debilitating anxiety in greater and greater numbers, we need to take note.

Here is the reality, anxiety in children does not necessarily look the same way that it presents in adults.

Anxiety in children can show itself in many ways. If we are not careful, we will perpetuate the cycle of anxiety if we don’t stop to recognize it. How often do we see…

  • A child who is throwing a “temper tantrum”
  • A child who cannot stop talking
  • The sensitive child whose feelings are so easily hurt
  • The destructive child who cannot keep his hands to himself
  • Little Johnny who appears to be not listening in class
  • Tween girl who is struggling to turn in homework
  • Student who bombs a spelling test that they were confident about the night before
  • The child who complains of headaches and stomach aches
  • The child who cannot sleep at night

Messages Sent to Anxious Kids

In our culture, we very often jump too quickly to demand that a behavior is eradicated.

“Stop biting your nails. It is a disgusting habit.”

“Keep your hands to yourself or you will lose recess.”

“You are so irresponsible. You forgot to turn in your homework again!”

“Snap out of it! I told you to pay attention!”

These are messages that children often receive because of outward negative behavior. However, many times these outward behaviors are symptoms of big feelings such as fear, angst, embarrassment and shame (ANXIETY).

Kids Need an Emotional Vocabulary

Because most children do not have the vocabulary to identify what they are feeling, they often act out negatively. These outward symptoms are reflective of what those emotions and thoughts “feel like” in their bodies and minds. If we only focus on the behaviors, the cycle of anxiety is likely to spiral out of control. This, in turn, increases and continues negative behaviors.

We must equip our children emotionally, socially and academically. As a nation, we understand the need for academic success. However, we have failed to educate our children in the other two areas. As I have shouted from my soapbox many times, ignoring the emotional well-being of children only perpetuates inconvenient and disruptive behaviors. Parents need to be equipped with resources to combat childhood anxiety.

Emotional Education is Power

As with all learning, emotional (and spiritual education) must start at home.

Listed below are some of my top choices for equipping our children to identify and verbalize their feelings. These materials work to support children in their understanding that their thoughts and beliefs impact how they feel.

When we give our children a vocabulary to describe and understand the physical sensations, thoughts and feelings, we give them an incredible advantage. As we offer them techniques and strategies to process and self-regulate. These resources are all phenomenal tools for families and educators.

Turnaround: Turning Fear into Freedom by David A. Russ, Ph.D. & Christopher T. McCarthy, M. Ed.

This resource is phenomenal. When my daughter suddenly developed severe separation anxiety overnight, we immediately began counseling. In the process of navigating her debilitating fear that something bad would happen to me, her counselor recommended this curriculum.

The Turnaround curriculum is an audio drama (think Adventures in Odyssey), and follows a group of children as they attend camp. The group of children all struggle with some area of anxiety for one reason or another.

Children using this resource are to listen to the audio drama. Following the audio session, they complete exercises inside of the accompanying workbook.

The workbook guides them through exercises that help them identify their fears and how those fears make them feel physically as well as emotionally. Examples are drawing exercises and exercises that ask the child to label and illustrate their fears in the form of a character.

Because the child is able to hear the voices of other “kids” who also have navigated anxiety, the child is able to relate easily and feel more invested in the strategies provided. The strategies introduced to the child equip them to combat the thoughts and feelings that lead to anxiety. This gives these kiddos a greater sense of control.

Personal Success

My daughter was 12 years old when she used this set of materials, and while she was very apprehensive of its ability to help her, after the first day she was already feeling more equipped. By the end of the ten-day program, she was much better able to combat her anxiety.

Turnaround: Turning Fear into Freedom is recommended for children ages 6-13 and I highly recommend it for any child struggling with any form of anxiety.

Praise God that my daughter was correctly diagnosed with PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) and was treated quickly and is back to her old self. More about PANS and PANDAS later.

 

Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers, MA Ed., OTR/L

Another resources to help with childhood anxiety is The Zones of Regulation chart. The Zones were introduced to me through my son’s developmental pediatrician, Dr. Yasmin Senturias of Atrium Health in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Senturias has been a godsend to my family as she has walked alongside us as we have been desperately trying to find help for our son.

The Zones of Regulation materials were developed by Leah Kuypers who is an Occupational Therapist and has an education background. She created this resource as a way to help children learn to develop emotional and self-regulation skills.

The materials are often used in schools as well as in mental health settings. The Zones are a visual representation of what a child may be experiencing internally at any moment-in-time.

By providing children with something as basic as the Zones of Regulation chart, kids are much better equipped to process their feelings and emotions. The Zones chart is a chart with color bands each representing specific feelings and thoughts that all people experience on a daily basis. By giving kids a visual representation and vocabulary for emotional states, they are able to move through tough feelings and bring themselves back to a “regulated state.”

Zones are Neutral

The way the Zones are to be presented is in a way in which no Zone is a bad zone. These are zones that all people navigate. Knowing which Zone he or she is in helps them understand why they may be struggling to learn or hang out with a friend in the moment.

This Zones of Regulation chart and other Zones of Regulation materials are geared toward younger children and elementary-aged children. Excellent tool for the anxiety toolbelt. They also have a Zones of Regulation song that would be a wonderful addition to helping younger children understand the concept more fully. (I will be purchasing the What Zone Are You In? song for my 5 year old son.)

I highly recommend the use of the Zones of Regulation Chart (or some modified version) in every home. This is a wonderful childhood anxiety resource. It is especially helpful for young children who need visual cues.

Check out this video where I discuss practical and actionable strategies to use this tool at home today.  

Anger Iceberg

This childhood anxiety tool, like the Zones of Regulation Chart, is a great tool to use to help children understand the multitude of ways that anger displays itself. All adults would benefit from an understanding that anger does not always look the same. In fact, anxiety is a form of anger according to the chart.

By simply walking alongside your child and discussing what the “under the water” terms mean, you will be empowering your child in his or her ability to release and process emotions. Choose a few emotional labels and share some of your life experiences in which you have felt that particular emotion.

If your child does not know what the term “offended” means, explain it and share a story from your life in which you either were the one who was offended or when you were the one doing the offending.

Just allowing these conversations to happen naturally will yield fruit. There is power in knowledge. 🙂

Praise God that there are so many amazing resources available to equip our children.

The Social Thinking Company

Honestly, I cannot more highly recommend Michelle Garcia Winner and her team over at the Social Thinking Company. The heartbeat of this organization is to equip children for life via social and emotional thinking instruction.

This collection was originally created for children with social skills deficits. ADHD and ASD, for example, both of which often display a lack of social and emotional understanding. In my opinion, these social and emotional skills books should be read to every child.

Every parent of any child who struggles with anxiety, fears, ADHD, and any brain differences that are inhibiting friendships, should utilize this incredible site. There are several webinars that are completely free and will educate a parent on the social nuances and skills that their child may be struggling with. Often we don’t realize that children need concrete instruction in social and emotional awareness.

Social Skills to Reduce Social Anxiety

We all know how much stress results when a child feels ostracized. The social awareness presented in the materials written for kids are life skills to be used throughout life.

Titles for kids include:

Fortunately, there are so many resources available for kids on the Social Thinking Company site. Just go check it out! You will soon wish you had all of these resources available to you when you were a kid. 🙂

Another Resource that Deserves Mentioning

  • What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner
    • This workbook series is an excellent way to help children navigate many issues including Anxiety, Complaining, Fear, etc. 

Identity in Christ

One last thing to note. If you are a Christian family, may I encourage you to flood your child with the confidence that he or she has in Christ? Download FREE Identity in Christ Printable Downloads to be printed and hung on your kiddos’ wall. Read them aloud daily and pray them over your child.

God has chosen each one of us on purpose to raise these precious kiddos in this delicate time. Let your kids be confident of who they are because of Jesus. 🙂

Perspective Shift on Discipline, Part 1

Perspective Shift on Discipline, Part 1

special needs parenting, moms, support, meltdowns, tantrums, adhd, autism

In the past five years, God has taught us so much about children with special needs. I now realize our culture’s desperate need to develop a perspective shift on discipline. It is critical that we begin to view the term discipline not from the perspective of punishment, but of teaching.

In order to effectively discipline our children, we as parents must begin to recognize our role as the teacher of our children. We must think about our long-term goals for our children as they mature into adults. What do we want for them and from them?

It is generally understood that parents desire for their children to grow up to be healthy, happy and well-adjusted adults. As believing Christians, we desire for our children to have a solid faith in Christ. I specifically desire for my children to understand their identity in Christ and live in that freedom.

The concept of being an intentional parent. is pretty popular within my own circle of moms. However, what does that mean exactly? What does being intentional look like? Over these last several years, I have learned that to be intentional as a mom, I must understand my goals for my children.

With an end goal in mind, I am better able to respond to the day to day issues as opposed to react out of emotion. That clarity brings freedom and reduces confusion in tough moments with my children. I wish I could say that I’ve always parented through this lens of clarity. Sadly, this is not the case.

For access to the entire ebook for FREE, Embracing Parenting Imperfection, the journey that God used to lead me to a complete shift in perspective about effective and appropriate discipline click here.  

Grab Your Free Behind the Behavior Bundle!

Grab the ebook , the meltdown cheat sheet & 2 video teaching modules in one bundle!

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.