Thursday, February 14, 2013

Helping D (part 1)

January was a busy, social month for us.  My mom was here. We had a big birthday party for A. D started preschool. My best friend from high school flew in for a visit (we drove into the city to see Independence Hall just the two of us, bliss!). My sister was here with her kids. It was fun, for all of us, but for D it also was stressful. He has been getting more and more anxious, and I've been looking for ways to help him.

Below are some of the things, old and new, that I've been using to calm him and make him feel safer.
  • Lying down with him again at bedtime and staying until he falls asleep
  • Face-to-face breathing exercises - I've always done these with him and they usually help.
  • Setting the timer for transitions or for a calm period is a huge help.
  • Classical music - it seems to calm him down and puts me in a better mood, too.
  • The "Magic Circle" (Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, p.103) - I got a big piece of twine, tied it in a circle, and showed D how we could stand in the circle and and use it to pull each other. His face lit up as if I'd finally delivered that skid-steer loader he's been asking for. "You mean we're connected??!?" I carry the twine in my pocket everywhere we go. 
What calms your child when s/he feels anxious?


  1. I am so glad to have found you (and some other bloggers on your blogroll!) and am thankful for some realistic posts about just how complex it is to parent our kiddos. I mistakenly thought that having adopted kids under 3, I would not have to deal with a lot of attachment issues. Now, I am finding myself having to do some make-up work!

  2. I had forgotten about the Magic Circle. Thanks for the reminder. We do big breathing and exercise. Exercise helps them both.

  3. We sit quietly criss cross apple sauce, spoons (hands) in the bowl (lap). It's what they had to do in preschool/pre-K (no new activity was started until all kids were in that position and quiet), so he's well conditioned that that position is supposed to be calming. I then allow him to tell me when his brain is calm. I do have him look me in the eye to tell me his brain is calm. If he bursts out laughing, I tell him "Nope, not yet." Interestingly often while sitting there, he will do deep breathing on his own. He's managed to figure out neurofeedback without outside help. I usually remove him from the immediate source of dysregulation as much as possible (we have sat on sidewalks outside of restaurants, against a wall in the grocery store, in a bedroom in grandma's house, etc.)

    If he's been coooped up due to weather, and is showing increasing signs of being easily dysregulated, I definitely try to get him out for some non-competitive exercise (read: walking).

    I also still lie down with him at night every night. It is our special time. He often lists it as the best part of his day.

    I've used the timer to announce the end of an activity (such as computer time or pool time) but not to set a calm transition period. Can think of situations where that might come in handy. T has a rough time transitioning from being an only child to having his sisters here. His dysregulation skyrockets the minute they walk in the door, he is so excited to see them. So I might start letting him say hello and then setting a timer for quiet time to let his brain settle back down.

    I like the magic circle idea, will have to locate some twine or rope and try it. It might be useful in those situations where there are lots of kids around and he starts feeling jealous if I pay attention to another child. The ski lodge is awash in kids who need help, and my verbal assurances of "You are MINE and you will always be MINE; I'm just helping this other kid" aren't cutting it. Maybe if we're connected when/if I help another child buckle her boots, or scootch up to the chair lift, he will feel less anxious. Good topic to bring up and good ideas. Thanks!

  4. I love that magic circle idea. I read that book so long ago I completely forgot about it. There are a few things that seem to help A when she gets anxious. 1) Any kind of movement that gets her out of her head 2) At night she lies on top of me heart to heart and I slow my breathing down real slow and almost immediately it slows her breathing down 3)I will tell her to look in my eyes and state calmly, quietly and confidently that she is always safe and loved with us. Always. She loves classical music too.

  5. I'm going to add all your calming techniques to my list of things to try when what is currently working doesn't work.

    In our family, we're all about routine. We have routines for when things don't go according to routine, too. Knowing what comes next is crucial for Z right now. Our most effective calming technique is lap time and talking it out. She's a wordy girl, needs to talk and talk. We also use feeding as a way to promote calm. If I can pull her onto my lap and feed her something (chewy! because chewing helps!) then all the better.

    1. Can you give me examples of chewy things? Do you mean something like taffy? I read somewhere that sucking helps too, do you know anything about that? I was wondering if having him drink through a straw (combined with sitting on lap) would make any difference.