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Tag Archives: depression

Why My Child Is Sad—And Why He Isn’t

Why My Child Is SadYou may relate to the food allergy piece of this—or the part about a child with special needs. Maybe you understand the mental health bit. Perhaps you struggle yourself. This is just one tiny scenario in our family’s journey. It may seem trivial, and when looked through the lens of one small moment, perhaps it is, but the message drawn from it is hugely significant and important. We all struggle with assumptions and forcing our good intentions, as well being misunderstood. It’s universal.

Today, one tired, squeaky, sometimes defeated little voice comes through in my experience. I believe his voice rings out, joining many others along similar paths. Little Man and I want you to know:

You are not alone.

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As she bent over to adjust the blood pressure sleeve, she asked him three times:

“Are you looking forward to school starting?”

She had to ask him three times because the first two times he looked down and wouldn’t answer. She had the best of intentions. She wanted to make my son comfortable.

I know the “goal” here is to have a 9 year old make eye contact, smile, act engaged in and enthralled by conversation with an adult, and respond appropriately with all polite words tacked on.

On his best days, he’s charismatic and very articulate.

I’m well out of range of the goal line right now, however. I really am.

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Hallway Smiles, Healed Hearts, and a Love That Always Covers

Do You Know the Love That Covers
I watched my young son walk by her on his way toward me at dismissal time. She waved a tiny wave at him, and he waved sheepishly back, giving a quick smile.

It had been a year since she was his teacher. They were both broken in their own ways that particular year. Nobody could have predicted it. Seeing them tentatively offer each other a quiet reassurance this week taught me something so profound. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget that scene: The one where my son had a stockpile of grace from somewhere deep within. The one where he got in the car and told me, when I asked: “I made sure to smile so she knew I was smiling at her.”

What? Oh, dear Jesus, please tell me. I want to know where that supply of grace is. Little Man seemed to tap right into it and out of the overflow, he worried about the feelings of someone who shared a sad year with him—someone who was just as stuck as he was that year. Don’t we all have moments, seasons, years like that?

Because I feel so protective of our beautiful school community and the teachers and other staff within those walls, the details of their sad year don’t really need to be told here. Suffice it to say that sadness was matched with unrelated sadness, and it made it hard for Little Man to climb out of his own lack of functioning and depression.

My mama heart was all over the map that year because Read the rest of this entry »

 

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What I Learned at the IEP Roundtable

IEPRoundtableI’ll admit it. Part of me was terrified.

Sitting around the table with everyone who had assessed my child over the past few months, or in some cases—years—was intimidating.

What were they going to say? Were they going to kick him off the boat—not because they don’t want to help him—but because he ranked in need behind other kids when it came time to dividing up the special education pieces of the School Budget Pie?

I had come to find each of these specialists and staff members endearing in different ways. For better or worse, we had been contractually married for several years in the common cause of my son. We were linked, convenanted by legal documents and a mutual desire to help him.

But what if, once we got around that table, the budget dropped between the two sides of the table, dividing us abruptly in half like Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea? What if a former Ally in the Care of My Son now became a Defender of Policy, Keeper of the Budget?

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What Are You Being Prepared For?

EstablishedFootsteps-2If you’re anything like me, you may start thinking about a grocery list for Easter dinner on Maundy Thursday, get in your car to brave the shopping crowds Friday, and possibly finish putting your menu together, setting out the ham Saturday night. (Since I think about coffee almost every waking minute, it completely amazes me that I often have to run out to buy something coffee-related the night before a holiday.)

Suffice it to say: I’m not always prepared. For a Sunday School lesson? Yes. The black suit and shirt that needs laundering for a high school band concert in three hours? No.

But, what if, just what if, I’m the one being prepared for something? Am I always aware of a loving God setting my footsteps? 

Proverbs 16:9, ESV, King Solomon speaking

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. 

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The Pirate Who Saves Good People

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My husband Salad Boy and I were both at my youngest son’s pediatric appointment today. We were there for a med check, but we were also there to discuss bringing yet another specialist into the already large group of professional hands tending to his care. While there, we got to fill out a Vanderbilt form and ask about an insurance-imposed change on some asthma management medication. Oh my, what we parents can squeeze into our 15 minutes with the pediatrician!

While there, this lovely man, who has seen us through eight years of all kinds of things, reminded Little Man how he used to refer to himself not by name, but as: “The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

We pretty much revisit this little memory every time we see this doctor. He continues to tell us each time how much it struck him that a then-three year old would define himself that way.

Today, it struck me afresh as well. I thought about it the entire two-laned, windy, 30-minute ride home.

At eight years of age now, Little Man may have rolled his eyes at that past reference, but inside, I saw a twinkle of something familiar, something beckoning forth a younger time. I saw him remember, and that was a beautiful thing.

I am going to take a minute to bless that. To consider it a dream inside his heart that may take slightly different shape over the years. But I believe it’s a tiny glimpse of how he sees himself.

I remember the fascination with pirates. We had just left residence on Kwajalein Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, when he started to find the world of pirates so interesting. At the time, I didn’t make the direct connection to seaside life. But I think he was hanging onto something by wanting to fill his fantasy world with eye-patched, peg-legged, scruffy-bearded characters. I have to admit that I indulged this. I bought pirate wall border, sheets, and a matching throw rug. I bought every Playmobil and Imaginext pirate toy I could find. He loved the role play, and he really got into character. I’m pretty sure preschool teachers continue to remember this. When asked his name in the grocery store, he would reply with his name and, without skipping a beat, quickly add that he was The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

Now I know he was holding onto a little piece of the island that he mourned, because looking back, that was one of his depressive episodes. He used to come home from preschool right after our move to the States and lay his head on my lap and weep. I thought he was just adjusting, but five months went by like that. Five months watching a curly redhead sob for his old home.

So, if pirates were a world he could get lost in, I was all for it. When we’re three years old and we grieve, Mommas indulge a little imagination to soothe the loss.

But getting back to his title…what a great identity to take on! It was an early indication of his thoughts about himself, and I want to go back to that place for a minute—because in that place is an innocent heart who wants to protect good people, who sees himself as a warrior, who feels like he has something to offer, who has a role he wants to play.

And I won’t be at all surprised one day if whatever he ends up doing in life goes back to that early theme of protection, empathy, justice, safety, and rescue.

My point is this:

Where can we go back to that simple childhood role-play and see what surfaced early on that matches the dream God has put into our hearts?

Where can we bless it?

What about our kids?

Or people we know who seem a bit lost at the moment?

How can we look for traces of where a holy God was whispering dreams into our hearts before we even knew how to recognize it?

I think we get a little tossed about in life, a little seasick now and again. We get jumbled on the ride from there to here and here to there, and we forget how simple those early moments were when innocence was all we had, and we were free to hear what God was telling us about ourselves.

I want to listen more again. I want to climb up onto the lap of Jesus. I want to remember those early dreams and redirect my sails.

In some ways, I think He wants us all to be Pirates Who Save Good People, although that may look differently according to how it’s lived out.

Ephesians 2:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

But He will honor us coming to Him as purely and trusting as a child because He promises this.

Matthew 18:1-6, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Mark 9:36-37, Apostle John-Mark narrating, ESV
And he [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Matthew 19:13-15, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

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A great book for trying to identify the dream God has given us is The Dream Giver: Following Your God-Given Destiny by Bruce Wilkinson. A sweet friend gave this to me as I was rounding out the edges of finally becoming an author. It’s an easy read and sweet story to help us go back to the place where He first put the dream into our hearts.

 

 

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A Letter to Parent Volunteers in Elementary School Classrooms

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The following blog is written the way that it is, in letter format, because of a wise friend who saw my Mama Pain in a brief vent on social media today and encouraged me to write something that informs parents from the perspective of a parent with a child who struggles. He is often the recipient of harsh treatment from perhaps well-intended parent volunteers. Sometimes, this has happened right in front of me at volunteer times in the classroom, and sometimes, my child tells me days later, in tears. He is sensitive, but not overly so. He knows not everyone will jive with everyone else. In his short school tenure, at age 8, he has had teachers he really clicked with and those he hasn’t. He knows not every person will really try to know him, and that’s okay. That’s true of life.

But I have been growing very weary of parent volunteers going in to a lower elementary school classroom lacking humor, patience, and compassion, especially for kids with struggles or who think outside the box, and “playing uptight parent” to someone else’s kid. I know the lower elementary school teachers benefit from rotations of parent help for reading times, math games, and research, and we have wonderful staff, but if a parent is going in to exert a power trip over little kids, perhaps they should not volunteer. I volunteer to help children and teachers but also now to babysit out-of-line parents. Happens every year.

Not on my watch.

In my opinion, being that harsh to a child with or without struggles (not their own child…mine or someone else’s) is without excuse. The school environment should be a safe place for little hearts.

Some of the most cutting, sharpest comments are made to my child by parent volunteers. Little Man sat at my breakfast table this morning in tears thinking he had done something wrong when he was being creative. (I cleared up the details of what was said, why, and if there was misbehavior or teacher intervention. There wasn’t.) His exact words: “She [snappy parent volunteer] connected with all of the other kids there but me. She didn’t make a good connection to me.” This was after letting me know what she did say to him. I spent part of the morning praying down my mother rage. I don’t even know her or her name.

It motivated me to write this. Thank you for reading it.

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Dear Elementary School Parent Volunteer:

There are a few things I would really like us all to know, to think about, to swirl around in our minds and hearts before we enter the classroom to help with math games, reading centers, research units. Going to volunteer training is not enough. We must go in deeply, firmly rooted in an understanding that we are not the parents of every child in that classroom. We can’t possibly know each situation, each struggle, each backstory, each tender heart. We do not know what each child faced that morning over his/her bowl of cereal.

  • He could have heard his parents threaten each other with divorce for the tenth time this week.
  • She could have heard that anger rising in the voice of a violent family member or encountered the malaise of a depressed or ill parent.
  • He could have had his fifth meltdown because the tag on the neckline of his shirt was irritating him.
  • She could have had a panic attack about the small oral presentation she had to give today for her book project.
  • He could have washed his hands 12 times before, during, and after getting dressed because he was worried about germs.
  • She could have struggled to get her math facts the night before, and everyone else in the class seems to catch on more quickly.
  • He could have struggled to write neatly and color in the lines because of a fine motor weakness.
  • She might not be able to focus because something happened on the bus on the way in that was too loud for her, too much for her to process at once, and she’s still in the middle of processing it.

Dear Parents: We don’t know whom and what we are walking into when we go in to help. We are not experts on the issues of all children. Let’s face it: Some days we don’t always even know the “right” approach for our own. We do not have full perspective.

We are not there to parent other parents’ children. The class discipline is really up to the teacher’s discretion and discernment.

Even if some of us have degrees in special education, social work, or child/family therapy, if we do not live with a child with those challenges, we only know the outside story. We do not know the inside one. We do not know what it is like to work around the challenges and struggles, big or small, typical or atypical, on a daily basis of those specific kids.

We also do not know what it is like to be a child with adults towering over him/her trying to be part of a “solution,” one that is assumed, while the child is silently trying to figure out where and why he/she is failing expectation.

Here are some things we need to remember: Everyone struggles with something. In any home, there may be:

  • academic super-achievers who are a little immature or socially behind
  • dyslexia and other learning disorders
  • developmental delays
  • autism spectrum
  • ADHD/ADD
  • anxiety/depression (yes, young children can legitimately struggle with these for a host of different reasons)
  • speech delays
  • processing disorders
  • a combo meal of several of these

And the list goes on.

Really, do any of us know what those all look like in individual children and families? Are we reading IEPs before we go into the classroom as parent volunteers?

Of course not.

So we need to allow for the fact some kids are going to be slower to process something, have trouble focusing, melt down emotionally more than another kid. We don’t have access to this information, but we absolutely should go into the classroom to volunteer wearing:

  • grace
  • patience
  • compassion
  • understanding
  • kindness

I’ve had a parent hover over my child who couldn’t complete a drawing/coloring task anywhere near the time other kids could. She kept on him as if he were her personal “fix-it” project for the day.

I wanted to say to her:

“That is not why you are in the classroom today. You need to let the school specialists help my child in that way. Your job is to encourage him, perhaps kindly redirect, but to help him at whatever point he is at. It is not to tell him over and over again he isn’t as quick as everyone else and to hurry up and catch up, and why is he coloring like that?

Your job is to keep him on task, to make sure everyone is including each other, to build these kids up, to make sure they understand the instructions.

Your job isn’t to roll your eyes when one kid is fixated on dinosaur facts. Or another talks louder than others.

Can you see inside his ear? Do you know if he has a hearing problem or processing disorder?”

No, we just work around whatever we find in the classroom. We don’t try to fix, control, or judge it.

One day, my child could not move beyond the glue on the end of his fingers that came off of a Valentine someone gave him. He thought it was a germ. A volunteer yelling at him to hurry up and finish his own Valentine wasn’t going to help him stop fixating.

Again, the voice in my head had an internal conversation with her:

“Because you don’t live with him, you don’t know that he is having a massive, internal panic attack, one that, not being visible, is almost more crippling. It’s not your fault you can’t see it, but please approach him with kindness and not judgment. He is my ‘project.’ He was given to me. Along with specialized staff, I’ll take it from here. Please know your part is just to do classroom tasks and not to make everyone fit into the same size box of expectation.”

To be fair, I see so many parent volunteers do it well. Because they bring grace in with them—and the perspective that they do not “know it all” and can only come at it from their own limited experience. Just like mine is limited. We each come in with only one piece of the puzzle.

Like all of the adults in the school building directing small kids, volunteers make an impact and leave an imprint. My son often receives the message that (his exact words): “She connected with all of the other kids there but me. She didn’t make a good connection to me.” Young kids are smart, intuitive, and sensitive. They know when adults don’t like them or are irritated.

For 45 minutes, can we please just walk in, turning off the following buttons in our minds and hearts (we all have them):

Judgment
Diagnosing
Criticism
Impatience

Can we please go, approaching tender hearts as if we didn’t have all the answers yet?

Because none of us do—even in our own homes and situations.

Let’s take the burden off ourselves and let the staff “figure out” the kids. Some kids might not read as fluently as the rest of the class or color inside the lines. Let’s meet them right where they are and just grace them to the next logical step, or even just help sustain the learning of the moment.

Today might be a rough day. A child may have already been necessarily corrected by several staff at this point. He/she might be weary, frustrated, or sad.

If you have three to five adults (parents, teacher, principal, special services teachers, specials teachers) in your life every day that you expect to be leading you, having several more in your face—some outright strangers—can add stress when you’re 5, 7, 9.

Let’s go in and be stress-reducers, speaking in soft tones.

Let’s remember how our kids are all still works-in-progress—how we all are.

Sincerely,

The Concerned Parent of a Child Who Struggles

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In the middle of writing Not Just on Sundays, I heard the squeaky, growing voice of my youngest child begging to be heard, and a children’s book deposited itself into my heart; I asked all three of my children to collaborate with me. It attempts to shed light on how it feels to be a child when adults aren’t really listening to them. Why Don’t Grow-Ups Listen? should be out in 2015/16.

*This blog can also be found at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up #25, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin TuesdayFaith-Filled Fridaysand Grace & Truth Link-Up.

 

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Why I Don’t Mind That You Know We Go to Family Therapy

Why I Don't Mind That You KnowOne of my personal goals in life is to take the stigma and shame off mental health issues and to open wide the floodgates so that people who struggle (or their family members/friends) will not shy away from walking through doors of help. I want to write about the things we all desperately want to know so we don’t feel alone, but maybe we just aren’t ready to be public about. Maybe we are intensely private in general, or perhaps we just can’t let this part of our lives out into the light yet.

That’s okay. I get it. I’ve been there. I felt deep shame for a while because I didn’t know how to tell people I wasn’t well, find the right words, or even understand how to get them to listen. It’s only been six years for me. The feeling is still fresh. I get it.

Today I want to open up conversation about family therapy because even if you go, you might not write about it. Or maybe you’re considering it but not sure what it’s about. Maybe it seems overwhelming or intimidating. Obviously, I will not divulge personal details here that dishonor anyone in my family or step over any privacy/professional lines. This is about the overall experience.

It’s to broaden the dialogue.

To make people feel less alone.

To reach into dark places and shine some light.

[Disclaimer: I have permission from my family members to share this. We remain committed to sharing the journey together with the goal of bringing hope and help to others walking a similar path. Ours is neither a worst-case nor a best-case scenario. It’s simply our scenario.]

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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in ADHD, Anxiety/OCD/Depression

 

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