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Anxiety, Child Psychology, Children, Family, Grief, Mental Health, Natural Disaster, Parenting, Psychology

Calm In The Eye Of The Storm

2011 hasn’t had a good start.

2010 for me felt like it held such promise and I got knocked around a bit to say the least so welcoming 2011 was like “anything has to be better than last year…” mmm personally yes it has been better than last year.

Generally, it has not been a good year with all fellow beings affected in one way or another. In truth I believe we are all connected and suffering has a ripple effect. Right now the human spirit is being challenged.  From pillar to post, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

With our mother earth (Gaia) responsible for this upheaval there is nothing we can control except our own thoughts about it all. Think negatively and this will swallow you up. Keep some positive statements in there and these gigantic, life changing events can appear somewhat manageable. I am not disrespecting the suffering that my fellow mankind is experiencing but I have to believe that we keep at least a small speck of positivity. I wrote a post on helping children cope with anxiety in the context of the Queensland floods earlier in the year about being positive and coping with worry here

At the start of the week having seen only a small amount of vision of the Earthquake in Japan and slightly more footage of the New Zealand Earthquake it was all getting rather overwhelming. If this is happening to me then I would hate to think what some of the thoughts are cycling and floating through children’s and even adolescents’ minds.

Now some honestly may not have seen what has been happening. If that is the case I am thankful. There is plenty of time to see these types of natural disasters. If they have seen them as I previously mentioned use the strategies listed in this post.

Today is about maintaining normalcy in these scary and tragic events and discussing Early Signs of being overwhelmed.

Why do we maintain normalcy you ask? Children thrive on routine and boundaries. They like to know what and when the events and activities are happening in their daily life. Obviously unless you are physically impaired to continue with your normal life, as in, in the affected areas then maintaining your routines is most helpful in maintaining calm and reduce anxiety.   

I have listed below a few routines that your children would be used to

* attending school on time

* picking up from school and activities as usual

* attending extra-curricular activities also as usual.

* Keep television viewing to normal times and periods of viewing, unless of course saturated by the devastating footage – then of course mindfulness takes over. Your discretion.

* Keep bed times the same    

* Keep routines surrounding the day also similar – brushing teeth, bedtime stories or reflections on the day. 

Although this may appear insensitive to the current disaster, the children do not need to be worrying unnecessarily about the impact it may have on them. Thoughtful discussion and viewing of course is appropriate as I discussed in the Queensland Flood piece. I am not advising to ignore the issue as this may bring up other problems in itself.

Boundaries are also important and maintaining stability and coping. Most children like to know where the goal posts are. Boundaries are not necessarily defined by keeping a tight rein on children. It is highlighting that most children do like the knowledge that there are rules and boundaries that are expected of them. 

As long as they    

1. Know where and what the boundaries and rules are and  

2. There is consistency in following through with these expectations.

This is what is important in these times.Although the devastation and disbelief may affect you, it is important to maintain consistency with your expectations and limit deviation. By all means I’m again not suggesting such rigidity that it affects your family life but if the situation is manageable for you then following through with normal rules and boundaries will help to keep children’s anxieties and worries reduced. In basic terms – if mum and dad are ok, then I’m ok is the thought process that goes throughout their mind. Stability is the key. Visibly and also through expression of feelings. As we know children can be very intuitive and “switched on” and be able to sense distress or change in demeanour.

Early Signs Of Imbalance are behaviours that indicate that your child may be feeling overwhelmed with current crises and can further be utilised in everyday life as a sign that something is “not quite right”All of these behaviours should be monitored and reviewed if ongoing. One week of presenting issues and I would suggest there is something you need to address. Two weeks and I would follow-up with your general practitioner* or mental health professional – private psychologist, school counsellor, chaplain, social worker (all depending on the context in which you seek help) 

* Sleep disturbance – trouble getting off to sleep, waking often in the middle of the night, or early morning waking (at least 2 hours prior to normal time) with difficulty getting back to sleep

* Affected appetite – Not wanting to eat, food coming home in lunchbox that isn’t usual, making excuses for not eating regularly with “I’m sick, I don’t feel well” but they show no other clear signs of being unwell.

* Withdrawal from activities, friends or family: They dont want to see Joshua down the street who they without fail would go and ride bikes with, they dont want to see their grandparents who they would persist to ask to see on a regular basis or simply they maybe choosing to lie on their bed more than usual

* Decreased energy levels whereby you use their normal patterns to determine this – Example: Max is regularly outside now not getting off the lounge for extended periods of time. It is reported in class they are not participating in the games they normally would in the playground.

* Attention and concentration affected. Stating they can’t finish their school work like they normally do (or the teacher suggests this to you), unable to complete tasks as usual such as reading a book, playing their favourite electronic game, not interested in their lego, scooter, cars, dolls, toy that is flavour of the month

* Mood may be affected. You may feel they look sadder, are more irritable or snappy, get angry easier at you or their siblings. Crying a lot or over issues that they wouldnt normally cry about.

Everything I have listed is all about CHANGE. 

Early signs are always indicated by a change in what is normal for that child or person. It’s also monitoring initially too.

Of course some may say they dont want to do their homework or they are off their food or they have a sore tummy. But if you are noticing it more than a few days and physical illness does not appear or has been ruled out then I would take these simple markers as a possible indicator for not coping at this point in time. If you notice a few of these then they are starting to indicate something may be an issue for your child. If there is plenty – Action immediately.

Most of all look after yourself. We all need to make ourselves a priority at some stage otherwise the cup of life will overflow. Normally the cup can have liquid regularly added to it but there comes a point when it will no longer hold anymore and in times of stress this is more than likely the case – no more room. To get that glass back down again before it is refilled we must let some drain away by stepping back and replenishing ourselves.

These natural disasters have unnerved a lot of us but I truly believe on top of donating and praying or sending positives vibes we must remember to look after what we can – control what we can control and not ruminate about that which we cannot control. Inner peace is very important and it can have a flow on effect.

Lets hold the space for these affected countries and even our own states and towns affected earlier in the year, while they replenish their souls as many of their cups may be overflowing. They need our calm and support while they rebuild after these devastating occurences.

Information on this website is to be used as a guide only and does not take the place of appropriate clinical care. 

Please Contact your local doctor if you have any concerns or questions whatsoever

* Seeing your General Practitioner will help to ascertain whether a referral to the mental health professional is necessary and they can then provide you with documentation to assist with a mental health plan that entitles you to an initial 6 sessions with a psychologist that is eligible for medicare refund

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About Bringing Spirit Into The Everyday

Modern Suburban Hippie (minus hallucinogens :) ) Vegetarian. Passionate. Love Laughs. Yoga. Chai Lattes. Crystals. Oracle cards. Goddesses. Angels. Spiritual. Perfume Loving. Intuitive Parenting. Breastfeeding Mama. Sport Loving. Opinionated. Scorpio. Psychologist. I have 3 little people who rock my world.

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