Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Helping My Anxious Child

***Any advice and tips in this article are of my own opinions. If you think your child is experiencing anxiety, please seek treatment from a medical professional or licensed therapist ***


Helping My Anxious Child
Our journey with Childhood Anxiety 

Our story:
I knew my child was different in a beautiful way for as long as I can remember. I would watch him in social situations and he would tend to be very awkward. He would always drift towards older kids and adults, they were his safe place. Despite the social awkwardness, kids always loved him and wanted to be his friend. Four years later, things haven’t changed much. He is still very awkward in social situations, not really knowing what to say or do. Despite the daily struggles of what I now know is anxiety, he manages to build friendships wherever he goes. 

Red Flags 🚩 
My son exhibited so many symptoms of anxiety for as long as I can remember. The symptoms really started catching my eye at the end of his Kindergarten year when he started frequently urinating. He would run to the bathroom easily 30-40x daily and complain that nothing would come out. Then the headaches started to present themselves. I decided to make an appointment with our pediatrician to get a handle on these symptoms as I thought he was suffering from chronic migraines (family history). She decided it was best to have a head CT to rule out any tumors that might be causing his severe and frequent headaches. After the scans came back clear, we moved forward with medicating for the headaches. 

Things suddenly changed the beginning of his first grade year. He had always been a stellar student. No behavior problems, straight A’s, top of his class. Then September rolled around and it was like someone flipped a switch in my child. That’s the only way I can truly explain it. I was blindsided. My once sweet child was now very defiant and having intense anger outbursts and meltdowns. I knew something had to give when he kicked a teacher in the leg one day because he didn’t get his way. This was NOT my child. Not the one I was raising. 

At this time in life, we were going through a lot. His father and I had divorced the previous year and my 17 year old cousin died by suicide. I knew my son was angry. He had every right to be. He felt like he lost his dad and then he lost one of his very best friends (cousin) by something no child his age can or should imagine. This is when I stepped in and sought help from a licensed therapist. I knew I could no longer do this on my own. It took us two therapists before I really found one I felt connected with my son and saw beyond his anger instead of just medicating him and calling it a day. With this new therapist, his diagnosis was quickly changed from ADHD to generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and social anxiety. We spent this past year working with him, attempting to get him to recognize his anxiety and develop positive coping skills. Due to his age and maturity level, his therapist and I agreed that medication was the best thing for him at this point in his life. It’s been a game changer, y’all! 🙌🏼

The last four years, I’ve had to learn to navigate anxiety with my child. I’ve learned what works for him, what doesn’t, triggers, and what his anxiety presents as. Due to our journey with childhood anxiety, I wanted to share my insight on anxiety, it’s symptoms and how to we manage our child’s anxiety. 

What does anxiety look like?
The key to managing your child’s anxiety is recognizing your child’s symptoms, even before they realize what’s going on. Looking back now, I saw so many red flags with my child but it never crossed my mind that MY child might be battling anxiety. Honestly, I thought he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) because anxiety can often mimicked ADHD and ODD. I now know better and because of this, I can take active steps at home to help my child. 

Below is a list of some (not all) signs of anxiety:
Restlessness
Tantrums 
Avoidance 
Inattention
Refusal to go to school
Difficulties with transitions 
High expectations in school, sports, etc.
Excessive worrying
Disruptive behaviors 
Difficulty participating in class
Difficulty interacting with peers
Fear of being judged
Worries excessively about being separated from home or primary caregiver. 
Strong startle responses 
Picking at skin
Nail biting
Frequent urination/constipation   
Squirming
Frequent trips to the nurse (complaints of stomachaches, headaches, nausea, and/or vomiting)
Excessive worry over making a mistake

  • If your child is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, please contact your child’s doctor to have a full mental health and physical health assessment done to rule out other disorders. Some physical conditions can mimic anxiety symptoms so your doctor will want to rule out these conditions as well. 


What I learned about helping my child manage and cope with anxiety:

Anxious children need to understand their body cues and triggers.
It’s really important that you and your child learn to recognize when your child begins to feel anxious. By recognizing and taking proactive steps, you could potentially stop major meltdowns and tantrums from happening. Talk with your child about recognizing body cues. Explain that body cues are signs your body gives to let you something isn’t quite right. Have your child tell you what happens to their body when they begin to feel anxious (rapid heartbeat, headache,stomachache,etc.). If you notice your child complaining of these symptoms or see symptoms begin to happen (sweating, shaking, upset stomach), implement their coping strategies (see below). I also suggest you take notes after your child has had a meltdown or anxiety attack. Write down what happened leading up to the episode, what occurred during the episode, and what worked/didn’t work after the episode. By noting these events, it will help you identify potential triggers for your child’s anxiety and help you avoid and/or navigate the situation when it occurs again. By doing this, you can also start identifying coping skills that will help your child. Also, having documentation helps a medical professional and/or therapist assess the situation. 

Below is a visual chart to help your child recognize their body cues:
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Don’t rush an anxious child
Setting timers or making an anxious child feel rushed can trigger symptoms fast. Often anxious children tend to be “perfectionist” and set extremely high standards for themselves. Feeling rushed could cause them to feel like they didn’t do their best and/or make them feel like a failure. 

At school: If your child is diagnosed with anxiety, his/her therapist will help guide you through working with your child’s school. Most schools have a behavior or special education team that can accommodate your child during testing and assignments (no timers, small groups, etc). 

At home: If your family is often in a rush like ours, have your anxious child help plan for the next day ahead of time. Have clothes laid out the night before, know what you’ll have for breakfast the next morning, and discuss the next day’s schedule (sports schedules, meetings, etc). Help them feel well prepared for their upcoming day. This will help set them up for success and feel less rushed and overwhelmed. 

Provide Smooth Transitions and Consistency
Anxious children often struggle with the unknown. They have a fear of what’s coming next and if something is out of routine, it can trigger their anxiety. Providing smooth transitions and consistency can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. 

At school: Have the school create (or you could provide one) a routine chart for your child. With my son, we provided a chart with academic subjects and corresponding times. He always knew what came next by looking at his chart (he no longer needs this 🙌🏼). If your child’s teacher knows he or she will be not be present at school one day, have the teacher let you know. You and the teacher can prepare your child for a disruption in routine by informing them the day before (preferably days ahead but that’s not always possible). 

Example: “Mac, your teacher will be out Friday. You will have a substitute.” 

My son’s teacher is great about letting me know and every day leading up to the teacher’s absence, I remind him. Giving your child this “heads up” eliminates the surprise element of someone new teaching the class for the day. I know this can’t always be the case as teachers don’t know when they will be sick or need to leave mid-day but any time you can prepare your child for a change ahead of time helps. It also helps to make sure your child’s school has a “safe person” they trust in place to help with the sudden shift in routine if it’s needed. 

At home: Transitions and consistency are just as important at home as they are at school. The way I help my son manage transitions at home is by providing a family calendar that we mounted on the wall. At the beginning of the month, I write all our appointments, extra curricular activities, and school events on the calendar. It is placed in the kitchen so he sees it daily and has easy access if he wants to know what is going on for the week.  Here’s a link for a great (affordable) magnetic fridge calendar https://amzn.to/2JWPk3F

My husband (his amazing stepdad) and I sat down to create an after school routine. It doesn’t always work because of after school activities BUT it provides routine and consistency on our free days. This has drastically helped with the defiant behaviors and meltdowns caused by his anxiety. Here’s an example of our after school routine:
3:15-5:00
Snack time/Outside play time (weather permitted)
5:00-6:00
Homework/Chores 
6:00-7:00
Electronic time/Dinner
7:00-8:45
Downtime (watch TV, play a game, etc)
8:45-9:00
Prep for bedtime 


Validate their feelings
Anxiety can present in many ways. For my child, his anxiety comes in the form of severe anger outbursts. By this point in our journey, I’m able to identify why he might feel anxious. When you validate a child’s feelings, you’re able to help your child see that their emotions are very real. By letting them know that everyone feels this way sometimes, it can help them feel less overwhelmed, alone, and anxious. When you say “you have nothing to worry about” or “don’t be afraid”, it contradicts what the child is feeling and could make them feel like something is wrong with them. Let them know you understand why they feel the way they do and that you’re there to help them. 


Have coping tools/strategies readily available 

It’s really important that children have safe ways to express themselves when they feel anxious. I suggest having a “coping box” or some sort of “safe zone”. 

Coping box: Get a small plastic container from your local store and have it placed in a spot that your child has easy access to. Your coping box should include items to help your child calm down. Some suggested items are: stress balls, putty, finger fidgets, calm down bottle, journal, pin wheel, etc. The items you choose for your child need to be age appropriate. 

(To see some of my favorite coping tools, refer to my Favorite Fidgets Guide at www.villageandvineyard.com).

Safe Zone: This is what we chose for my son as it works best for him. We purchased a loft bed and placed sensory items underneath the loft. He has a fuzzy rug, lots of pillows, and stuffed animals. He knows that he can squeeze and/or throw stuffed animals and pillows if he needs to. Prior to implementing this, we discussed how to stay safe in his safe zone and what is and isn’t allowed to be thrown. We also removed anything breakable like the TV and lamps. Other safe zone ideas include a special corner (not a time-out!) or area of the house that is free of dangers. Anxious children tend to feel very embarrassed and want to “hide” when overwhelmed. Make sure this space is “hidden” within your sight (if that makes sense?!). 

Give them space
Sometimes, an anxious child just needs space to feel their feelings. Like previously mentioned, anxious children tend to be easily embarrassed, causing behaviors to escalate. As long as your child is not a danger to themselves or others, let them feel every emotion in the moment. You can go back later and debrief with them after they have calmed down. 

——————— In Conclusion ——————-


I know this was a lot to take in. However, if just one small portion of this can help you or your child, our journey has been worth it. Parenting an anxious child is not easy but you are not in this alone. Please reach out to family or friends to help you cope with the stresses of it all. Please also seek the help of professionals who can help you navigate this journey you and your child are on. You can’t do this alone and they are the perfect people to answer any questions you may have. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My child’s mental health is more important than a test





As we are in the final days of second grade, my son is gearing up for third grade. He has no idea what’s in store for him. He has no idea that next year, his little brain will be forced to take in an overload of testing information and not naturally absorb it. Next year, school will become less fun and more overwhelming. He will sit in a desk and test prep from the moment he walks through that door. He will get headaches and stomachaches, not because he’s sick, but because of the anxiety producing environment. This is no fault of our amazing teachers. It’s the lawmakers who aren’t sitting in these classrooms every single day. They aren’t trying to teach with their jobs on the line. They aren’t the one’s who have 30 precious beings’ grade promotions riding on one single test. They have no idea what they are doing to our teachers and students.

Please know that I am not speaking on this subject blindly. I’ve been in the middle of the testing hurricane with these babies. What I saw made my stomach cringe from January thru May of each year. Students being told they won’t promote to 4th grade if they don’t pass one test, even if they made straight A’s in every single subject. Parents who complain that their children are so stressed, they can’t eat or sleep. Some who refuse to simply just be a child on the weekends because their minds are consumed with studying and passing. Eight and nine year olds crying themselves to sleep at night or refusing to go to school. All of this for one test. I understand that lawmakers want our children to be pushed towards greatness. I get that statistically if a child is on grade level by grade four, the dropout rates significantly decrease. At what costs are these tests really worth it? 

Children are more than a number on a computer screen. What these children need to know is that they are more than this ridiculous test. They need to know that a test doesn’t measure what an amazing artist they may be or that they’ve started coding computer programs. They can’t possibly measure how beautiful it sounds when they sing or what an amazing athlete they are turning out to be. Yet these children are made to feel that if they don’t pass a test, they are not worthy. They are made to feel unworthy by people they’ve never met before. Made to feel this way by a test that doesn’t take into account that they might suffer from anxiety or that their mother was arrested last week.  It’s heartbreaking you guys!!

MY CHILD’S MENTAL HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SOME TEST.

Do👏🏽you👏🏽hear👏🏽me?!

I fear that sending my child to 3rd grade will negatively impact his mental health. 

Please do not take this the wrong way. If there is anyone in this world who could get my son to pass that test, it’s the 3rd grade teachers at his school. I know many of them on a professional and personal level and they are some of the most kind, loving people I’ve ever met. They are EXACTLY the kind of teachers I want for my child. 

If you don’t know already, my (mostly 😜) sweet 8 year old was diagnosed with SEVERAL anxiety disorders last year. We have been on a long and extremely bumpy road regarding his mental health. At what point do I say “enough is enough” as a parent? At what lengths should I go to preserve the wellness of my child? 

My child is extremely bright. He would have no problem passing that test on his own. The problem is, his anxiety will cause him to fail. It will cause him to fail over and over again. He will sit at that computer screen with a headache. He will tell his teacher several times he feels like he might throw up. His heart will beat out of his chest, making him feel like he will die and then he will begin to panic. Anxiety doesn’t always come in the form of panic attacks. In fact, anxiety often manifests and presents as behavioral problems like it does for my child. So, as he sits at that computer screen, negative self-talk filling his precious little mind, he will become overwhelmed. In a moment of panic, he will start clicking answers to get it over with. Even worse, he might run out the classroom or begin to bang his head on a wall. Anyone who tells me that one test is worth this right here can kindly bite me. My child is a work in progress and coping skills are being worked on a daily basis but in that moment, he will feel like his life depends on that test and my friends.... IT’S NOT WORTH IT. 

I am my child’s voice. I am my child’s advocate. I will stick up for my child when he desperately needs me. I will always have his back. 

With that being said, my family and I have decided that as his advocates, we HAVE to step in here. We are pulling our child from public school to focus on academics and mental health at home. I can’t possibly subject my child to that mental torture that I know he just can’t handle right now. I can’t sit back and watch as his love for school is sucked out of him. THAT my friend, will most certainly increase your dropout rates. 

My son will start 3rd grade at home. He and I will work together to keep learning fun and interesting. He had such a wonderful teacher this year who despite my child’s anxiety, was able to keep his love for learning alive. As his mother, I have to keep that momentum going. We will run an academic schedule to mimic our district and work around his anxiety until he is able to better cope with it on his own. 

This is so very bittersweet for us but deep down I know that it’s just simply not worth watching my child suffer. We will miss our teachers and friends at school. They have been such a huge blessing to our family for the last 5 years and for that, we thank you PPE!! 

Mac and I are ready for our new journey. I’ve been prepping him for this transition for a month now. He seems very excited to learn in a way that meets his mental health needs. Maybe this works. Maybe it doesn’t. I’m willing to take our chances here because my child’s mental health is more important than a test. 


-Sara

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Favorite Fidget Finds


Favorite Fidget Finds

 ***Disclaimer***

This post contains affiliate links which means as an amazon affiliate, I may earn commission (at no cost to you) on qualifying purchases. I only recommend products or services that I fully believe in and/or use. The views and believes on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation of product should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party in question. 


Below you’ll find some of my favorite Amazon Fidget Finds! All of my finds are available for 2-day shipping through Amazon Prime. Don’t have Amazon Prime? Click the link to get a special offer rate just for being a reader here at Village and Vineyard ➡️  https://amzn.to/2YJVvfP

https://amzn.to/2EnTeiO

https://amzn.to/2VQKE6R



https://amzn.to/2M1Z9QM

https://amzn.to/2VQLfW9

Monday, May 20, 2019

Summer Schedule


Summer is upon us and so is the panic us parents feel knowing the kids will be home all summer long. If your household is anything like mine, it won’t take long before the “I’m bored” sets in. 

Last year, our summer was mostly spent unorganized with a lot of down time (between baseball practices/games). This got me thinking about how I could change things up this summer and attempt to keep the kids engaged on a daily basis. 

I’m sure I won’t fully stick to a schedule as things are always changing. However, I wanted to implement as much structure as possible to help regulate behaviors. When a child is bored, they are more likely to get in trouble and that causes for a long, miserable summer.

Below I’ve attached a themed schedule I created for my family this summer. Feel free to use it with your kiddos to help keep them engaged all summer long. Best part? I’ve built in educational activities to keep their little minds fresh all summer long.

Feel free to print or screenshot the schedule below for your family: 


Also, check out my Budget Friendly Summer Bucket List post at www.villageandvineyard.com 

Budget Friendly Summer Bucket List

Budget Friendly Summer Bucket List

Summer has once again snuck up on us as the end of the school year comes to a close. If any of you are like me, you’re  slightly panicking on how you’re going to curve the “the bored” in your household all summer long.

So to help preserve my sanity, and yours, I had my boys help me create a list of their favorite activities they would like to do this summer. My only requirement was that they pick activities that are budget friendly. I think they did a great job!! 

I thought some of you would enjoy a copy to keep on hand when you feel like you’re running out of activity ideas. See our bucket list below: 






Thursday, May 16, 2019

6 THINGS I WISH I KNEW AS A FRESHMAN

 You did it! You made it to the end of your high school career. You should be so incredibly proud of yourself. Most of you probably worked extremely hard to get this point. Some of you....not so much 🤷🏻‍♀️. Now it’s time to start a new chapter and explore life outside your comfort zone. As you get ready to enter your freshman year of college, you’ll be overwhelmed with all the unknowns. Therefore, I complied a list of 6 things I wish I knew as a freshman. Enjoy 🤗

  1. DO NOT TAKE 8AM CLASSES

I repeat DO NOT take 8am classes. I know what you’re thinking, “but Sara, I’m a very responsible young adult here. I can handle early classes because nothing is going to stand in the way of my academic career.”  

BRB....... hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Okay I’m back. 

Listen, I get that you were probably the perfect student in high school but you’re in the big leagues now. It’s inevitable that you’ll want to go to your first frat party or out with some friends. You DO NOT want to be rolling into that 8am class in the same clothes from the night before and unwashed hair (shout out KayCe)! It’s also inevitable that you’ll have late night study sessions and have to drag your zombie self into that early morning class. So please trust me here, to the point of me begging you, absolutely DO NOT take 8am classes. Save those for when you get your freshmen year out of your system. 

  1. TAKE YOUR ACADEMICS SERIOUSLY....SERIOUSLY! 

Nothing really prepares you for this newfound freedom you’re about to possess. You finally get control over your own life and let’s be honest, most of us run with it. I completely condone having a great time your freshmen year but please keep your academics a priority. You honestly don’t want to have to climb your way out of a hole later on, trying to clean up the mess you made. Not that I know what that’s like mom 🤷🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️

  1. GRADES ARE IMPORTANT, BUT NOT EVERYTHING

I know I know, this is completely contradicting to my previous statement but you have to find a good balance between your personal life and academic life. You don’t want to get so caught up in academics that your personal life and mental health suffer. You are a whole other person outside of academics. Go find that person and enjoy that person too....with balance. 

  1. CONNECT WITH SCHOOL GROUPS

This is one of my biggest regrets in college. I just went through the motions and never really got involved. This often left me feeling very isolated and overwhelmed. Rush a sorority or fraternity, be a part of student council, or participate in a school sport/activity. Not only will this help you survive your college years, it will provide you with lasting friendships and help keep your head above water when you feel like you’re drowning. 

  1. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DECIDE A CAREER JUST YET

It’s okay not to know what you want to be when you grow up. Your freshmen year is the absolute perfect place to find yourself and your passions. You will take your core classes this year but I also suggest taking a class or two that might peak your interests career wise. Connect with your academic advisor for advice and guidance here, they really know their stuff. I know it’s scary and you feel like you have only a few short months to determine what you’ll do for the rest of your life but you really don’t! Use some time this summer to connect with people who are working in the field you’re considering. They are the perfect people to get insight from. I wish I had done this because if I did, I would have known my bachelor’s degree was a complete waste. I was completely unaware that I wouldn’t be able to get a job out of college with my degree because my field requires graduate studies. Please, use my mistakes and learn from them.

  1. USE THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR

Do you hear me? Big or small, you use that counselor. These magnificent people are here for you. Did you know they aren’t just there for academic related problems? You can go to them with any stress or feelings you might be having regarding your life. Whatever it may be, they will be your greatest tool in overcoming it or finding a positive solution for it. Best part? It’s completely confidential. They absolutely WILL NOT run to your parents and tell them all your secrets. I always tell my clients, “I’m like your walking diary.” That’s what they are, a diary where you can unleash all your stresses and problems with Z•E•R•O judgement. Your counselor will go over the confidentiality policies with you the first time you meet. They will be able to answer any of your questions regarding this. 



Moral of my morning ramblings:

I know this is an exciting and overwhelming journey you’re about to embark on. You are bound to make mistakes along the way. Take those mistakes and turn them into life lessons. Please don’t be too hard on yourself during this season of life. This is a period of growth and maturity, you’re allowed to fall every now and again. You’ll find your way and once you do, you’ll look back and be so incredibly proud of yourself. 

Congratulations and best of luck Class of 2019!!!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE


Last year for the first time ever, I was thrown into the world of a stay at mom (or SLAY at home mom is what I like to call it). This was uncharted territory for me as I’ve always worked and have gone to school. 

Y’all.... this shit is hard 😳. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at all but I never gave stay at home moms enough credit and for that I apologize. 

I think along the way, I lost myself a little. I’ve been so wrapped up in the day to day chores, ridiculous schedules of 2 older kids and then we threw a baby into the mix. I began to feel like my only role in life was to be some kind of shape shifter. Constantly shaping and shifting to conform to my family’s needs. Need a nurse? Here, let me slap a bandaid on it. Need a dry cleaner? Bring your uniform here, I’ll bleach it for you. Chef? I gotcha boo. The list seriously goes on. 

And working moms?! Shout out to you because my friend, you are a rockstar!!

It was only until recently that I realized I’ve been neglecting someone in my life......me. I’m a person too. Like a whole woman outside of my family. She still exists and is in there somewhere. 

Then the lightbulbs went off.

 💡 I’ve got to make myself a priority and start practicing self-care 💡


What exactly is self-care and why is it so important?

Self-care is when we deliberately engage in some sort of positive activity in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.

These activities can include taking a bubble bath, painting your nails, reading a book, or going for a walk. Although these may appear to be very small activities, they can have a massive positive impact on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Remember the last time you took a warm bubble bath and you got to sit in solace and breath? Yeah... me either but I’m sure it felt amazing!

Or the last time you took a quick walk around the neighborhood and got to enjoy the breeze and let nature take over your senses? 

Heck, even a glass of wine after your kids go to bed. 

Overtime, all these small acts of kindness you do for yourself create a lasting, positive impact in your life and family’s life. 

In order for us to run our households and manage our families, we have to remember to slow down and take care of ourselves. I know you’re probably thinking you have Z•E•R•O time in your day for this but ladies, make time. You are so very important! You matter! So make that time girl. 

And don’t let me fool you, I’m still struggling to practice this in my life but I’m a work in progress.

Remember: a happy mom = a happy home. 

I’ll come back to this topic a little more at the end of the month. I’m thinking a village self-care challenge 🤔

Xoxo,
Sara


Looking to slow down and practice self-care with me? I’ve dropped a link below ⬇️ to a great self-care journal. It guides you through slowing down and taking time for yourself.