Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Parenting in Tough Times

We were doing all right until recently. My kids were floating through all the changes with relative ease.

The kids missed DaHubby during all the hours he put in working full time while schooling full time but they seemed to cope well. They fussed significantly less than expected when DaHubs was laid off and we had to say "no" to SO many splurges, purchases, and events.

Flicka leaving her old school and her Daisy Scout troop didn't result in one tear. News of the move? Barely anything more than "I'm gonna miss our old house" or "...miss our old town" out of either of them. New school? Timid but OK.

The actual move was uneventful. Our new rental was not ready so the four of us lived in DaHub's one-bedroom apartment for a month even with him on different days working and different shifts on a rotating schedule.

While it doesn't feel like it most days, my kids really are good kids. Pretty compliant on the whole. Questioning in a non-bratty way the majority of the time. Tantrums have been getting rarer and rarer. Discipline is more of a "as needed" thing as issues arise, are explained, and then corrected.

Then, school started. And, the bus riding. And, the bullying.

And, with DaHubs still working rotating days and shifts, I'm still the primary disciplinarian along with in-house psychologist. And, I'm really starting to feel VERY under-equipped.

We are seven weeks into school and Pojke is still crying at bedtime and/or every morning because he doesn't want to get on the bus. Teachers says he's fine, polite, productive, and on-task when he gets there but, the last two days, school staff has had to physically pick him up to get him either on the bus or into class.

Flicka is faring better but her behavior is all over the place emotionally. Dramatic highs and lows (more than usual LOL) and lots of crying and drama especially over a daily spelling words worksheet.

And, in the midst of this, I am losing my way on how to discipline with love. I want what appears to be irrational behavior to cease but also know it's likely a result of a tidal wave of stress they are both feeling.

While I don't mind easing off the discipline during this season of transition for them, I also don't want to inadvertently endorse new bad habits to form that will be harder to break later when things even out.

When I read
this article about real solutions for parents, it struck me that both the Vikings are showing significant physiological and psychological signs of stress. But, the author also offers some suggestions for solutions using the following steps:

1. Early intervention
ID the reason
Get enough sleep
ID potential stressors
Cut one thing
Keep to family routines
Monitor TV viewing
Help child learn their stress signs
Don't overprotect

I've done pretty well with those listed above. Finding the real reasons, getting them to bed early, our schedule is SUPER pared down due to the move, our routine pretty strict but still flexible due to DaHub's schedule, and other than some cartoons on Netflix, they don't watch a lot of TV. The only one I could really improve on is helping the Vikings learn their stress signals.

As for the "don't overprotect" suggestion, when I had to call the head of school transportation for the THIRD time that someone was laying hands on my kids (including an older kids writing "shut up" on Pojke's forehead during his bus ride home), the fact I kept it together and acted like a rational human being is the best I can manage.

2. Rapid response
Stay calm
Melt the tension
Use a positive phrase
Teach "elevator breathing"
Visualize a calm place

This is where I think most of my work is going to be. My fuse is short lately as well. The tension level in our home is often off the charts and gets that way from zero to full blast in about 5 seconds. We could ALL benefit from these.

3. Develop habits for change
Reduce stress as a family
Label emotions
Find a relaxer
Open communication
Model how to cope

Same with these ideas. While I feel like I label emotions I'm having and say things like "it's sounds like you're angry about..." and such, the older the Vikings get the more shades of gray are appearing. "Sad," "mad," "angry," "scared" don't always cut it anymore and things are getting way more complicated lately. But, most of these are do-able and I need to make them a priority ASAP.

I've needed a lifeline of sorts with parenting lately and I'm hoping this is a step in the right direction. Kids are resilient. And I know God puts things in our path to help us grow and learn. And, as a parent, sometimes I'm going to have to let the Vikings walk through some tough stuff but I want this change to be a positive one in the end and not one that did some irreversible damage.


sara said...

I just want to cry reading what they did to your son. Please, Beth, don't let him be bullied. Get between them yourself if you have to. I was bullied as a kid and suffered for years after it was over. I don't care what some psychobabbler has to say about it, it IS your job to protect him.

Kari said...

Beth, a friend who was widowed last year with twin tweens explained to me that when a parent dies, children often don't do most of their grief work until well after the fact - and only once they sense the surviving parent is in a "safe" place.

I wonder if what you are experiencing is similar to that? Perhaps now that the transitions are over with and you are starting to plant some roots with Bible study, etc. the children sense the grown ups are in a safe - or at least safer - place, and they can grieve now - in their own way?

I also have found that once the excitement of the move and the newness of everything has died down, that's when things get harder.

Part of what you're experiencing, too, is just the kids growing up. I have these moments when I feel like I am finally getting a handle on things and then *boom* my kids go and change on me, sometimes nearly overnight!

But what your little boy is going through - it's just not right and not okay. And I was as much messed up by parents and administrators not overprotecting as I was by my bullies...to the point that when I was nearly suicidal in high school over bullying then that I never bothered to tell any adult in my life - because, really, why bother?

I know in the past you'd considered homeschooling...is that something you are just no longer interested in or is it not possible with your move?

You're doing a great job with the kids and the transitions! God really does use all things to our good - though that doesn't always look like our immediate comfort and happiness! - and to His glory... I keep pointing out to my girls every time in scripture when something "bad" happens and then it's followed with a "so that..." Doesn't always make it easier (and my girls are at a different cognitive place now than yours are - the oldest being nearly a teen and wanting her life to "count" for something), but it helps them to remember that God has a bigger purpose for us and our lives than even we often realize. And now, they remind me of it!

Praying for all of you!