Anxiety

I’ve had my fair share of helping my kids deal with anxiety. And this isn’t a small fear of the first day of school or performance at a music festival. This is constant worries and fears that get in the way of daily living. It’s real. And affects every single moment of the day sometimes.

Here are my “Top 3” resources that greatly helped our family:

AnxietyBC – This is a website is a small non-profit organization based out of Vancouver, BC that provides self-help resources on anxiety.  It has so so many tips, tricks and strategies that your child, teenager and even adults can benefit from! I cannot say enough good things about this website. It is FULL of fantastic information! The link will direct you to their youth section but if you hover your mouse over the “Self Help” section, you can then go to the parent, child, youth, adult and treatment page. Check every section out because it is amazing!!

Horses Are Magic – This is a farm out in Orr Lake, Ontario where you can go to work with Alla and her horses to help you with grief, anxiety, confidence, etc. Alla was wonderful with my children! She provides a very calm, safe and supportive environment. My children would journal, paint, talk and work with the horses. It is one thing to go to counselling and talk about your feelings and fears, yet your body can still stress physically. Even when your mind seems clear. Working with the horses while receiving counselling works both mind and body together. Check out her website for more information, but if your child is an animal lover (even if they aren’t), this is a great place to be!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – A guide for parents and their children written by Dawn Huebner. These books are AMAZING!! There are a few different topics but wow they are all fantastic!! A great visual for facing fears, dealing with OCD, worries, dealing with a bad temper, bad habits, afraid of going to bed, etc. Click on the link above and it will bring you to amazon.ca where you can read the description and reviews. These helped our family TREMENDOUSLY!

I hope these help you like they’ve helped us!! If you need anything else, send me an email at wellbalancedlife@rogers.com and I’ll see what I can do!

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Surviving the Holidays

Christmas is GG’s favourite time of the year! She would talk about it all year round if we let her! But it can also be extremely stressful. She is filled with excitement and wonder and worries and questions! OMG the questions and comments about Christmas are never ending!

She worries about being on the nice list, she worries her elf will have lost her magic, she worries about how she will control herself around all of the food and she is stressed because we are so out of her regular routine, we don’t know what we are doing from day to day.

Here are some things we do to enjoy the holidays…

Schedule for the Day/Facing the Unknown: We try to keep as much consistency as possible. We keep to her scheduled eating (breakfast at 9:00, snack at 10:30, lunch at noon, snack at 2:30, dinner – when it’s ready). But over the holidays when we are visiting friends and family we let her eat 3 small treats or 1 large one if there is a display of food. We are fortunate that she will follow these rules even if she doesn’t like them.

We will write down a schedule for the week on a piece of paper and/or a whiteboard in her room. If we don’t know what we are doing we still make up a schedule but it just says “Stay at home”.   Some children (and adults) will benefit from a stay at home schedule that includes ideas of different activities they can do while at home. Such as 9:00 Painting, 10:00 iPad, 11:00 outside play, etc.

Change of Plans: If you have already told your child you will be doing one thing but then plans change unexpectantly, you can make up some little cards to help. The trick is to have these cards and bags handy. Store some in the glove box, your purse, by the door, etc.

Here is an example:

Change It Up!

Take Your Pick:

-Chew a piece of gum

-Choose a toy from the bag

-Take 5 deep breaths

-Suck on a candy

Hand your child the card when telling them about the change of plans. (Always introduce and teach a new strategy – such as this card – before needing to use it. Role playing works great)!

Getting a toy, piece of gum or candy distracted GG enough to get over the change in plans. She never chose the deep breaths! Lol The bag is just a small bag with a drawstring from the $ store filled with some characters, stickers, lego pieces etc. (also from the $ store). You can use pictures taken from google images instead of words if your child doesn’t read (or is too upset about the change to read).

Allow Downtime: We also allow more down time than usual. Spending time with other children is very difficult for her. As much as we try and encourage her to play when other children are visiting, we don’t bug her too much during this time of year if there are large crowds. For us, the holidays are not a time to teach play skills because it is too overwhelming for her to retain anything.

Every child is different and I’m sure each one of you has a challenge that occurs year after year. So instead of making this post too long, write a comment or send me an email with some of your difficulties and I’ll try to get back to you with some specific strategies. (The best I can without visiting and seeing you and your child in person). You can reach me at  wellbalancedlife@rogers.com

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Sibling Sanity

Having a sibling with special needs can be very rewarding but it also comes with it’s own set of challenges.

The first part of this post is really me bragging about my kids but it’s also to give you hope that things will be ok! Feel free to scroll down to the strategies section if you’re short on time. 🙂

Starting with the great benefits, our children are extremely accepting, patient, supportive and kind. (Maybe not always with their sibling, but when necessary, they will always defend them)!

They are always making friends with other peers in their school/class/team/etc. with and without needs.

When my daughter was young, she always invited the children who normally don’t get invited anywhere to her birthday parties or out to a movie. Not because she felt bad for them but because she could see beyond what others may be intimidated by and genuinely liked the friendship they built together. Whether that friend had autism or was just quirky or was socially “different”.  She always sees the good in people.

GG’s brother has a heart of gold too. He is sensitive and kind and extremely thoughtful when it comes to others. If he does do something he shouldn’t to fit in he has major regret. Together we come up with a way to make things right. But if he sees someone with special abilities being treated unfairly, you bet he will step in.

I believe growing up in a family with special needs has opened their eyes to the challenges, heartaches and struggles that any child or adult may go through. They know that everyone has their own story and their own struggles and to not judge anyone because of that. Seeing their sister grow up to be a young girl who wants nothing more than to be accepted has shaped a part of who they are. We couldn’t be more proud of all 3 of them.

Here are some strategies to try out during those difficult moments:

The Screaming Meltdowns: This sucks! No other way to put it. When someone is screaming for hours, you just want to cry yourself sometimes. It is loud, annoying, sad and just plain awful.

If you have another adult or the kids are old enough to go out on their own, send them outside. Give them a few dollars to walk to the store for a treat (make sure they eat it all before coming back)! Walk to the park, go for a drive, wherever you can go.

If they can’t leave the house or are young, try setting up an area in the house they can go to when the crying is happening. Have a few pillows, a bean bag chair, iPod, iPad, headphones, books, lollipops (you can get some healthier ones at Homesense, Marshalls or Winners). Basically a hang out spot where they can go to chill out. A little tent for smaller bodies to sit in would be fun too!

If your children are older and/or have to get their homework done, a space in their room for this helps out. If you have room, set up a desk area. If space is tight, get one of those lap pillows with the hard top they can write on. Have headphones with an iPod or some other music source or try out some noise reduction headphones! They work great!! It doesn’t block out the noise completely but does a pretty good job. Just google or check out amazon.ca. Look up EAR PROTECTION headphones. You can get a pair for about $30.

Time Consumed by Needs: Let’s face it. Our child with needs takes up a lot of our time. And that’s ok! We are happy to help her! But you have to remember to make time for the others. Kids AND hubby or wife.

We have what we call “Special Time” with each other. That is 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 time with each child. As often as we can, we schedule time on the calendar for both their dad and I (or just one of us) to do something with one of the kids. It’s called Special Time because we are together. It doesn’t matter what you do. It could be going to the park, out for dinner, skating, sledding, visiting the library, even hanging out at home watching a movie on our iPad snuggled up in bed. We even have “Talk Time” where we hang out in our room just talking about stuff.  Once a year we schedule a bigger outing. We would head out to the city and go to a Disney on Ice show, or Monster Trucks. My husband and daughter have been going to see the Nutcracker Ballet for 11 years now! It might be an overnighter at a hotel where we swim, jump on the beds and get room service. It’s great quality time together that is all about them. Not their siblings. Just them. And it’s precious.

Make sure to schedule time with your partner as well. We try to plan a date night once a month. It might be a dinner, movie or even lunch during our lunch break from work. It’s hard but we try not to talk about the kids. Although I don’t think we’ve ever been successful with that! Lol Make sure to schedule this on the calendar. Even a walk after dinner.

If you need someone to watch your children find another family who you trust that you can take turns watching their children also. Or a young teenager who has experience (maybe a sibling) is a great choice too. A teacher or educational assistant that works with your child at school is another great option.

Click here for some respite support services you can tap in to for Ontario residents. I’m sure no matter where you live, there are supports in place. A quick google search should help. If you still need assistance, send me an email and I’ll see what I can find out for you.

Hopefully this helps but if you need more help with something specific, send me an email. We’ll figure something out together!

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