Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Relating To Our Children From Hard Places At Christmas

Christmas that wonderful time of year when stores are filled with toys, music and lights, there are family gatherings, class parties, gifts and food, plus blinking lights are glowing from houses as we drive by.

   Christmas, the time of year when meltdowns and tantrums intensify, when already hyper alert children are even more overstimulated than usual and sugar and special treats are handed out freely. The time of year when the typical child can easily become overwhelmed and children who find daily life a challenge are left reeling.

I know it sometimes looks like we are depriving our children when we say no to a treat you want to give them or when we remove the toy with lights and sounds and give them a book to read instead. If I may, I want to give you a little insight into why we parent our children differently than the typical child as well as explaining why we stick rigidly to our "rules."

Children with FASD and/or attachment disorders need 24/7 supervision. That level of supervision is not learned in one day, one week or even a year. We have been parenting children that need this level of supervision for a number of years and quite frankly, we have a long way to go. So, even though you may think you will keep an eye on my child, and I don't doubt you will do your best... we know how quickly he can get into trouble when your back is turned.

Our child isn't trying to be "naughty" he simply has no sense of cause and effect. Which may not sound like a big deal but our child doesn't understand that he will get burned if he touches the flame on a candle or that throwing heavy toys down the stairs could hurt someone. Our son is 8 but he needs to be watched and cared for like a 3 or 4 year old, something that is easy to forget.

Sugar. Our son and one daughter don't tolerate sugar very well, however another daughter calms down when when she has sugar and caffeine (in moderation). So if you want to give our child a treat ask first. Our children won't be embarrassed nor will they feel like they are being deprived when we say no to your request. Oh they might grumble and fuss but they know why we say have to say no sometimes. If you give my child a treat that I know will affect his mood, attitude or behavior and I have to take it, he will feel worse than if he never had it at all. Our son may ask you for food but please ask us before you give him anything because he does not know when he has had enough. Nor is he above asking you for more food when we have told him he has enough. 

Toys that make noise easily overstimulate our son. Please don't be offended if we turn down the toys you give him and choose something quiet instead.

If you want to spend sometime with our son such as reading him a story or playing a game, feel free to ask and please don't be offended if we say no. 

Our son does best when playing one on one. If he is playing with a friend and when your child joins in, we tell our son to play by our side, please don't think it is because of your child. See, our son has a hard time following social cues and trying to keep up with more than one friend makes his brain work overtime and he is soon into trouble or becomes upset.

We may appear overly strict about following rules and bedtimes. We would love to slack off over the holidays but our children do best when we keep them on a schedule. I am not talking about having a grumpy child the next day because he got to bed late the night before, but about the child who will struggle mentally and emotionally for a week or more.

Our children know we keep a close eye on them because we love them and want what is best for them. Nevertheless, because of their early childhood experiences, they know that there are parents do not always take care of their children, so they are quick to doubt our love. When the other adults in their lives are willing to abide by our decisions, it goes a long way in building trust. They are able to view adults as a united group who really care about them, instead of people to divide and conquer.

We would like nothing more than to have our children run and play with their little friends but first they need to learn boundaries both for their safety and for your child's safety. We are striving to teach our children that mom and dad meet their needs. While it may look like they no longer struggle in that area, the truth is, while they may not remember what happened when they were babies their bodies remember and the feelings of neglect and fear can be triggered by a seemingly harmless interaction and we need to continue practicing the safety measures we put in place until the child has healed from his trauma.

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