It's the holidays which means most parents of kids from hard places are struggling. Me too. Hopefully your family had a good Christmas, but I know many of you are worn out. Even if your high-risk child, teen, or young adult made it through Christmas Day, you may have had the morning-after-meltdown which feels like it robbed the fun moments you did experience.
I call it the "Hundred-Pound-Steel Ball Drop."
My son can now make it through a busy high-stress day around large crowds, but for him it's like he has carried around a hundred pound steel ball, and he's got to let it drop sometime. And that drop will be on me!
I'm often asked how I keep going on? Isn't it so exhausting? Will it ever end?
I don't have all the answers, but I do know I have to go back to what I know works. And that is helping him feel safe, connected, and that there is a parent on board who "gets it."
Here's three little rhyming words to help us keep on keeping on:
Pray - Play - Stay
Pray - Prayer changes me as much as it changes him. It keeps me connected to my Abba Father whose presence keeps me sane (Well, mostly...) on this tough journey. Prayer does change him too. I've seen it so many times. He's growing, learning, improving in spite of the permanent damage he suffered in utero. Prayer shifts my focus to reliance on the Holy Spirit rather than on myself - which causes all kinds of fear-based responses that are not so pretty.
Prayer lifts my head so I can move forward with hope.
Prayer connects us.
Play - Play is the language of connection and safety at our house. If we let the hecticness (red squiggles, so not a word) of life choke it out, we will suffer. Whether it's a fun day of baking together, laughter watching a silly movie, hot tub night, or a fun outing, we have to keep a playful relationship to have connection and keep those brains regulated - ours as well as his! For those of you with littles, try a fun activity of homemade GAK or some creative child-directed play that doesn't involve a video screen. Check out the TCU Institute of Child Development's DVD, entitled "Playful Interaction" for some great ideas.
After a time of disconnect or a post-holiday meltdown, I know I must get back to play and connection to get our relationship back on track.
It's when he thrives.
It's when I most see his preciousness.
It hits the "reset" button.
Stay - Stay the course, no matter how bumpy. I choose to stay with him through the hard times. That may mean a time of temporary retreat for self-care, but my message is "I'm still in this with you." I will stay by his side and help him feel safe. I'll give him more chances to get it right. I'll connect with him, talk with him, help him learn and grow, even when I sometimes want to run away.
That's what connected moms and dads do.
How do you keep on keeping on?
P.S. Pray, Play, Stay is a great mantra for your marriage too, just sayin'....