This is the first blog in a series exploring how we can assist our children through the emotional ups and downs of life by using complementary therapies; helping them to build self-esteem, confidence, resilience and self-love.
“There’s nothing to do. It’s boring” she screams over and over at the top of her voice. It sounds like someone is trying to throttle her as she flings her body repeatedly down on her bed. It’s bedtime and she has been told that she can’t play on her tablet. She doesn’t like being told no and she’s damned if this is happening. We re-live this scene over and over again for weeks on end.
But being told ‘no’ is not what this is actually about. Here’s how it began…
August 2014. My now ex-husband and I separated after 19 years of being together. Our relationship had been dying for a number of years but like so many I wasn’t brave enough to end it. There were 2 main reasons for this: my husband’s intermittent mental health issues and our 2 children. Was it fair to withdraw my husband’s main source of support and was it fair to change the lives of my children so completely and so finally? After endless months of deliberation and with much trepidation I decided the answers were ‘Yes’. Having a mum who was happy felt like a far more valuable gift to give them than a desperately unhappy mum in an increasingly loveless marriage. I also wanted them to, at least at some point in the future, be able to see and experience what a loving relationship between 2 adults could look like.
But. All that said. It hasn’t been an easy ride. I’m lucky, perhaps blessed, because my children have been pretty resilient. They’ve done amazingly well; more so than myself and my ex-husband in many ways. They have been largely accepting of the changes and in some respects their ages of 8 and 5 (6 and 3 at the time of separation) has really helped them. My daughter, the eldest of my children, has had some professional counselling, which she found helped her. My son with the benefit of his age and his naturally carefree attitude has not (yet) felt the need for any outside help. Understandably and expectedly my daughter still experiences emotions she doesn’t know how to process. She’s not alone as many adults also struggle in this area. My daughter struggles to vocalise what she’s feeling and even when she’s able to say if she’s unhappy or angry she’s unable to explain why. She shuts down and therein lies the challenge and her area for personal growth.
I feel for her I really do, and not just in a way expected of a mother. She’s dealing with complex situations and emotions. As well as the separation 21 months ago, her father suffered a bout of depression 16 months after the separation. This was a difficult time for everyone, especially her father, but I underestimated the impact that this would have on my daughter as it was only as her father conquered the depression that her behaviour started to change.
How did her behaviour change? Imagine a toddler tantrum being played out by an 8 year old. Screaming, stamping, hitting, crying, flinging herself around the room and more screaming. Constant screaming which went on for up to 30 minutes at a time. Every time I went near her she would get worse and scream louder. There was no talking to, or reasoning with her and yet ignoring her went against every instinct I had. It was disturbing and exhausting for everyone, including I suspect, my neighbours. The next morning she was unable to explain what had happened or why it had happened. There was no recognition of previous events whatsoever.
I was worried. More worried than I’ve ever been, and as a mother I’ve experienced plenty of worry in the past 8 years. I felt helpless and didn’t understand why she was acting like she was. I quickly discovered that she didn’t act this way for her Dad…and then the self doubts and criticism about my worthiness as a mother really began. I’ll be honest; I thought that she didn’t like me; that she wanted to live with her Dad. I ultimately felt like I was losing my daughter and I was failing as a mother. Intuitively I knew that this was not true but my ego was going to give me a beating before my higher reasoning kicked in.
I needed a plan. I needed to be able to find the tools she could use to help her ‘self-soothe’ whenever she got so worked up. I started looking for another counsellor as her original one was no longer available but not being able to wait for an appointment before any sign of relief for her, I turned to what I know best. What I didn’t anticipate was the profound effect that using complementary methods with my daughter would have. Her moods improved, she started talking about what the problems were, she slept better and she was able to control her emotions. It also had a profound affect upon my emotional well-being in unexpected ways.
This experience has led me to put together a 6 week programme outlining the steps we have taken, what works, what doesn’t, and what we would do different (given the benefit of hindsight). We’ll explore the use of crystals, meditation, yoga, gratitude, EFT and affirmations to name but a few.
Please Note: the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for appropriate medical care. Should you or your child have a medical condition you are advised to contact your GP or other appropriately trained health professional.