Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Anticipating Your Complex Child's Reaction to Stress

After just losing our furnace for two days last week, a tree fell on my husband’s pickup today bringing the power line down with it. While we were waiting for the power company to arrive I instructed support staff to give Billy Ray some of his as needed medication for agitation because it was clear once they turned the power off we were going to have agitation big time.

Though his “Papa” is a retired electrician Billy Ray does not understand why the VCR doesn’t work when the power is off. Flashlights are kind of fun but that VCR or his boombox better be available on demand or we have issues.

When I was talking to someone about Billy Ray’s reaction, she said “oh I’m sure he just goes with the flow”. NO!!! A tree coming down and losing electricity is stressful on any family but when your child doesn’t understand what is happening to his world all of a sudden it can multiply that stress many times over. He is confused by the change in circumstances and picks up on the stress even if he doesn’t understand. He can become totally out of control and agitated it if we don’t deal with it quickly.

For all you young parents, important skills to cultivate are anticipate reactions, communicating what is going on to the child and adapt as much as possible. I knew he was going to be bothered by service people in and out and the noise involved so we prepared with extra medication and by having him listen to his walkman which toned down the noise at least. Additionally, we took him outside to show him the tree and try to help him understand as best we could. Later we took him out for an early dinner to get him out of the situation for a while.

We still got agitation by nearly seven hours without electricity but we were able to reduce it because we have learned to know what will trigger it.

The ability to think ahead to how your child may react to stressors becomes second nature after a while. When you have a little more warning than we got with the tree coming down you can do things that don’t require medication to deal with the stress. Planning for situations helps your child adjust.

Until tomorrow,
Peggy Lou Morgan

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