Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tiny mental progress for me

Today wasn't a whole lot easier than yesterday. Not as many crazy appointments and errands. But TT made up for it by freaking out a bit more.

I did manage to figure out the trigger. It seems so obvious now. But in the thick of the crazy, I couldn't see past the end of my nose.

TT was super, duper, way majorly excited about schooling at home this year. He got a little nervous after all the curriculum arrived in the mail. But he really didn't like his experience at the brick and mortar school at all. It was horrifically negative and stressed him out horribly. He has always responded well to me teaching him things. We're a family that thrives on learning. My kids are very used to "teaching moments" all the time. I've seriously been surprised by his reaction to homeschool.

That surprise, on my part, has been part of the problem. I didn't see this freak-out coming.

So today he had some more lessons to do. He started out fine. But as soon as he reached a part of the work where I actually needed to "teach" him something...he. freaked. out! I didn't realize what the trigger was until much later in the day. I worked up as much therapeutic mojo as I could muster and we continued to plow through.

He took breaks. I had him do a little bit of physical exercise. I made sure he ate. I used every trick I could think of short of putting away all the school work. The idea of doing that didn't sit well with me. The online school is very much easing the kids into the amount of daily work they will be expected to do all year long. As of today, he only had math and language arts. It really shouldn't have taken him longer than 2 hours max! Putting that away simply because he was freaking out didn't seem to me to be a good way to start out the school year. I don't want him to get behind and I didn't want to set a precedence.

This is an actual public school. So while it looks like we are's not "traditional" homeschool. He is expected to keep up to a pace. And I know TT is capable of this. He always had outstanding grades in brick and mortar school.

After the day was all said and done – and TT managed to finish everything – I finally realized what the trigger was. I pieced together each fit and saw that they all started when I was trying to teach him something.

I don't think he's freaking because he's not confident in my ability to teach him. This, I think, is all very much shame based. He's scared to death to make a mistake in front of me. It's almost like in the back recesses of his mind he thinks I won't love him or care for him if he doesn't understand something.

TT's anxiety is through the roof. At least that's what I'm calling it. Once he starts to get dysregulated, his anxious thoughts take over. He becomes convinced he cannot do what I'm asking. The flopping starts. The baby talk starts. The falling all over the place starts.

And it doesn't stop – even when the schooling stopped. Everything was long done and put away by the time Dude came home from Head Start. TT went upstairs and was trying to make a stop-motion video with his legos. Dude seemed to be very interested in things and wouldn't leave TT alone. Rather than ask for help, TT FREAKED out!

He came downstairs next to me, flopped on the floor and then literally "forgot how to get up". I cannot begin to describe this accurately. Only someone that's seen this kind of stuck behavior would really understand. TT was on the floor by a corner and could not get back up.

He begged me to help him up. I knew that if I did, things would only escalate.

So instead, I got down on the floor with him. I laid down right next to him. I continued to empathize with him. I said it must be very scary to not be able to get up off the floor.

When he started to scream at me to move, I played his game. I told him I couldn't remember how. The small smile behind the freak out told me I was headed in the right direction.

He was still stuck though. Very, very stuck.

So, I tried another tactic. I acted like I suddenly remembered I needed to do something. (See Christine Moers' video "when our kids are stuck" on YouTube.) I acted like I remembered how to get up. I verbalized the entire process. As I was doing this, saying things like, "Oh yeah, my hands go here and I push up with my arms," I added in things like, "Oh my! I just remembered I need to do something. Come on TT. Come with me. I need to do something." When he continued to lay on the floor, flop and whine, I walked away and out of his eyesight.

He was curious. Not curious enough to come with me. But I had his attention. He kept calling out my name. Despite the fact he had spent the last five minutes telling me to go away, he was now calling at me telling me to come back.

I came around the corner, ignored the fit and said again, "I just remembered. I need to do something. Come on. Come quick. Come with me TT." We went back and forth for awhile.

Eventually he let me take him by the hand and help him up. I moved quickly as far away from the fit spot as I could go. Unfortunately, because I've got foster kids, I can't just up and leave the house. This would not be practical with three extra kids with me and I can't leave them in the care of anyone but Mr. Amazing...and he wasn't home from work yet. So, TT and I went up to my room. I shut the door and continued to act a bit frantic myself. Like I was looking for something.

By now TT knew exactly what I was up to. He somewhat flopped down on my bed. It wasn't a "fit flop" though. It was more of a relief flop.

The end of this wasn't all fantastic and earth shattering. But we did get a chance to reconnect. He let me touch him. He made eye contact with me. He accepted my love and returned it. And we talked about a couple things he could do to avoid having issues with Dude like that again.

The rest of the evening has been freak-out free. I'm hoping that now that I know what the trigger is, I can possibly head things off tomorrow before they start. I'm certainly not holding my breath. But it's worth a try.

1 comment:

C Dawn's bucket said...

One of my boys reacts like this to things he perceives to be too hard or as having no solution. Something that works sometimes is for me to be up front and tell him that it is okay to freak out if he needs to and maybe joke a bit about ways he could freak out if he felt like he needed to and then also talk through things he could do other than freaking out. I make sure all of the options are really okay. Often proscribing the behavior and spelling out options verbally is enough to avoid the freak out and have him take one of the other options.

Glad you were able to see what the trigger was.