Keeping Calm When My Child Isn't

he'd been ranting at me for 45 minutes. My muscles were tense. The ache in my shoulders crept up my neck and threatened to swallow my head whole.

It wasn't me she was mad at. It wasn't even the trigger she ranted about that she was mad at. It was—almost always is—her mind spinning into Reactive Attachment Disorder and Bipolar Disorder lows. Moments full of

  • obsessing over one idea
  • throwing a fit, complete with yelling and aggression
  • rolling her eyes and responding like I'm her enemy
  • stomping around, making the people near her miserable
  • and loud, tireless arguing that's often not remotely logical.

And I'm there. Always there. In the line of fire. Trying to reach her before I burn to a crisp.

Perhaps you've got a child in your life like that too. One whose internal wiring puts you in the hot seat when you least expect it.

How do we keep calm when our child with hidden disabilities isn't? When they're firing their internal challenges at us with machine gun speed and efficacy?

Caring for ourselves when their hidden disabilities act up:

  • Throw a fit(ness ball). I started back to the gym again this year and here's what I love: I get to work out on the treadmill or with the 80-lb punching bag until I exhaust just about every ounce of angst, stress, worry, fear or anger that wants to set up shop in my heart. There's just no substitute for a flood of endorphines (happy hormones, natural antidepressants) that keeps us balanced when the emotional onslaught comes!
  • Stomp your feet. . . as you go for a walk in the fresh air and get a moment of perspective. Even if it is only around the block, or around the perimeter of your backyard. If running works for your body and health level, stomp your feet a little quicker and go for a good, long jog. Preferably in a place that has lots of green, lots of life.
  • Roll your eyes. . . upward, then downward. Then to one side, and the other. If you don't see anything you're thankful for in that whole visual scan, face a different direction and try again. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), and so do lots of other aspects of this world around us. We just need to choose to see it (especially when life's contracting into a single, miserable interaction with our challenging child!)
  • Obsess incessantly on one idea---Jesus. Falling into His arms. My prayers in those moments become breathing. I noticed that their not coherent sentences or thoughts, they're just breathing scripture in and out, sometimes even simply breathing the name of Jesus in and out, inviting (pleading for) Jesus into the situation.
  • Argue loudly. . . against the powers we don't see, which are constantly looking for ways to destroy us and our kids (see 1 Peter 5:8). We are told in scripture that we have authority in Jesus' name to, if not destroy, seriously maim the enemy's schemes in relationships. So argue away. Pray with confidence, based on the truth of scripture. I'll even start doing this---sometimes out loud---right in the middle of one of my daughter's rants. I don't know how effective it is in halting the enemy of our souls, but it'll redirect my temper into something far more productive almost instantly!

In essence, fight fire with fire. Turn the same ideas that make you nuts in those moments, and repurpose them for something that's life-giving. Because when we face intense moments with equal intensity, it reminds us we're not at the mercy of those situations. That we're not victims, stuck, or powerless.

And that's something that refuels us for the long-lasting challenges we face with our special kids!

-Laurie