Sunday, November 21, 2010

Having a thankful Thanksgiving

Any holiday is hard for traumatized kids.  Sometimes it is memories that come flooding back of holidays past.  Those can be good or bad. Either is hard.  Sometimes it is the whole "all strong emotion goes to the flight/fright/freeze" part of the brain and produces chaotic behavior. Sometimes it is the change in schedule makes them uneasy. Changes in food effect us all. They sure do me.

So here are a few tips I've picked up over the years on getting through Thanksgiving.

Getting ready:

Don't start to soon. The further ahead the kids know the tougher it is.

Start by talking to the kids about where you are going, how long you will be there, who will be there and what will be happening. When my kids were young every time we went to any body's house their first question was "Am I going to live there now?"  Changes in homes were common place and yet terrifying to them.  Do better than "NO, you live here now." Give them "I love you and you are my son. You will live with me the rest of your childhood.  Going to grandmas' is a part of Thanksgiving." Share some of your holiday memories from your childhood.

Make a packing list and have them help with the plans. Have them help you pack too so they know you are going to stay too.  Pack some board games and take along some outdoor activities, like side walk chalk if it is warm enough.

Have them help you cook.

On the way there. Play "I Spy", listen to music and keep them busy.  Idle hands are hyper hands.

When you are there:

Do not make food a battle.  DO NOT MAKE FOOD A BATTLE.

Keep them close to your side. Play board games with them. You will be surprised when family members join in and it becomes a family activity.

Take them outside for exercise. They need to release that energy. If there is nothing to do go for a walk, take them to a park.

Be prepared for well meaning family who will want to love all over your child.  If you can prepare them ahead of time and tell them that you are still working on attachment issues with your child and that for now they should be careful about that. Some will ignore you and do it anyway. Let it go if you can't stop it. It is only for  a few days. YES you will have to repair. You will have work to do after the visit anyway. If you have to take your child to a movie, the mall or some place to get away for an hour or so.

Work out a signal. Whether touching your ear. Holding up 1 -4-3 fingers (I Love You) when your child starts to escalate to let them know you understand, you are there, but they need to come to you and settle down.

Use Time In.  Don't set your child off alone in a room if they misbehave.  Set them on the floor next to you and touch them, their should, the top of their head, hold their hand.  If they cannot calm them selves then help them by being calm and telling them I will help you calm yourself.

Keep the sleep schedule as close to normal as possible.

When you get home, go right back to the schedule, eating and sleeping habits your child is used too.  Do a lot of letting them know they are safe. Let them know that you understand that was a hard visit. Let them know that there were times when it is scary and they are safe and warm and at home with you.

It will be a tough week.  Just know if you keep it up that there will be wonderful Thanksgiving's ahead where your child will be appropriate and happy with the relatives.

Oh....And what are you thankful for??? I hope during the focus on your child you take time to think about your own life. It should not be so enmeshed with your child's that you do not know what blessings you have I am thankful for my own little family, extended family, friends old and new, our home, being done with my masters, freedom, and a warm home on cold days. I am thankful for each of you.

Have a healing Thanksgiving!!


Erika said...

Holidays and extended family are so hard to manage! We deliberately didn't travel for the first year and banned all family members for the first six months. Thereafter, we had a 4 day rule for visits (including travel days). That there marked the beginning of much extended family animosity towards the parents (us) and that's okay. My number one concern is healing. Wish there was something convincing I could have extended family read to better support us...

Brenda said...

I'm sorry they are not more supportive. They are doing their best with what they understand though. I hope you have found a way to make your Thanksgiving special anyway! IF so, please share more.

Ericka said...

Thanks Brenda,
This will be our first Thanksgiving with S.
Lots to process.
Hope you have a peace-full Thanksgiving :)

Brenda said...


I hope I didn't scare you. Just keep her busy with you and keep her close by. You will do great.

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