Your child is in the emergency room again while you stand there feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. Your child comes in the back door from school and you notice he is sporting a black eye and a split lip. You discover your adult child has been in an abusive relationship. Have you ever noticed that when our children are in pain – whether that pain is physical or emotional – parental guilt seeps into our minds? We begin to doubt parenting choices and we wonder if we could have prevented the harm they have fallen into. Added to our already overly doubtful mind is the guilt of not being able to give 100% to our child’s problem. We experience irrational behaviors of not eating well, becoming sleep deprived, not taking breaks or exercising.
As a mom with a high needs child, I understand the desire to physically protect and to want to be there emotionally 100% of the time. However, without taking care of ourselves we may not be strong enough to continue through the long haul of issues they must get through. In an airplane when there is a crisis the oxygen masks drop down. We are to put on our own oxygen mask prior to helping our children put theirs on.
Here are some survival tips to incorporate during a crisis with your child.
1. Surround yourself with supportive people who really care. Do not expend your energy on people who try to “one up” you. For example, if you share something with someone and they say “oh, I know exactly what you mean…” and then make their story larger than reality that is called a “one up”. If you leave the conversation feeling like you are carrying their burdens as well as your own, this is a clue that this is not healthy for you right now. Trust your instincts.
2. Get back to the basics in life. Eat balanced meals, drink water rather than caffeine, exercise, breathe deeply, sleep, meditate and take guilt free breaks.
3. Become knowledgeable about the options for your child’s recovery.
4. Lean on your faith.
5. Live in the moment. Playing the “what if” game intensifies your fears and sense of helplessness.
6. Make sure you keep your own medical appointments.
You are capable of going the distance with your child’s crisis but only if you take care of yourself as well. Remember: put your oxygen mask on first.