Category: Emotional Resilience

7 Things I’ve Learnt From My 7 Year Old.

7 things I’ve learnt from my 7 year old.

Freddie has recently turned 7 and I’ve been reflecting on what a 7 years it has been. I’ve learnt so much more than I could ever have anticipated during this all-consuming, heartbreaking, joyful, overwhelming and love like no other time.

1. A wealth of knowledge. Considering I haven’t trained to be a Doctor, I have been asked more than once if I have a medical background by the medical professional I am seeing. I know more medical terms and information than I ever thought possible without actually being a doctor. All very interesting but I have to be honest, I wish for the most part, I didn’t know all of this.

2. How to communicate with family, friends and strangers with compassion, rather than anger. Both about our situation and in response to their, often misguided or insensitive, comments. This is a big one, not just for me but for so many families I know living in the SEN world. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are good and kind. Most people don’t mean to upset you when they stare at your child. They are often just interested but can’t take their eyes away quick enough whilst their brain processes what they see. Many of the older generation don’t intentionally mean to use totally inappropriate language and ‘labels’. They use what they know from the era they grew up in. Most of the challenge here comes from a lack of education around these subjects. I see it as my ‘job’ to educate everyone on Freddie’s needs and this brings acceptance and inclusion rather than staring and fear.

3. Patience in the bucket load. For someone who is and always has been notoriously impatient this has been a very steep learning curve for me. I’ve had to learn patience in abundance. I’ve still not totally mastered the art but I’m better than I ever thought Iwould be. I’ve needed patience with myself, Freddie, life, the system and so much more. It’s an ongoing practice which I try to master daily.

4. People are kinder than you think. Most people want to help in any little way possible. Often they don’t know what to say or what questions to ask. They feel silly and unsure of your reaction. That old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is totally correct in my world. If you are feeling alone, vulnerable and isolated then just those few simple words ‘please can you help me’ often bring great reward. It takes courage to ask for help, I know. It might just be for something small but it might help you out hugely. Not everyone can help with everything but some people can help with some things. Those people might be friends, family or professionals. Give it a try.

5. You can meet some truly incredible people. This is certainly true for me. If I lived in ‘Plan A’ in a ‘mainstream’ world only, there are so many amazing people I would never have met. So many inspirational and kind people who I wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing. So, for this I am grateful.

6. I am more powerful than I ever thought possible. This is you too. Eight years ago when looking into my future and the plans I had, I would never have believed how upside down my world would turn or how powerful and empowered I would become. I have had to get to total rock bottom before coming up and I still have those times when I feel broken but mostly I am up. I would never have imagined advocating for another human being in the way I do for Freddie and for the rest of my family. I would never have imagined I would set up a mentoring business to support other parents just like me. Building this tribe of empowered SEN parents is amazing and I love how far people can go with the right skills and mind-set. I never would have believed that after having Freddie and all the heartbreak and stress that I would think it was a good idea to have another two children. These three decisions have been three of my best.

7. Love. A love like no other. All parents out there will confirm, I’m sure, that they would lay themselves down under a truck if it would save their child. They would do anything for them. This is absolutely the case for me. Even when they are driving up the wall and back down again. As a SEN parent though, there is something even more primeval about it. I think it is because many of our SEN children can’t advocate for themselves, they are vulnerable and need support forever. The fear is real and the desire to give my all to Freddie and helping him achieve his absolute best is unmovable in me.

I love my husband and my three beautiful children more than anything. I’ve learnt such a huge amount in such a short space of time. I only hope I’ve got the capacity to learn more as Freddie grows and finally work out how to do fractions, tricky maths equations and English homework as Bella and Jago grow up. xx

 

 

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When You Have To Admit You Are A Family With Special Needs.

This might seem a weird thing to say. Especially when it is clear that Freddie has Special Needs. I’ve always known this, even in the early days of denial. Of course I have. This is different though. This was the moment I realised that Ollie and I and Bella and Jago also have additional needs which require support.

Our needs are not due to a disability but they are as a result of Freddie’s.

Up until now, everything I have been working towards has been focussed on advocating for Freddie. Getting him everything he needs in order to fulfil his potential and happiness. Advocating for him is something I will always do. I have also been working  hard on  my resilience the past few years, in order to keep going and thinking about how to support Jago and Bella as they grow. That that isn’t enough anymore.

I’m not shy in asking family and trusted friends for help or a favour but this is the next level up. We have always coped well in most areas but life is changing. Things are supposed to get easier as your children grow but we are in some respects, finding the opposite. I am having to change my viewpoint on how we are coping. Physically it is getting more challenging for me and for Ollie too to some degree. Plus, I admit I get freaked out at the thought of taking all three somewhere, like the park, on my own. To the point where, I rarely do. It’s hard work with the extra support that Freddie needs. I see other Mum’s out there with their three children  and feel like a bit of a failure that I don’t do that with ease. However, the Mum’s I’m looking at, in general have three neuro-typical children in tow, so I try not to beat myself up for it.  I’m getting better at it as Bella and Jago are becoming older and more self-sufficient so that’s a positive.

We are also tied to time with Freddie’s school drop off each day. This impacts what out of school activities Bella can do and those which Jago will want to do. The Mummy guilt always steps in here. I am doing enough for each child? With thanks to a good friend, Bella gets to go to gymnastics once a week so the pressure is off for a little while. What happens as she gets older and wants to do more? Weekends are a challenge with Ollie’s work schedule and Freddie being at his most tired and challenging on a Saturday.

All these little things that seemed a normal part of family life (in my vision of what I thought it would look like) I used to take for granted. The things about raising children that never occurred to me are starting to show up.

These are just a couple of small examples of the challenges of wanting to and trying to run a typical home when the family has additional needs. They are minor when read in isolation but add those to all the challenges on a daily basis, both physically and emotionally, including all the meetings/therapy/behaviour challenges/paperwork/organising etc it all gets so overwhelming.

I have always been determined not to allow Freddie’s disability to define me or us as a family and this is a belief I still hold. What I’ve realised though, is that in order to keep to that way of living as closely as possible, we need help. We are not a typical family. Freddie needs a PA, he needs respite and we need respite. Bella and Jago need respite. We need it booked in and organised. I need more physical help when Ollie is working the incredibly busy summer season at work. I don’t do failure very well and I’ve always had the determination that I can achieve anything. These wobbly times have been rocking that belief a little. I haven’t liked it. I also don’t do being out of control very well. So, with the things I can no longer cope with, I’m taking control in another way. Admitting we need support and going and getting it before it gets too bad. It hasn’t been easy to admit I can’t cope. It’s taken being close to breaking point and ‘encouragement’ from my family and friends little by little to get sorted.

Note to self: don’t be so stubborn and take more of my own advice.

xx

 

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Bella Is My Superhero

My children surprise me all the time. They infuriate me, drive me bananas, make me laugh, swear and cry but I love them all with all my heart.

Even during the toughest times, there can be shards of light. 
The past few weeks/months have been, at times, totally exhausting and mentally draining for me and Ollie. We have been at breaking point often.
Freddie has been experiencing some challenging behaviour, pretty close to what looks like a panic attack. Other times, he is just screaming blue murder. Most mornings and most evenings. He never does this at school and rarely in front of anyone else. We can be with friends and they don’t see it and he doesn’t do it to his Grandmas. This is a huge positive but also frustrating that no-one really sees what we deal with.
We are taking to school, our GP, Skybound and a specialist Paediatrician to see what we can do to help him. And us.
However, a really big concern of ours is how it all affects Bella and Jago. It takes time away from them. It causes friction and upset in the house and makes us all very tired. Jago is too young to understand what’s going on but these things still affect little ones. Bella on the other hand is only five years old but understands so much more. She says such grown-up things at times that I wonder where she gets them from?

Her words often cause me to silently cry whilst we have our last cuddle at night. I don’t want her to know I’m hurting but the tears just come. Sometimes through sadness and sometimes because of words which are bitter sweet. A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly bad evening, she said “Mummy, I wish Freddie’s brain hadn’t been injured before he was born. Then he wouldn’t scream so much.” Me too. It nearly broke me hearing those words. Her understanding was key. She is so knowing.

We have had some other pretty upsetting conversations about how she is feeling but I’m always grateful we are close enough that she can talk to me. These lines of communication are essential. I hope this will be the same state for Jago as he grows.

You remember I said at the start, “Even during the toughest times, there can be shards of light.” Well, last night we had one of those bright moments.
Freddie was having what appeared to be (most likely was) a panic attack and I was flying solo for bed time. It was horrific but Bella was amazing and Jago too.
After it was all over, Ollie was home and Freddie was calm and happy, we had our last cuddles of the day.
I told Bella what a wonderful sister and daughter she is. How much I appreciated her help and how much I love her. We talked a little and she said “Mummy, I know I can always count on you.” I responded with “Of course. Always and forever.” And then she said “And you know you can always count on me don’t you Mummy? And Daddy and Freddie and Jago. Oh and Teddington, they can all count on me too.”  What an amazing, sweet and brilliant little girl.

Siblings of children with special needs have it tougher than those without, for so many reasons. They struggle with their emotions and feelings but hopefully with the right support we get through it together.
Bella is my Superhero.

Taking Little Bits Of Imperfect Action.

This past week has taken a more positive path for all of us in the Mann Household. Sometimes you need to get to breaking point with overwhelm and let it all out to enable you to start again.

I have finally got myself started with running, using the trainers I bought recently. Having been hit by a car, as a pedestrian, when I was 17, I’m always really nervous of causing more injury to my already dodgy back. Hence why I’ve always rejected the idea of running.  However, with the encouragement and slight ‘peer pressure’ from friends (you know who you are), I have started slowly with a Couch to 5k. I’ve completed my second go and I’m feeling pretty good about it. My bum muscles really knew about it this week mind you. Ouch. Biggest muscle, most pain. No cardio exercise for about 15 years would explain why I was in so much pain after running for only eight minutes in total. It can only get better from here, right? Teddington couldn’t work out what I was doing? It’s like the children’s faces when I get the ironing board out. “What’s that Mummy?”

I need more energy to continue with the pressures I have and more strength to continue to physically support Freddie. Plus, I want to know I’m doing something practical to do my best to live as long as I can for Freddie and my other two. He is going to need me for a very long time.

I’ve taken action, albeit little bits of random action, to make some changes in lots of areas this week. Including getting some support for us with Freddie in managing some of his challenges. Talking it through with friends and having a couple of coaching sessions myself to work through some if the areas of overwhelm. I’ve got a better plan in place for the interim now.

Here is to getting through the next two weeks Easter Holiday unscathed.

 

 

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When You Teach Your Child A New Swear Word!

By mid week of half term this week, I was totally and utterly mentally exhausted and had massive auditory overload. I think my name had already been said/whined about 6k times. None of them listen to anything I say. By the 8th time of “Please sit down and eat your tea” or “Please take your shoes off” or “Please get out of the bath” or “Get off your sister” or “Give it back to your brother” (you get the picture) I was pretty much loosing it.

To top it off, I’ve managed to ‘teach’ Bella to say bloody. In context. 😬 The words uttered were “Argh, this bloody Lego.”  as a half built something went crashing across the floor. Parenting WIN. Yay, go me. Oh dear! Hangs head in shame.

I wish I was one of those Earth mothers who got the whole week right, beautiful activities suitable for each child and nothing but fun and laughter. The kind who takes photos of their food maybe, for Facebook, or who always signs off with #soblessed. Come on! This is the real world. This is my real world of three children, one with special needs. Laughing, fighting, whining (A LOT), cuddles, tears (occasionally mine) and fun.

There are some fantastic, funny and lovely times but honestly, some moments are just soooooo hard. So hard in fact I decided to read a book I’ve had on my shelf for a little while The Yes Brain Child by Dr Daniel J. Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson. I realised, as I was going through the book, that some of the techniques discussed are tactics I use mostly with Bella and actually for myself in prep for stressful situations, often pretty successfully. However, by Wednesday, I wasn’t in the right positive/resourceful state to access that knowledge in the moment so I had a total parenting fail. The whole day at every turn.
After Wednesday’s diabolical morning, I decided to get straight and start again. I tried the Yes Brain technique with Jago and bingo. It worked. I doubt it will work every time but by the end of this week I am feeling far more in control of myself and able to parent better. Sometimes life just gets a bit overwhelming there for a moment doesn’t it?

The great bits of this week. Bella learning to ride her bike and Freddie being able to participate in this regular family activity. Going to the theatre with friends to see The Ginger Bread Man and the smiles on the children’s faces. A very lovely friend taking time to check in with me, recognising  I was overloaded.
Seeing how pleased my grandparents were to spend a little time with the children. Taking Freddie to a friends party and seeing how much he truly enjoyed himself and how pleased his friends were to see him. It really made my heart swell. He cracked me up at the end. No inhibitions about asking if there was a party bag. Little monkey. I had a really great time with him.  Plus, Jago has taken to calling me ‘Queen Mummy’, got to love a Mummy’s boy. Big bonus at the end of the week, Ollie and I get to have Friday night curry and wine with good friends and the children on a sleepover at Gogoos to give us a nights respite.

Don’t you just love it when you take about ten photos and still can’t get all three to look at the camera and smile. 

Phew. A nice dog walk in between helps to clear the mind. Five minutes meditation in the shower with the door locked each morning and Prosecco. These things all help.

I love my spirited and challenging children. Must try harder to be calmer though. Lack of sleep doesn’t help. Think I might go to one of those strange gyms each week in the run up to the summer holidays where you can just sleep for an hour to prep myself.

Just having written down the good things that have happened this week has made it feel a lot better. If you are having a tough day, write down the good things that have happened and those things you are grateful for. It gives me great clarity.

I hope everyone has got through their half term in one piece. xx

 

P.S.

If you purchase anything via the links with Amazon in my blog posts, I receive a small commission at NO added cost to you. This just helps me a little to maintain the website and continue to provide useful and empowering resources for parents and carers of children with special needs and disabilities. Thank you. x

It’s Almost Impossible To Escape

October is a really shitty month for me. A difficult, sad and stressful month. The 23rd October brings around again the anniversary of my Dad dying, followed by his birthday on the 24th. A double whammy.

When I’m talking about Emotional Resilience, on here, Facebook or at my workshops, I am usually referencing it with regard to having a child with Special Needs. However, something I share is that it is also something I have been practicing in other areas of my life. Often that resilience is needed to cope with the big life events like watching your father die and at other times it’s dealing with smaller situations or perhaps how you allow others to make you feel.

Nine years on and in many ways, it doesn’t feel any easier. I’m not sure it ever will. However, I know the signs better now and have strategies to see me through. I arrived home from school drop off and walking the dog on wednesday morning. Ollie just knew, straight away, that I was crumbling. I hadn’t really been thinking about Dad or feeling sad but suddenly the swirl of emotion started to bubble up from deep inside. I totally believe having a god cry is essential. Let it all out and start again. Although, I hate crying because honestly, I don’t look or feel good for it. I’m one of those red, blotchy, puffy frog eye types of criers. Not attractive and requires multiple re-applications of make-up to look reasonable.

 

Can’t resist a cheesy 1980’s moustache & psychedelic shorts photo. Me and my Dad at the Duxford Air Show.

Within the Getting Your Voice Heard Workshops, I talk about getting into the right state to cope with upcoming events/meetings etc. Within that practice is understanding that we experience life with all of our senses – taste, sight, touch, smell and sound. This is also how we remember our experiences. That’s often why you will smell a fragrance and be reminded of a loved one or perhaps, like me, the smell of Skips reminds you of the time you ate too many as a child and vomited. Never ate them again I can assure you.

This is what was happening to me. Unfortunately my senses weren’t allowing me to get into a positive state this time. The whole month of October was spent going to and from the hospice on a daily basis. Everything about the month of October reminds me and takes me back to that point. Walking the dog, how the air smells, the mostly sunny days, dew on the grass, cool in the evening, conkers on the floor and the light of the day, the rapidly approaching decay of life and of season into Winter. It’s almost impossible to escape it.

So, although I am often taken by surprise, I am more aware and prepared for it. I advance book to see my Osteo, one of the only ways I can release the tension build up. I spend time with Ollie and the children because apart from the fact that I love them, it’s almost impossible to have two minutes to myself to get caught up in how I’m feeling. I have failed slightly this week but I’m conscious of getting an early night. Everything is so much harder to cope with when sleep deprived. I take big doses of vitamins,  try to eat well (on top of the chocolate for comfort) and drink more water. Seeing friends for Prosecco also seems to help. Who knew? Getting the balance of distraction and rest is key for me.

This is how I cope when I’m dealing with more stressful times with Freddie too, which is why we talk about all of these things to understand what emotional resilience is and why we need it.

The past few weeks have also required me to try to impart some of this to my four year old, Bella, as she started school this September. New environment, new friendship circles, new rules – new everything. It’s mostly extremely positive and exciting so far but unfortunately, there has been an older child who has been ‘picking on’ Bella and her classmates. Nothing particularly serious but a little daunting non the less when you are only four years old. We have talked about how she can handle it and what course of action to take. I too have, of course, raised it with her teacher. I hope I’m giving her the right tools to deal with it, especially if at any point it becomes more serious. Something I am incredibly mindful of though is that children and adults for that matter, rarely act out unless they are struggling. Perhaps the child is unhappy, worried or fearful about something and feels more in control when behaving in this way? Who knows? What I do know is that the child needs compassion and support. The earlier it is spotted and worked through, the better for everyone. I also know how I would feel if it was my child behaving in this way. I would be gutted. It’s possible for any child to start acting out for a whole variety of reasons. I’m conscious that being the sibling of a child with special needs brings with it many emotions and challenges. I can only do my best to give her the resilience tools she needs and hope for the best. If she was ‘picking on’ others I would hope for compassion towards her and to me as her mum until it could be resolved.

Emotional resilience is always a good thing to practice. We are human and humans suffer at times. We need compassion and ways to cope so that we can enjoy life during the fantastic times.

Keep an eye out for the next set of dates in November for both Getting Your Voice Heard – How to be a Velvet Bulldozer and Emotional Resilience – The Ebb & Flow of a Special Needs Parent, in conjunction with Entrust Care Partnership.

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