Thursday, September 9, 2010

Questions about Dealing with Stress in Kids

I think I need some help on this one.  My daughter is almost eight.  She is usually a happy, well-adjusted, obedient, cheerful girl with lots of giggles and a bright sharp mind that loves to think deeply.  She's intelligent and well adjusted socially with one best friend and several good friends.  She's loved school, but hated math - which she can actually do fairly well.  She's a good reader and doesn't really struggle academically at all.

She is used the her parents traveling at different times, and while she will miss whoever is gone, she had been fine with it.  We would enjoy a few special things we could do while daddy was away like snuggling her into my bed a few nights or eating macaroni and cheese which daddy despises.  She was usually fine.

This last spring, when things went wrong and we thought we had lost her daddy was tough on us all.  We are all changed some because of it, but we are slowly adjusting and managing.  She, however, is not improving on some of her stress symptoms.  Along with all that went on, she had a minor medical emergency in the middle of all the stress and I ended up doing a procedure on her at home which was extremely painful - but there was no way in the situation to take the time to take her for help, and it would have hurt at the hospital, too.  After I flew out to meet her daddy on his way home, my mom flew in and the poor girl had to go for some more uncomfortable tests and visits with new doctors.  She did fine, but all this added to her stress.

Since spring, she has become very clingy at the thought of either of us going anywhere.  Even if I go to work on an evening and am not home at bedtime, she cries.  If her daddy is late, her tummy hurts.

I haven't told her yet that her daddy has a trip coming up.  He'll be gone for a few weeks in October - somewhere safe, not back to where he was!

Right now, we are having problems at school.  Our little school here is small, so the kids only switch classes every two years; they have split grades.  Unfortunately, this year is a change classroom year for her.  Change is not really what she needed right now.  She grew increasingly quieter and sad as school grew close to starting.  I assumed she was just a little nervous about the bigger grade with more work and tried to reassure her.  The teacher in that class is not really known for being so personable.  I think she thinks she is friendly, but she is a little... well.... hard to warm up to.  But some kids do love her, and I didn't think my daughter would have any problems in there. 

But she sobbed her eyes out before the first day.  She came home with a huge tummy ache and sobbed all evening again.  I've spoken to the teacher and had people watching to see why.  It doesn't seem to be anything about the class itself or the new teacher - it happened even before she went.  She just tells me it is horrible because it isn't the same.

It seems that she's lost her ability to cope with any change or unknown.  It gets her horribly stressed out, and she can't handle her feelings then.  Her tummy cramps up and she wants to throw up.  She can't think rationally and melts into tears.  She had never been much of a crying kid before.

It's hard to see my baby sad.  I don't know how to help her.  Don't know what I should be doing.

And I'm beginning to worry... what will she do when she finds out daddy is leaving on a plane again?

Anyone got any ideas on how to help kids who have gone through stress?

Interestingly, my kids are just now beginning to talk about that time.  "When Daddy was missing, ......."
But she seems to have gaps in the facts - things she does not remember, or she remembers wrong.  She told me all about her medical testing and meeting new doctors and getting her blood drawn and insisted that I was there with her - she remembered!  I reminded her that I had left by then and Grandma had taken her, but no, she was sure she remembered me there with her holding her arm.  I wonder.... we shared a few times in our church group here and once elsewhere the whole story, but we put her in the nursery.  She's too old, but we told her she could "help" out.  There were just some details of the story we thought it was better that she didn't hear.  Now I am wondering if we did the right thing or not.  Should she have known it all?  But then again, knowing everything could push her farther into stress.

Today, I feel guilty for scooping her up while she was still sobbing and depositing her on another mom's lap so I could make some urgent phone calls to try to find safety for our friend, another kid's daddy.  I know I needed to do it.... but my own daughter needed me then, too.  I pried her arms off my neck and dumped her in my friend's lap... 

Anyone have any experience in helping this little of a kid through stress?  What do I need to be doing here?


Shan in Japan said...

No experience in this, but will be praying! Praying for your daughter, for you, and for those who do have advice to give some!

Lynn Pottenger said...

I have been reading your posts for a while and have been praying for you. I don't know the whole situation, but I might have a resouce for you.

Try going to this site. This group is based in Nairobi, but has dealt with missionaries in trauma for several years. They were very helpful for me and my team after a severe robbery. They have some resources on working with children after traumatic events. You might even be able to e-mail one of the counselors for advice. I hope this helps! Praying for your and your family!