I hope our story helps enables you to calm anxiety in one way or another.
My little boy is super anxious and suffers from severe separation anxiety. Every day he faces challenges and obstacles that take all his energy and efforts to overcome. That is a huge weight to carry around for such a little guy.
It can be very challenging and at times it does interfere with daily tasks.
This fall he started kindergarten.
After a summer full of fun, I knew starting school was going to bring challenges.
I thought for months about ways to ease the transition. I wanted to make sure he knew without a shadow of a doubt that:
1. He was going to be ok.
2. I was coming back to pick him up when the day was over
3. He’s loved.
4. To have fun.
Sounds like a pretty typical list of expectations as a parent of an almost kindergartener. I mean, after all he is my 3rd child. You’d think that I’d have this down by now.
But I didn’t. Because this little boy has different needs.
He is autistic.
It was time to think out of the box and come up with ways to help him succeed. I was ready to help him in any way that solely supported his well being.
My initial thoughts were to send him with a stuffed animal for comfort. Of course! He could take a little piece of home with him! In a way, it was enough, but it wasn’t! So I thought more.
I thought about taking pictures of his classroom, teachers, aides, and members of our family to put in a photo album that he could call his own. Then he could have something to look at for comfort. He even might be able to use it to communicate since he is nonverbal.
My husband and I even thought about homeschooling and avoiding the situation altogether.
But here’s what I knew. He deserves an opportunity to be with kids his age. There was also a great team of educators eager to fill him with knowledge in a playful and safe environment. I had to think of another way help this kiddo manage his anxiety.
I thought about what an anxious little girl I was when I started school. Man was I scared I remembered how sad I felt to have to say goodbye to my mom and how lonely it was staying with people I didn’t know. It was the connection between us. I didn’t want it to leave. I wanted to have that connection, constantly.
How could I keep the connection alive between me and my son while we are apart?
The answer had to be small. A note maybe. Or a rock? Boys like rocks. I should know I’ve been emptying pockets full of rocks for years. It should be something he could stick in his pocket. But when he pulls it out for comfort I could see how it can become a distraction in class. He might even lose it and then a meltdown would follow.
That’s when I thought, instead of a note I could write something on his hand. I got a kids marker and drew a heart on his arm and one on my arm.
I told him that he has mommy’s heart to take to school with him. If he gets scared, worried, or lonely all he has to do is push on the heart to feel my love.
Seriously, this heart trick has saved him many tears. Now that we’re into the school year a few months I’m excited to share that this is exactly what he needed. It’s been working.
It’s so incredibly sweet when he tells me, “Mommy’s heart!” and gives his drawn heart a tap. He is always asking to see mine too, which might soon become my very first tattoo!
I hope that parents can use this same trick to help calm anxiety with your anxious kiddos and bring them comfort even when you can’t always be there.