Helping Kids When They Feel Overwhelmed

I’m posting this in Parenting as I think it applies to all kids at some point in time, not just the ones who have been through a trauma. As mentioned in Our Story, my daughter was largely calm and collected after the incident. 

Over a year later, five weeks into her first year of proper school, she was overwhelmed. I’m talking exhausted, frustrated and miserable. She tried to convince me she was sick and couldn’t go to school. She suddenly stopped passing her 10-word spelling test every Friday. She even burst into tears at the teacher and begged to go home. 

Obviously, alarm bells were ringing. To the best of my knowledge, kids usually don’t start having a huge dislike for school until they are quite a bit older than my daughter. I spoke to the teacher, repeatedly. I worked on earlier bedtimes – not that my daughter stayed up late anyway – and I stopped pushing her to do her homework on time. By the end of the fifth week, she had asked to skip her favourite after school club, claiming she was just too tired. I felt terrible. How could I help when I couldn’t take the pressure off at school?

I started by treating her to pizza and ice cream on the Friday night. She eats healthy food all week and I figured a treat might kick start a happier weekend. She seemed much more like herself, until bedtime, when she was teary again.

We spent the whole weekend talking about ways we relax. We ate popcorn and watched a movie under fluffy blankets – with one of my go-to scented candles burning. She had a bath, filled to the brim with Radox and bubbles, in hopes of encouraging a really good night’s sleep. We stayed in our PJs on the Sunday, colouring and reading books. 

Still, when Monday morning came with it’s inevitable, looming school run, she was apprehensive. It was only on the way to school that we had a break through. I shared with my daughter my own technique for getting through busy and demanding days: chunking.

Chunking is the practice of splitting the day up into “chunks”, instead of having the whole day stretching in front of you, overwhelming you. I explained that instead of focusing on the whole school day, it would be better to focus on just getting to first break, then just getting to lunchtime, etc. My daughter stared at me as though I had told her the meaning of life – and went into school much happier than she had been the last week. 

I’m not saying that she doesn’t still have bad days, but she has managed much better since that weekend. I still make a point of putting “chill time into our weekends, and having a cut off point on weeknights where we cease all school-related activity. 

What do you do to help when your kids are overwhelmed? Let us know in the comments! 

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