I keep having many people ask me how Sidge is doing since our move and the initial difficulties he had. (I wrote about his struggles in this post.)
Let me begin by saying that our Elijah "Sidge" is completely back to himself. We really see none of the behaviors that plagued him so terribly during the two months that followed our move to the States. We are so incredibly blessed by this. THANK YOU to all of you who prayed for him and encouraged me with similar stories or experiences. I am especially blessed to have a husband who is a physician and a very wise man. He was so wise in helping me, as a mom, learn how to deal with what Sidge was going through.
We still aren't sure if what we witnessed in Sidge was depression or just a breakdown of sorts. We probably won't ever know. But what I do know is that if you think kids don't feel stress ... you are dead wrong. It was as if the moment we got on the plane and headed back to America, the Sidge we knew disappeared. There is no way that the behavior he exhibited was not related to the situation we were encountering.
My friend Stebbins witnessed it when we stopped to stay with her for a few days before continuing on to Tennessee. She took Sidge out one-on-one a bit to try and give us a break from trying to comfort and listen to him and was equally shocked by how deep these emotions in him were. He was plagued by questions and concerns that so permeated every facet of his thinking that he literally couldn't go more than a few minutes without needing to talk about what was troubling him. Literally, I looked into his eyes and didn't see him there. Sidge was vacant and missing.
JB was so wise. He helped guide everything we did with Sidge during this time. He told me that if we could follow his list of guidelines, we would have Sidge better within two weeks and back to himself within two months and that is nearly completely what happened.
But I wanted to outline a few things that we specifically did in the case that any other parent might find themselves trying to walk alongside a child battling intense stress.
- We shrunk his world: We purposefully kept Sidge home. We limited any visitors. We avoided anything else that might cause him stress. This was not easy. This required disciplining ourselves to benefit Sidge, but it was incredibly helpful. When we did start to broaden his world, we took baby steps and only bit off small bites at a time. We didn't have visitors -- even close ones -- and avoided any changes. I cancelled a trip to Chicago for my grandparents anniversary. We made hard choices that were the best choices.
- We listened: As hard as it was to hear Sidge say these troubling things about what he was thinking and feeling, it was imperative that we listened to him. He wanted to talk nearly non-stop about his fears and concerns. These did not have to directly with moving so some parents might not have realized the association. He simply had concerns about death, being arrested, being hurt or lost -- things like that. With three other kids needing my attention, it was sometimes hard to listen to him over and over again, but he really needed that.
- We minimized our concern: Around Sidge we used phrases like, "Oh that's just a silly thought." "I think things like that too." "Yeah, that's a totally normal feeling to have." Anything that could help confirm that he was normal and feeling normal things was vital to him.
- We emphasized health: We really worked to get him good nutrition and rest.
- We encouraged comfort: We tried to do things that he enjoyed -- books, games, movies that brought him happiness and felt comfortable.
- We avoided anything dark: We totally stepped away from any movie, book, story that could cause him any stress. If it was slightly "dark", we didn't let him see it or hear it.
- We encouraged happy: We found a musical playlist that brought him joy and tried to talk about upbeat and happy things.
- We prayed: A LOT.
I hope that no parent has to watch their young child plagued by intense stress. But if you do, I pray that you find encouragement through our story. I feel like we have a pretty ordinary family. We are happy and upbeat and not high stress with no major drama. And yet we still watched our little boy truly impacted by a major life change.
Our kids feel stress. They feel the big changes. Take the time to truly pray for them and stand alongside them especially in times of change. They need us!