Helping My Son: where the many, many thousands of dollars spent on this counselling degree pays off

Sometimes I think that getting this counselling degree has only made me realize how crazy and ill-fit to counsel others I am. But not tonight.

Let’s step back exactly two weeks, to the moment in the last morning of my week-long Marriage and Family Therapy course (the course that was like stewing in your family’s dysfunction for 8 hours a day; the day when I was the most exhausted after 15+ hour days of non-stop studying; the exact moment when I was listening to a lecture that nicely summarized what some of my issues are) when I got an email from Luke’s teacher saying that she thought he may have ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome. Was I in an emotional state to handle that email? No. Had I somehow connected with a great group of ladies during that week-long course that I had support when the inevitable breakdown happened? Yes, very thankfully, yes.

I drove home from that course shortly thereafter knowing that my life may change — or at least my perspective on life and Luke. We went for our pediatrician’s appointment a few days later about another issue Luke has been having and the pediatrician said that we could book a behavioural assessment in the next month or two, which we will. So we have no certainty that either of those two things is going on yet. But even having those thoughts in my mind has made me see Luke and his struggles in a different way. I think I have become more patient with him. I try to listen more and I try to get inside his head more and see things from his perspective. It’s all too easy to think (and then say), “Seriously?! You don’t need to worry about that!” But he is legitimately worried, and worried about a lot of things, and I need to be there for him and love him through the worries.

So tonight Luke and I had a long conversation before he went to bed about how God knows us, knows what’s best for us, and helps us. It was a good conversation, I thought. And so I was a bit annoyed and confused when (in my mind) he side-tracked the conversation and started talking about the kids who tease him on the bus. I told him that he didn’t need to think about the bus right now because he was on Easter break and wouldn’t be on the bus for over 10 days. But he said that he always thinks about going on the bus and he wishes he didn’t have to go.

And this is where the counselling degree started to pay off. I’ve been learning a lot about the use of imagery and connecting parts of the body to emotion and so that’s where I went with Luke. I asked him where he felt all of the nervousness and worry when he thought about the bus. “My mind and my feelings,” was his response, “In my head.” I took his hand and told him that I wanted him to grab the worry out of his head and give it to me. He said, “It’s locked.” I told him I had a key, and I turned the key on his head, unlocked that part, and held out my hands and he put the worry from his head into my hands. The feelings were locked up in his heart, so I unlocked his heart and he handed over the worried feelings. And then his said he sometimes felt those things in his throat, too; unlocked; handed over.

As I had my hands open and holding those things, he said, “But now you have to hold them. Where are you going to put them?” I put my hands toward my chest and I told them I would hold them very close and he didn’t have to worry because I’m a grown up and I can handle these things and God can handle them too. We prayed. He seemed to relax and he has gone to sleep tonight without a lot of commotion and unrest, as so often accompanies his falling asleep.

I know a simple exercise like that won’t cure his anxiety. But it was a good way for him to see that he does not have to hold onto those things. And, like so many things in all our lives, I think the simple act of naming the fear is important. The part of locating it in the body is actually really revealing. When you think about something and have an emotional response to it, where is it? For me things are often in my throat or just outside/above my eyes or maybe in the pit of my stomach. At this point I don’t know what all of those “parts” mean, but I know that it gives clarity to what I feel. Pictures often come to my mind after that and I see the situation more clearly or maybe in a new light. And then you walk through the situation a bit more. Or you talk it through with someone. Or, best of all, you think about it and hand it over to God, because he’s there with his hands out-stretched, just like mine were today, and he knows the whole thing most of all.

So, tonight, I’m glad that I could take a little counselling exercise and help Luke picture his troubles and hand them over to me… even if I don’t always feel capable or that I know the best way to help, I am there and sometimes (often!) being there is all it takes.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

10 Responses to Helping My Son: where the many, many thousands of dollars spent on this counselling degree pays off

  1. Maureen says:

    An awesome exchange with your Luke. I am in tears.

  2. Randall says:

    When I was first taught that approach I thought it was a bit, goofy. Your body carrying physical pain and discomfort in physical places, and that discomfort being connected with emotional stress. (this is apart from the stress can make you sick reality)

    We’ll it’s turned out to be a powerful tool to use on myself and with others. Even addressing the pain or discomfort to find out the emotional clues can be a great help.

    I wish I had had some of those tools when our kids were younger.
    Good work there Dixie.

  3. Renee says:

    Beautiful.

  4. Heather Plett says:

    Hey Dixie! What a great way to get Luke to “unlock” his feelings, and hand them over! I love it, and I intend to use the same thing in the future if I need to.

    Have we ever talked about James having something called “Sensory Processing Disorder”? I have spent time with Luke, and whenever I do, his behaviour has always reminded me so much of James. When you have him assessed, mention this to the OT (or whoever will do the assessment). SPD has a lot of similar traits to ADHD or Aspergers. I have a nephew with Aspergers, and the fact that Luke has good social mannerisms makes me think this is not what he has. ADHD I suppose could still fit – but SPD is something a little different yet. I got a GREAT book, “How to Raise a Sensory Smart Child”, and it deals with all three of these issues, and provides a tonne of great ways to help your child cope. Look into it if you can – try some of the suggestions and see how it works.

    You can email me anytime to chat about this more.

  5. Toni says:

    Dixie – I think you did really well there.

  6. Carissa says:

    Well done, Dixie!! I’m proud of you for how you handled it, and I’m proud of you for sharing this “awesome Mommy moment” with us. All your work and learning with your counselling degree will be abundantly beneficial with your parenting, I am sure! 🙂 (I am, however, a little surprised that the teacher felt an E-MAIL is an appropriate way to share her question/concern…….). I have a boy with some anxiety too…..I always thought baby stage was the hardest I’d go through – the emotional stuff these years is much harder, and I’m not even to teenage years yet!! 🙂

  7. rebs says:

    I like the idea of figuring out where you are feeling it in your body.

    Thinking of you as you wait for that assessment.

    Your email has changed, right? Do you still want to get our updates? If so I need a new email address for you. Thanks, rebekah

  8. Nicole says:

    This was so beautiful to read and though I know there are still so many unknowns I can almost feel the peace and relief that you must have felt in the exchange between you and Luke. As his momma you will know and understand him best and I think your unfailing love for God and trust in Him will be the best guide as you navigate these new waters. Love you.

  9. Emma says:

    sometimes just being there isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to listen to what he’s telling you and actually find a solution for the problem – the ‘teasing’ on the bus. If he’s being bullied and its causing him great anxiety – even over Easter break, then he’s trusting you to help him solve the problem or remove him from the abusive situation somehow. Talking and caring and exercises are great for helping him deal with the feelings, but he has told you what’s happening because you’re his Mom and its your job to help him. I think he relaxed because you led him to believe that God and the exercise would somehow solve the problem but God helps those who help themselves and in this case he handed this over to you and trusts you to listen and to help him – with what he’s actually experiencing and not just the anxiety its causing.

  10. Dixie says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Thought I should follow up on a few things, though I”m not sure people read blog comments much anymore!

    Carissa: the teacher emailed me because I was away at my class and we were going to meet the pediatrician the Monday immediately following when I got back. I’d emailed her and asked her to give me an update on how Luke was doing in school and so that’s why it was in email form. She kept apologizing for contacting me that way, but I didn’t mind at all.

    Rebs: I will get you my email address! 🙂

    Emma: Thanks for your comments. We’ve been doing other things about the bus and other things with Luke. This post was just a snippet of the story. You’re right sometimes just being there isn’t enough. But I think being there and being attentive is the best place to start — and often those things are missing. Even being attentive to ourselves we often miss!

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