Tuesday, November 1, 2016
My teenage daughter struggles with anxiety and depression. She's been in therapy off and on for a couple of years to help manage it. The last few years, her anxiety has kept her from trying or caring about her grades in school. Her whole school life, up until the end of middle school, she was a straight A student. And then in the 8th grade she quit on herself. She'd have a few good quarters, a few good grades but a lot of "did you even try" grades to go along with it. I've been praying and crying from frustration of it all, not because of the grades but because of her attitude about it. "I just can't, it's too overwhelming, what does it even matter?" I know her, I know what's she's capable of, but what I don't know is what it feels like to manage depression. After seeing these disappointing report cards, at first, I was really hard on her. Punishments, taking away things, controlling her plans-- and I got nothing! No reward came from that. After a few failed attempts at punishment, I figured I needed a new approach. These last few bad reports, I'd take a moment to sit in the frustration of it for myself, cry if I needed, vent to my husband, pray, cry some more and then deal with her. I'd sit with her, tell her I'm proud of her no matter what she does, remind her how amazing she is, what I know she's capable of. Discuss her future with her, express some disappointment "only because I know you're brilliant. I've had years to witness how amazing you are, you've always been. I am sad that you let how you feel take over what needs to be done. I know you think you can't. I hear you. I feel that same thing sometimes and what I do is-- do it anyway. No matter what it feels like, I do it anyway. And I know this is my grown up self, it's what I am capable of because I'm an adult and I've learned it. Practiced it. But you don't have to do all that figuring out, I did it for both of us. Do your best, ok? Go to sleep at night knowing you did your best that day. That's all I ask." Then I kiss her, hold her and leave her alone. No yelling, no punishment. And I never bring it up again. Do you know how hard that is for me? But it's not about me. It's not what I want for her. It's what she wants for herself. I am not the one who has to do the work and I am certainly not willing to try. I can't cushion it for her and punishing her for not wanting it for herself wasn't working. I prayed. I cried. I dealt with it and left it at the feet of Jesus. I'd ask her about school work casually, she's assure me she was on it. I saw her put in some work, tried to help manage her schedule, offered to iron for her, help with her hair, fix her random snacks upon request. I pretty much tried my best to minimize any load she was feeling or fix anything that was causing her anxiety. I had some "get Mali out the house" initiatives because he requires so much of her and she struggles to deny him her time. I listened to her, sensed her needs, minimized her load and prayed for her and for myself...
At the beginning of the school year she said she felt overwhelmed by the course load, so we discussed what we thought she could manage, together went to guidance and Dropped AP English, dropped Spanish 4. Added AP History, French 1 and Child Dev. Kept her Pre Cal and her all VPA music classes, even though she wanted to drop those too, but then she wouldn't have been on stage with Obama singing her little heart out
Yesterday on the ride home from Shenandoah University for her VPA trip for a Music Therapy class, she told me her grades and I cried (bad idea, try not to have any cry moments while you're driving in traffic). Cried because I am so proud of the strides she's made, the anxiety she's overcoming, the effort she gave and the 3.6 she earned. Yes, a 3.6!!! Glory!
.So many takeaways... you pick!
Mental illness is real. Pay attention and do something about it If you don't know what to do, get them professional help! Talk to someone, there is no shame in it.
Children need your attention, your patience, your unconditional love, your support. Don't treat them like little pets that you just want to do as you say. They are people with voices, needs. It's your responsibility to guide them.
Prayer changes things. If I weren't at the feet of Jesus, I'd be crazy and she'd be crazy from me going crazy on her.
... the list could go on. But you take from it what you choose.
One thing about me though-- I am not one of those check SchoolMax for my kid's grades kind of mom. My mom just trusted me to do my work and I did it. My brain hasn't transferred over into this new technology of knowing kids' every assignment and school move. I have yet to find the time or energy to concern myself with checking up on her. Idk if it's a good thing or not, probably not. But I am a working mom with a full load. What am I really supposed to do if she doesn't turn in an assignment? Storm the school? Punishment? I've already determined that doesn't work for us. She doesn't need a tutor. She's smart, she just didn't care. I'm not gonna punish myself by taking extra time to sit with her. Who's making dinner while I do that? When will I sleep? I will just keep praying and trusting.
My advice: do what works for you. Continue to encourage your children and love them through what ever they are going through. God speed!
That is my peace!