It has been ages since I last blogged for a combination of various reasons. The main reason however is that I am frantically trying to write a book while simultaneously balancing family life, the Christmas build up and a very, very hyperactive, short-tempered and in constant need of one on one attention ten-year old daughter. This is the first window of opportunity that I have had to put my fingers to the key board in the knowledge that I may have more than ten minutes free time. Ignore that last remark my son has just arrived in the room in need of his jeans ironing. I thought it was too good to be true I’ll be back in ten.
- The good news is that following on from my last post is that Mollie’s bloods are now within the normal range for cholesterol and glucose which has been a huge relief. I have a doctor’s appointment for early Jan to discuss the borderline heart prolong situation and so the issues that had thrown me sideways on my last post are hopefully all now being resolved.
- Mollie has been referred back to local services for the prescription and monitoring of fluoxetine. Following much of a do with basically no local psychiatrists wanting to take us on they eventually forced, oops I mean found someone who was willing to grab hold of the baton.
- As this is Stoke On Trent my PDA official diagnosis from the ENC is apparently null and void and only of any use if the person reading it actually believes in PDA which is frustrating to say the least.
- Hopefully, in time and by treading carefully I do hope to make some headway with my local authority and their current stance on PDA.
For many people Christmas is a magical time of great joy, excitement, festive cheer and good will to all men. However for many families living with PDA it is often a time of increased stress, anxiety, challenging behaviour and the requirement of extra reserves of patience. I dread Christmas and I breathe a huge sigh of relief each year when it is finally over. Hopefully this may change in the future and Mollie may reach a stage of being able to handle the excitement and the pressures of Christmas without transferring her difficulties onto us to soak up in our already saturated emotional sponges.
So why do our children find Christmas so difficult to handle, here are a few ideas and theories that have helped me to understand although the understanding doesn’t always help me to cope.
- Our children already have huge difficulty in waiting for anything let alone a whole year for a sack load of presents. As the day looms closer the ability to wait can become unbearable and the need to fill the gaping holes of boredom can transpire into very hyperactive behaviour needing full one on one constant attention.
- They may become increasingly worried about what the presents are, what if they don’t like them, what if they present that they have dreamed of doesn’t show up.
- They are surrounded by the presence of Christmas everywhere they look and many TV shows and films depict the perfect Christmas which they desperately want to copy in every detail in order to fulfill their perceived expectation of the perfect day.
- The big day only arrives once a year leaving little room for error and only a very small opportunity for everything to go exactly as planned. The expectation for everything to go exactly as planned must be met and this can cause huge anxiety and the need to control the whole day.
- If a family Christmas is the norm, as it is in our house, then there are even more people who can inadvertently upset the apple cart and ruin the plans. This can further intensify the anxiety and the need to control even more people may make the child appear even more manic.
- Christmas Day is the ultimate change in routine without knowing how it will pan out.
We often here the term ‘Bridezilla’ used to describe the anxious, stressed out bride to be. Her wedding day is supposed to be the best day of her life when everything must go perfectly. The organisation and effort that goes into the big day is massive and nothing or no one must be allowed to ruin it. As the big day looms she may become even more anxious and stressed. Will the flowers arrive, will the bridesmaid dress still fit Chloe now that she has put a few pounds on, will my parents behave with the in-laws, will the best man be trollied by the time he makes his speech and so on and so on. The bride may become more anxious, stressed out and snappy because everything must go to plan on the day. Is this how our children possibly envisage Christmas but also with the additional stress of having to wait for their presents which is almost like a drug addict waiting for a fix.
Mollie’s behaviour changes drastically several weeks prior to Christmas and slowly builds in intensity until the big day. Following the big day we usually have the low which is also accompanied by challenging behaviour until, eventually, her normal routine begins to establish itself again. She is snappy, bored, needs lots of attention, very controlling, even more avoidant and we can have a return of the physical release of tension. When she was younger it was far worse and meltdowns on Christmas day were not uncommon. It is still so very difficult but with skillful handling and careful management we endeavour to try to manage the day without a meltdown.
A Few Tips That May Make Christmas A Little Bit Easier
- For the Christmas build up the best plan of action is to grit your teeth and get through it as best as you can. Trying to fill the days up with activities and lots of attention can help but this isn’t always possible at such a busy time of the year.
- We do the same thing every Christmas Eve which has made this day a little less traumatic. We go to the local panto, have an evening meal and then come home and watch a film. This may not be suitable for all children but it works for us. If a panto is too overstimulating then simply having some sort of Christmas Eve routine that is devised by your child, in order to help them feel in control, may help to stem the anxiety.
- This year we also plan to introduce a Christmas Eve present as well in the hope that the relief of an early gift may stem some of the anxiety associated with waiting for it all in one go.
- Mollie makes her own Christmas list and she knows exactly what I can or can’t get her from the list. She doesn’t like surprises and she needs to know what she is actually having. An odd surprise, in addition to her must have list, is fine of course but the surprise of a present that she didn’t want at the loss of one that she was expecting to receive would be a disaster.
- Mollie has a lot of input over Christmas day and the itinerary of the day is negotiated.
- Adult members of the family work to a rota of one on one time with Mollie. It doesn’t always work but we have found that if at least one person is always available to do what ever she wants at any given time that it does reduce the need to control the whole group.
- If she is occupied and focused on her new gifts with an adult then it does appear to reduce the manic episodes of over excitement and promote calmness.
- The routine of the family all sitting down to watch the Christmas Doctor Who special also helps to bring some order and familiarity to the day. Again this is a routine that was introduced and is still instigated by Mollie as is the Christmas Eve routine.
- Mollie is, now she is growing older, actively involved in food preparation and party organizing which again helps to reduce anxiety and helps her to maintain a sense of control.
I apologise in advance for the shortness and potential inaccuracy of this post. I have written it at a very speedy pace in a rare moment of free time from Mollie.
I would just like to wish all of the lovely people who follow this blog or who are randomly reading this post a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and I desperately wish that all of us can experience a very peaceful and uneventful Christmas that passes us by calmly and without any major blow ups or meltdowns.
Christmas Day is a very tough day for the PDA army but at least, thanks to the internet and support groups, we are all in it together and we can share our successes, disasters and more importantly know that we are not alone.