Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Community Meetings With Nolan

I have anxiety. 

Back when I was little, I was known in my family as the 'worry wart,' but now that I know more about myself and anxiety, I know that incessant worrying was anxiety.  I do not hide my feelings well at all, so when I wasn't in a good mental space- everyone in my family knew about it.  My sisters, brother, and parents were patient, they were kind, and I can't tell you how many times they (especially my mother, who is an ANGEL), allowed me to verbally process my worrying thoughts out loud to make sense of them.   

My mom said this quote to me constantly- "Stop worrying. The bridges you cross before you come to them are almost always over rivers that aren't there."

I also had this quote from Matthew 6:34 posted all over- "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

It's MY CRAZY, people- you all have been reading about it for YEARS. I am aware of it, I recognize it, I can label it, and often times I can help it go away on my own.  It is such a part of who I am.

Being anxious has actually given me a lot of great things- I plan, I prepare, I anticipate. I out-work and out-try most people.  I'm thoughtful and conscientious. I take the lead.  I'm prayerful (being a pray-er sure does help a worrier, I'll tell ya).  I deeply, deeply care about the well-being, happiness, and safety of those around me.    

Anxiety has also made my brain a very busy, a very crowded, and a very hectic place. I'm rarely calm. I'm a control freak. I overthink things. Most significant is that I often spend too much time worrying about stuff I shouldn't even be thinking about (see above quotes). 

Thank GOD I have naturally low blood pressure. Seriously. 

I have also produced a son who is most likely an anxious worrier too. He struggles with changes, asks questions CONSTANTLY about our schedule, who's working, what's for dinner, what day it is, which parent is putting him down for bed, if anyone is driving anywhere today.  He needs to control things and does not like the unknown.  We also have to role play a lot of situations with him beforehand to make him more comfortable.  

He also has the positive, wonderful things a worrier can posses- he is literally the most thoughtful, aware person I have ever known.  He takes care of others always before himself.  He rehearses, and practices and is 'ready' for things he can prepare for.  He thinks and prays for people he loves often.   

I want ALL of him, even his anxiety, to feel supported, safe, and loved by us.  I want to give him tools to verbally process and label how he's feeling, to problem solve how to help himself, and strategies to calm himself down.  Thankfully, I understand him, which gives us a really strong foundation.  

Lately, our newest idea in supporting him is doing a community meeting or morning meeting at the beginning of each day...

I steal lots of good parenting ideas, including this one, from being an educator.  "Good" parenting and "good" teaching might as well be synonyms as far as I'm concerned.  A community meeting is how we start our time together each day in our classroom.  It is probably the most vital minutes I plan for- to build relationships, build safety, and build a community where voice and choice are important.   

So, each morning, usually at the breakfast table, we have a community meeting.  I give Nolan a play-by-play of what I know of our day and give him information on how the other important people (grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc) will spend their day as well.  He asks me questions and we often talk about upcoming things too.  Even though I may be doing this for Nolan, Judah and Carter like it too.  As Nolan asks questions throughout the day, I will redirect him back to our community meeting to help ground him and calm him.  It's also a great way to check in with listening and comprehension too ;) 

Is it THE solution to someone with the wiring of a worrier?  No.  No way.  But it's a start and it's a help.

Seeing your behaviors, neurosis, and quirks reflected from another human being has been a fascinating part of parenting.  The opposite is also equally intriguing- having your children act in ways that are so very different from you...

Observing Nolan lately has helped me reflect immensely on the example I'm setting for him through my own actions coping with anxiety. He NEEDS to see me be flexible and adaptable and handle it gracefully.  He NEEDS to hear me talk about how I help myself and problem solve when I worry or feel out of control. He NEEDS to observe me being patient and staying calm when chaos might emerge.  He NEEDS, most importantly, to see me be okay with who I am so he can be okay with who he is.