For today’s blog, we welcome Christina Keller. Christina is a Developmental Specialist with Bachelor’s of Science in Child Life Psychology and a Master’s of Arts in Clinical Behavioral Applications of Psychology. She also a mother of 2 and has spent years teaching special education and working in early intervention. We are both lucky to call her a colleague and friend. In our work as early interventionists, she is often the team member who is called in when a challenging behavior problem stands in the way of developmental learning. I often joke and say “Call in the big dogs” (meaning Chrissy) when a behavior situation is way over my head. Time and time again, I am amazed and encouraged by her knowledge and creativity in dealing with behavior problems and her compassion for families in extremely tough situations. Mental illness often doesn’t start at 20 years old. We see significant signs in the toddler population and the challenges for families in getting help starts at this young age as well. We are proud and thankful for this piece that Chrissy has generously shared with our community and hope it enlightens all readers to the problem our nation must address.
Open Letter For Any Family
You asked me for behavioral support. Your beautiful, sweet child has moments where
things get scary. There are loud screams. There is kicking and biting. There are words
of hatred being expressed at the top of their lungs. The siblings are scared. The family
has stopped inviting you over. You can not go to church, or shop. Sometimes there is no
sleep- too dangerous to leave your child unsupervised. You have called ambulances
before but everything is calm once you reach the hospital, and so you are returned
home with no help or answers. Everyone is exhausted and sad. This doesnʼt happen
every day. Sometimes you take a deep breath and realize an entire week went by
where everything seemed okay. Then it rains. And you cant ﬁnd the matching yellow
sock that must be worn on rainy days, and a hole is punched in the wall.
The bedroom has no furniture. It has been thrown or ﬂipped too many times. The
kitchen has all utensils hidden. What can you do next?
I wish I had better answers for you. In mental illness behavior is unpredictable. Some
days everyone can cope, other days begin and end on the wrong side of the bed. Here
are some possible supports I can offer:
1.Keep a calendar- just a simple smile face or frown face. Bring it to the doctor/E.R. Tell
them this is the chart of behavior. You will have good information to share- and
something called documentation.
2.If you notice a pattern ﬁnd respite for your other children on days you know will be
tough. It will ease the stress of trying to support everyone at once.
3.On good days, practice coping, turn it into a game, just like a ﬁre drill. It may not work
on intense days, but hopefully may decrease the amount of intense days you have.
Or decrease the intensity.
4.Practice a physical activity for all days. Running, stretching, jumping. It will release
some energy and stress for everyone.
5.Do not feel guilty. There is no control in this situation- only safety.
6.Do not give up, love your child. Even though you are angry and family is critical your
love is the most important emotion of all.
7.When help is offered accept it. It is hard to feel you are putting someone in danger,
but just having another shoulder for a few minutes will help.
For those of you with family or friends trying to navigate a very difﬁcult mental health
Little things like grocery shopping make a huge difference. Helping siblings gain
opportunities to have a play date at someones house (offer your home or to bring them
to a friends house), or a ride to an activity mean they can still enjoy their childhood and
not be stressed and angry as well. Let the parents know that you care. Acknowledge
positive interactions you have with a mentally ill child. Share with the parent any
moments of kindness or positive interactions you have witnessed. Let them know you
can see the bright side too. Isolation is one of the side effects that go hand in hand with
mental illness. Community is one of the best supports we can offer- and only needs to
cost our time.
Imagine from: http://www.facebook.com/momastery?fref=ts