Tantrums, and how to deal

As I wrote in my last post which you can read here, there are tons of lessons I continue to pick from my therapy sessions. I am grateful I have been able to pull through the haze that Postpartum Depression is. I realize that the road to recovery is long and winding, and there are many things to learn and many more to unlearn. I did mention that for me, anger and intrusive thoughts were the most intense struggles when I was deep in PPD. I have blogged about this extensively too…and so for that reason, the two entities have been at the forefront of my therapy sessions.

This is the second installment of takeaway lessons from session II when my therapist and I sought to unearth the real issues masked by anger. In the last post, I touched on dealing with my expectations, letting the child be and the anger curve. In today’s post, I will look at 3 more pointers that continue to help me on the road to PPD recovery. Hopefully, this will help another mom as well.

  • Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. Let me write that again for emphasis purposes, and so that you can also read it again: TANTRUMS ARE A NORMAL PART OF CHILDHOOD. The moment you understand that, you are better placed to respond, not react (I am preaching to myself too) By definition, a tantrum refers to a sudden emotional meltdown in kids and is typically associated with whines, tears, screaming, defiance and stubbornness.

Read More: #SnapshotsforSanity

One minute your little one is enjoying cartoon, the next they are screaming their lungs out because the cartoon didn’t do something/cartoon ended/ cartoon slept.. you get the drift. According to this study, at the heart of the tantrums is your child’s inability to express themselves coherently. It is worsened by the fact that the child understands a lot more of what they hear, yet their language is still so limited. Pause and think about how frustrating it is. It is this inability to express their feelings that births tantrums. They are in fact, very very normal. Write it down and post it above your bed if you must. You are not poor at parenting; your little one is just growing as they should.

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Tantrums can be very frustrating

  • The next thing therefore would be, just how do you handle a tantrum?> What do you do in the midst of ear-piercing screams complete with body contortions? Instinctively, the first response would be to join in the scream fest, telling the little child to stop it. It is a very frustrating moment, yet, instead of looking at tantrums as an apocalypse (even though your house may seem like it just happened), you can start to see tantrums as opportune moments for discipline and education.

It is very tempting to storm out of the house to escape a tantrum, but this has the opposite of the intended effect – your child ends up feeling abandoned ( I am guilty as charged of this one. I would lock him up in my bedroom and leave him to his devices – long lessons I tell you). My therapist let me know that the magnitude of the tantrum emotions can actually be scary for a child, hence the need for them to know that you are around.

Read More: Shouting at my son and 4 tips that helped me

Secondly, keep calm and know that your child is growing normally (there should be a meme for this, no?). I realized, deep in PPD that the more I shouted in response to tantrums, the wilder my son became, and so we met at the infamous intersection of emotional meltdown and anger – not a pretty sight, so much so that my mom once asked me, who between the two of us was the child seeing as I was shouting just as much :O.

My therapist advised I needed to learn to approach him in a gentle spirit (hard as it is, it does quell the raging emotional storm to some extent), and embrace him (my eyes almost popped out y’all. Embrace a tantrum-er when I was boiling inside?) While this may not work immediately, it sure does make for a better reaction than yelling.

  • That said, she did mention it was imperative not to yield to unreasonable demands by a screaming child. This is oh-so difficult especially in public spaces (I’m referring to that child who lays prostate in the mall because mom didn’t get skittles :D), but agreeing to their demands teaches him/her that a fit is the way to get things done in future, and who are we really helping in that case?
  • Once the tantrum has subsided, she advised me to take time to talk it out with him, something I almost never used to do! I’d just shut off till the next day (It has been a mighty long road, heh!) Hug and talk to him, acknowledging his frustrations, but making it clear throwing a fit is not the way to express himself.

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  • Lastly, avoid situations that trigger a tantrum. Simply put, tantrums are more likely when your child is a) tired b) sleep-deprived c) hungry. Carry a snack if you are on the go and allow your child to rest before starting your errands (when possible). In addition, know that your child is growing and starting to get a little independent. It helps to give choices from time to time. For instance, “Would you like to watch cartoon first or change your clothes (after school?)” It gives them a sense of control and gives you better feedback.

When all else fails, wine!, be easy on yourself and try it out again tomorrow.

NOTE: I do realize that for moms suffering from Postpartum Depression, tantrums may seem insurmountable. It is easy to feel defeated, suffocated even by what is considered normal child milestones. Do not feel ashamed to ask for help. Take one day at a time, sometimes even one hour at a time. This too shall pass. There is hope.

What are some of the ways you have dealt with tantrums before? How do you handle the whirlwind emotions that you may feel? Let’s chat in the comment box below.

Just a few reminders:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks.
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Takeaway Lessons from Session II

In the second installment of this series of posts (Read the first one here)reflecting my experience during my therapy sessions, I share some of the key pointers my therapist shared with me, and how they are interspersed with my postpartum depression journey. During the second session, my therapist opted to help me deal with my anger, especially towards my son as this was the most prevalent symptoms of my PPD journey. I have written more about this here and here. The second reason for this was so that as the sessions went by, I’d be able to track my progress and journal the same for posterity sake.

Over the many days I struggled with anger, I had started to notice a pattern which I aptly called the ‘anger curve’ – a term I coined because that is what it felt like. The curve typically had 4 key sections: ‘warning signs’, momentum, peak and the dip. The part of the curve that I called the ‘warning signs’ was just that: the cloud before the storm. For Jay, it was typically jumping up and down like a Maasai moran, rolling on the ground and often a cascade of shrill screams. He also had this upward quirk of his mouth that just made me know, and anticipate an emotional storm in every sense of the word.

Read More: Angst

The curve gained momentum because the intensity of all the warning signs aforementioned just escalated. These included sharper screams, vigorous rolling and faster jumps. Occasionally, there were spits (Yes I know, spit-in-my-face and for a moment, I’d often reconsider whose child this was) and punches. At the peak of the curve was that moment when all these theatrics simply melted into a raging unstoppable toddler, and a mom for whom the inability to calm her son simply created the perfect setting for a meltdown. At the end of the curve was a remorseful and apologetic toddler, all spent, exhausted and weepy. At the end of the same curve was a guilt-filled teary mom.

My therapist listened to me keenly, and when I was done offered a number of pointers that’d help me deal with the anger towards my son, then have us look at the source of the intense anger in the next session.

  • The first thing she said was that it was important to realize that while childhood memories as far back as 5 months (when my anger episodes were far more frequent, irrational and uncontrolled) may not be stored on a child’s brain, now I had the chance to create fresh memories. Simply put, kids, for the most part, do not remember details of their past up until about 3 years, after which, their brain starts to retain events.
  • Secondly, as pertains the ‘anger curve’, she mentioned the fact that I needed to find a slot where I could step in and halt the progress. Ideally, it is best to do this at the onset, what I called the ‘warning signs’. When all the jumping and rolling sets in, she advised me to take him to a place where he’d be able to do that without injuring himself in a bid to create a lag within the curve. This also serves to distract him from the issue at hand.

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It also provides me with a chance to breathe in, count to 10 and let some of the tension dissipate. Getting this breather prevents irrational reaction, and allows a moment of clarity for a better response.

Read More: What is Postpartum Depression?

  • Sometimes, stepping in works; it should. But it does not always work, which is why she advised me to try as much as I could to set ground rules when he was calm and exuberant. This also helps him view the rules as something positive, and not always mentioned when things went downhill.
  • The third thing which she said, and which hit me like a ton of bricks, was the fact that I needed to manage my expectations. “You expect a 4 year toddler to behave like you, that is the problem Samoina.” Whew, I looked back on all the meltdowns I could recall vividly and saw her point. I expected non-messy potty training sessions. I expected him to sit through social functions and stay clean (hellooo, he is an energetic boy- expect cuts, bruises, climbs and torn jeans!) And what this did is that it simply created a viable environment for a proper tantrum. Let your child be a child within reasonable boundaries, she said. ** This I had to write in my journal, profoundly deep**

In the next post, I will share the other three pointers that have helped me thus far in dealing with my anger towards my child during and after PPD, as well as document the help I continue to get from the therapy sessions. If anyone is interested, I attend psychotherapy sessions at Royal Fountain Counseling Services.

Just a few more things:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks J
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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First of many

In my last post, I mentioned on the fact that I had started going for therapy sessions following my Postpartum Depression whose experiences I have shared a lot on here. This is the first of installment of several that I will post, sharing what I have learnt, looking back at the journey that has been as well as charting the way forward.

Before anything, I must express my gratitude for one dear friend of mine who made it possible for me, and hooked me with one of the warmest souls I have ever met, Rhoda. Rhoda is a trained counselor and psychologist with a heart for moms, and this made her a perfect fit. Both my friend and Rhoda are gifts in my life, and for that, I am very grateful.

Read More: To Those I Hurt…

We (my son and I) arrived on the first appointment some 15 minutes before time, because even kids must learn the importance of keeping time. I noted, to my delight, that Rhoda’s office is nestled in a tranquil neighborhood, away from the manic driving and honking that Nairobi matatus (public buses) are best known for. The calm soothes the soul. It is as if the gentle breeze blows away one’s worries from the balcony.

Rhoda made my son and I feel comfortable first as we sunk into her stylish floral sofa, not your typical office I guess, huh? The blinds let in just enough light: not too glaring to illuminate my issues (LOL) and not too dim to wonder where the melaninaire I am is 🙂 Then she introduced herself, her academic background and stated clearly she upholds ethical values for client confidentiality purposes. After the paper work, the session was off to a great start.

Read More: Feeling like a mom

At the onset, it was simply for me to introduce myself, why I thought therapy would work for us, my key relationships – family, my son, my partner (or the lack thereof) and God. My response was jumbled really, most of which I have blogged about on here, especially as regards my relationship with my son and Postpartum Depression.

She listened, careful not to interrupt, but with a keenness that made me comfortable to open up to her as my son ran around. She asked questions that allowed me to express myself better or to clarify something she may have missed. Her affable self was a delight to spend time with. After I was done talking (and honey, I talk and talk and talk…), she gave me a mini-break to collect her thoughts and give me some ‘homework’.

This was the interesting take-home from that session. Some of the factors that did contribute to my Postpartum depression were childhood scars, issues that I had let pile up unknowingly and unattended to up until the birth of my son. Part of the week’s task was to journal on all these things in greater detail and find what insights I would come up with. To say this was mind-blowing would be understating it.

I took a Friday afternoon off, went to one of the open public spaces in Karen and poured everything on paper. I looked back at the little girl I was, the proud moments at school, the dreams I had growing up, the relationships I had, graduating at just 20 and plunging headfirst into motherhood. My paper was tear-stained, but I did not care. It felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. The insights gave me a sense of direction; I saw that most of life as it unwraps in adulthood is an undeniable product of childhood.

I look forward to what is in store for me and my little boy on this journey. I have a feeling it is pretty exciting, especially that we get to kick Postpartum Depression in the butt!

 

 

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

This is the third day of my 30 day writing challenge, and today I wanted to highlight therapy options available for those suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). Please not that this post, and any other on the blog does not reflect a professional angle to this mental health condition, and is simply a platform for me to help other moms who may be going through what I did, as well as create awareness for the same. Do have a look at the Medical Disclaimer page on this blog if you have any concerns.

This post would be a follow up of sorts to one I wrote on the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression which you can check out here. Looking out for these symptoms is an effective way to gain clarity into this condition for the simple reason that there is not a single specific test that diagnoses the presence of PPD. Consequently, for therapy to begin, health practitioners are tasked with collecting extensive information as pertains to an individual’s medical past, their health history as well as the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy; generally a background check into their life.

Once this is complete, a health professional can then outline the ideal form of treatment. Typically, therapy for moms and dads usually starts off from non-medication before proceeding to medication (Yes, dads suffer PPD too!! You may want to read this entry on Huffington Post, written by Mark Williams to get some insight. This amazing account on Rosey’s blog is also an eye opener). Below are brief descriptions of some of the treatment options available.

Psychotherapy – This form of therapy revolves around hand in hand with health professionals to analyze and attempt to solve factors that contribute to PPD. For the most part, this is an incredible form of intervention. Severe PPD may require more intense psychotherapy sessions, and this will usually take months, up to a year to show results. It has the advantage of eliminating medication so that moms who are breastfeeding are able to do so without any pharmcological intervention. Therapists develop programs to help patients get through PPD so that they do not relapse. This form of therapy also involves support-based therapy that may include home visits and Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy

Medication – Medication therapy consists of antidepressants prescriptions. Various medicines are available in the market, a good number of which the preferred mode of action is the tweaking of the concentration of brain chemicals which are known to affect levels of depression.The period of time it takes for PPD healing through medication varies from one person to another.

In many instances, a combination of the two is offered. It is recommended that moms and dads affected by PPD see a health professional to ascertain the preferred mode of therapy.

PS: If you would like a more academic angle to the prevalence of PPD in Kenya, and more specifically at Kenyatta National Hospital (the country’s biggest referral hospital), this paper by Dr. Mwikali Musau may interest you.

Featured Image photo credits: Postpartum Progress