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I Just Want My Son Back | What it Feels Like When Your Child is in Crisis

This is an electrical outlet in the emergency room. You’ll notice it looks different from what you’re used to seeing – it’s not only covered for safety, but locked.

There is no way to access it.

There is no way to charge my phone while we wait.

There is also no way for a child to harm themselves with it.

when your child is in crisis

This is what the outlets look like in the specialized rooms in a closed corner of the emergency room, where children are taken when they are brought in during a behavioral emergency. This is where children are taken when they attempt suicide, become so manic they’re uncontrollable, have psychotic breaks, fits of rage, and homicidal ideation.

This is where we ended up when my son attacked me.

when your child is in crisis

It’d never happened before, and I almost smugly believed it never would. I’m in a few Facebook groups for parents of troubled kids, I know a few families in real life who have had to bring their children to these rooms, but I always comforted myself that no matter how hard it got with my own boy, he’d never hurt me.

Until he did.

This room is so bare it’s unsettling. The bed and chair are made of a rubber-like foam. There is no bedding, no paper covers, no railing, no legs on any of them. Just blobs of hard, blue foam. The bed looks like a giant blue pill. There are no wires in this room. No call buttons, no lines to the oxygen in the wall. There’s a tv mounted behind a case but no remote to turn it on. Even the sink faucet is small with no visible plumbing.

“Where is the trash can?” my son asks.

“There’s not one in here. They can’t risk you throwing it at them.”

I look up, raising my eyes in an attempt to keep the hot tears from spilling out.

A failed attempt.

I see the large mirror in the corner that allows doctors and nurses to make sure no one is lying in wait to attack them. My son and I are sitting calmly on the giant blue pill bed and all that’s reflected back is how very empty the room is. Even with my eyes closed I can feel how empty it is.

I can feel how empty I am.

I know I’m not giving up. I know I never will give up. But right now, in this moment, on this hard, blue bed, I don’t know where I’ll draw my next breath from.

I’m so tired.

So worn.

So desperate.

So sad.

I know I’m not alone…

There are several rooms like this one in this corner of the ER, and many of them are currently occupied. The police are in the hall outside of another room, filling out paperwork and discussing the patient.

Will they come for my boy?

Has a nurse told them he hit me?

I clutch him, realizing all over again how serious this is. When you find yourself in a situation you never anticipated, you have to process it multiple times. It’s all too unreal to be real. It’s all so different, that you can protect yourself for a little while by not really accepting it.

Related: When Anxiety Looks Like Anger When Your Child is in Crisis

This Is What It’s Like When Your Child Is In Crisis

But those police officers are real.

My sweaty boy leaning against me is real.

The marks on my arm are real.

We are really here, in the emergency room, in a small, specialized room, designed to minimize the damage my child is apparently capable of.

I’m torn between wanting to cling to him and wanting the doctors to take him, just for a little while, just so he can get some help and I can get some respite.

Every parent likes to brag about their child when they’re asked about them, but instead I have to tell this intake specialist about the worst things my son has ever done.

His creativity and sense of humor don’t come up here.

No one is appreciating how well he does with his schoolwork.

Instead of eyebrows raising at being impressed by him, all of the brows around here are furrowed, worried, vigilant.

Are they judging me?

Do they think I let him get this way?

Do they wonder what I missed, what else I could have done?

Do they shake their heads at my decision to have children despite my family history of mental illness?

Do they search for ways to make this my fault?

Because I do.

I am.

I’m filled with guilt over something I didn’t even do.

I look down at my precious boy, leaning against me, calm, and lose touch of the reality we’re in just for a moment.

Surely this baby didn’t mean it.

Surely this will never happen again.

Surely this will be a wake up call to him and this behavior will stop.

But I’m not sure.

I don’t know what is causing this behavior.

I don’t know what will  help it.

I don’t know if we’ll be back in this room.

I know that I love him, and he loves me, but he is fighting something so strong inside him that he’s currently losing. He’s overtaken by something he’s not strong enough to fight on his own and has ended up on a hard, blue bed in a small, empty room.

He’s seen several doctors, several therapists, my boy. He’s been in various treatments for varying amounts of time over the years, and the diagnoses always change.

“It isn’t an exact science,” I’m told when I ask about the fluid, ever-changing labels. Then I’m handed a prescription for a very strong, very scientific medication and asked to trust the non-exact science with the very long list of side effects. No two therapists or doctors ever agree on what alphabet soup best explains my son, and I admit that as I grow increasingly dependent upon mental health professionals I trust them less and less.

He’s released.

He’s calmed down now and hasn’t made any threats against himself or anyone else.

He’s lucid but tired.

Without a charged phone or a clock I realize we went over 8 hours without eating and the knots in my stomach untie just enough to release a growl. I’m glad to be heading home with him. I know he didn’t need to stay, I know he didn’t meet the criteria for inpatient care, but I still feel like we didn’t accomplish anything.

I’ll follow up with his therapists tomorrow.

Tonight we’ll rest in our own beds — beds with linens and pillows and usable outlets nearby.

I don’t know if we’ll be back to that small, empty room with the hard, blue bed.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow when I call his therapists.

I don’t know what will happen when we walk back into the familiar environment of our home where he punched, clawed, bit, and kicked me.

I don’t know what’s going on in that mind of his, and to be honest, I don’t really know what’s going on in mine. I’m too tired to think, or maybe too afraid to.

I never wanted to see a room like that one. I really didn’t even know they existed before tonight.

I never thought my boy would hurt me, on purpose, repeatedly.

We crossed more than one threshold today and I didn’t like what was on the other side.

I know that whatever awaits, whatever doors we have to go through or whatever rooms we have to revisit, I’ll be there.

Related: Helping Your Child Cope with AnxietyWhen Your Child is in Crisis

If Your Child Is In Crisis, You Are Not Alone.

I’ll keep going wherever my boy needs and sitting wherever we find ourselves. I’m not giving up, on him or the system that runs on inexact science.

I have to believe he’s still in there, my boy, somewhere under the angry layers he’s burrowed into.

I have to believe I’ll see him again someday, see a twinkle in his eye and not a fire.

I miss him.



Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost has never held the shell of their child. I have to get him back, for his sake and my own. So I will sit on 1000 hard blue beds and give up all the outlets in the world until some doctor, somehow, finds some relief for him.

I’m not alone.

I’m not at fault.

And I’m not giving up.

What It Feels Like When Your Child is in Crisis - Raising Lifelong Learners

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RLL #104: A Conversation About Mindset with Shawna Wingert


Mindset is generally thought to be the attitudes or habits of an individual’s mind that is formed by previous experience. These attitudes can predetermine a person’s response or interpretation to any given situation. Our quirky kiddos are not immune to “fixed” mindsets, and it can sometimes be a real challenge to help them to see things in a different way or try a new approach to something that has them stumped.

Today, Colleen and Shawna Wingert have a conversation about mindset, specifically to help families like ours move away from rigid and inflexible thinking. They also discuss the incredible resources inside the RLL membership community, The Learner’s Lab, and how families can work on social/emotional needs like mindset through the fun lessons and activities for kiddos, the parent master classes and the monthly online teen chats.

RLL #104: A Conversation on Mindset with Shawna Wingert

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:


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The Anxious Parent of the Anxious Child | Not Everything is a Disorder

I like to say that I hold several Google University degrees. I am an incessant, constant, chronic researcher. I cannot seem to ever learn enough or have my curiosity quenched. What’s that beautiful flower growing on the side of the highway? What ever happened to that child actor from that one movie I saw in the early 90’s? How common is my birthday? And did anyone ever discover what was on page 47 in National Treasure 2?

But for as many interesting tidbits and factoids I’m able to find that feed conversation, my vast and varied browser history also feeds a very real struggle – anxiety. When answers to questions are a few finger taps away, the temptation to search everything is too great. Why am I having a headache on this side of my head? Why does my elbow hurt? What does it mean when I have this recurring dream? Why does my child behave this way? Is their quirk or struggle a symptom of something larger? What are the criteria for these specific disorders and struggles, and how many does my child meet? What is wrong, and how scared should I be?

   anxious disorder

When you’re an anxious parent you already worry about almost everything. When you’re parenting an anxious child, there are legitimate worries and fears that are dealt with on a daily basis. When you’re the anxious parent of an anxious child, racing heartbeats, stomach aches, lack of sleep, and just plain terror can overtake you and convince you that there is an unnamed dragon waiting just around the corner, a diagnosis or disorder that you can’t quite put a label to but a fear you can very much feel. 

One of the most triggering and driving emotions of irrational fear and anxiety is the sensation of the unknown. That’s what drives me to research every ache and pain, in an attempt to head off some degenerative or deadly disease by identifying it quickly. Not knowing what is happening leaves us unsteady and fearful, but imagining what could be happening is what really drives us to the dark and terrifying places. The places where fear silences reason and we are so terrified of the unknown that we cling to whatever explanation we can reach in an attempt to catch some footing. This is where we are when we look at our anxious child and use our Google University degrees to “diagnose” our children. 

There’s been an overwhelming trend in the last several years towards pathologizing everything, placing a name or label or diagnosis on every behavior of childhood or intense emotion of adulthood. There are dozens of theories to discuss as to why the tendency has leaned more and more towards labeling every quirk or struggle, but for the sake of this post, from the perspective of an anxious parent, the desire comes from a need to understand, anticipate, and have something we can control. 

Related: The Anxious Parent of the Anxious Child | Using Social Stories, The Lies Anxiety Tells Youanxious disorder

Being able to comfort myself that my child’s behaviors are a result of some disorder removes the fear of the unknown when I watch them struggle and have no idea why. And while no one wants their child to suffer or need any type of intervention, the fear of what our child could be struggling with is greater than the fear of what a diagnosis means. The unknown is far worse than the pathologized. Disorders are more comforting than the undetermined. 

Yes, especially when dealing with anxious families, there often are disorders to consider and adapt to, and identifying them and advocating for your child is an enormous piece of mental wellness. You should always raise concerns about behaviors or intrusive thoughts with your child’s doctor, and push for more detailed attention when you feel that concerns are being dismissed. But, when viewing your anxious child through your own anxious lens, it is important not to lose yourself in the flood of possible diagnoses. Remind yourself that sometimes quirks are just quirks. Sometimes what you’re convinced is a herd of zebras is really just a routine herd of horses. Not every behavior or meltdown or classroom struggle is a symptom of something greater going on. Not everything is a disorder. 

I can feel some of the ruffled feathers already, because without parents advocating children in need would almost never receive services or care for their very real struggles. This is absolutely true. I wish someone had recognized the signs of the severe anxiety I was experiencing as a child and had thought to seek out a professional opinion. I’m not encouraging parents to ignore questionable behavior or gut feelings that direct you towards finding help. I’m reminding anxious parents that anxiety is not always a sound textbook to draw from when worrying about your child. 

The anxious mind is not a typical mind. The anxious mind can make enormous leaps in reason, starting in one arena and landing in an entirely different one. The anxious mind can witness a quirk and see an entire fictitious path leading forward that only leads to diagnosis, pain, and lifelong struggle. Heck, the anxious mind can see a dozen of those paths. 

Related: 2E Or Not 2E? That is the Question, RLL #86: All About Anxiety with Dr. Dan Petersanxious disorder

An anxious parent, who is themselves coping with a very real disorder, witnessing their anxious child struggle with their own real disorder, can run through a hundred scenarios with every behavior they witness. The fear can take over and control is suddenly up for grabs, so we scramble to Google, observe, research, ask, anything we can do to feel useful and informed and prepared for whatever fate awaits our child. While plenty could call this good parenting, and I wouldn’t argue against that, being quick to pathologize every behavior and assign a diagnosis to every stumble is driven by irrational fear, by anxiety itself, and anxiety is known to not always whisper truths to our terrified minds. 

As the anxious parent of an anxious child, I have to learn to contain my worry spirals and my fervent Google searches. I no longer keep a DSM on my nightstand for quick reference. If a behavior is suspect, I make note of it, along with the circumstances surrounding it – was she hungry? was he tired? was he being irritated by his siblings or reacting from sensory overwhelm? Make note of each instance and compare the circumstances and settings. Observe before you research. Take note before you diagnose. Approach their behaviors from a place of interest, not fear. Rather than approaching our children’s behavior as a hypothesis we’re trying to prove, give it some time to draw exegetical information from. 

The anxious mind can be a scary one, and the anxious experience can often feel like a hopeless one. Your understanding and empathy as an anxious parent is of enormous help to an anxious child, but it is important to keep in mind that your help, empathy, and enthusiasm should not be drawn from the anxiety itself. Anxiety lies to you, convinces you of the worst, so try not to allow anxiety to be the driving force behind seeking help for your child. Anxiety will tell you that something is wrong, everything is wrong, no one else knows what’s wrong. Anxiety will tell you there’s a disease, a disorder, a painful path before your child. Anxiety will tell you those behaviors aren’t normal, and in an attempt to grasp at some kind of control you end up losing your footing altogether. Anxiety will convince you that to love your child you must constantly worry for them, but what you must keep in mind as the anxious parent is that those fears and rushes to pathologize and label behavior, that enthusiasm driven by fear to find a disorder, more often than not, comes from the whispers of a disorder itself. 

You are your anxious child’s greatest advocate. You do not need to be their worried diagnostician, too. 

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Your Gifted Kid Might Break You

“Oh, NO!” I sobbed, hot tears of desperation streaming down my face. “I can’t take another one!”  My two-year-old had just glanced up at the clock and announced what time it was. The clock used only Roman numerals, and she was right. 

Her older brother, my middle child, had been identified as profoundly gifted just a year earlier, though the struggles had been going on for much longer. I’d thrown myself into researching giftedness, intensity, overexcitabilities, teaching methods, parenting styles, and hyper-specialized therapists. We love him dearly, but know the difficulties that often accompany parenting a gifted child, and at that point he was taking everything I had. My oldest was an agreeable, ideal gifted child, my youngest had, to that point, been a bright and bubbly toddler, but the middle kiddo… let’s just say I cried every day. The thought of raising another child that needed as much work and patience and understanding and intervention – well, it was overwhelming. It’s not an experience I would ever trade, but it’s also not one I would ever envy, because raising a gifted kid just might break you.

   gifted kid might break you

So often, the label of giftedness is looked upon as elitist or exclusionary. Gifted programs are viewed as clubs to get into, not services children are in need of. Parents of the gifted kid aren’t met with much sympathy when their child is reading light years ahead of their grade level peers because, really, how bad can it be that your kid is so smart?

Well, to be honest, it can get pretty rough

From infancy, my middle child never slept. As a toddler his curious nature sent him adventuring around the house at all hours of the night. His sense of humor was so advanced that adults often thought he was being rude or disrespectful. As he got older, his sensory issues and overexcitabilities made many situations difficult for him, or even unbearable. He was misunderstood by most and offered little sympathy. 

Because he did so well in school, his teachers assumed he was a problem, not that he was having a problem. 

The asynchronous way he was developing meant that his thoughts and feelings were leaps ahead while his ability to make sense of them or control them was noticeably behind. He struggled to make friends, and I struggled to make it through a day without receiving a phone call from the school. He was having an incredibly difficult time, and as his parent and greatest advocate I was having a difficult time, too. 

So when it appeared that his little sister might be following in his footsteps, I was not thrilled by her abilities, but terrified of her realities. 

Related: Safe Place Fatigue | The Wear and Tear of Being Your Child’s Person, Help Your Intense Child Regulate Emotions Easilysmart child might break you

Gifted children are gifts, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this in an attempt to drag gifted people through the mud or complain about parenting such amazing kids. I’m writing this because parenting a gifted kid is hard, and too often parents think that it’s so hard because we’re doing something wrong. We’re not – they’re just hard

Their intense emotions often find themselves directed towards us when they have no idea what else to do with them, and that’s hard

Their lack of sleep keeps them up with existential dread, incessant questions, tears of boredom, or grumpy moods the next day, and that’s hard

Their unique needs mean we advocate in ways we never imagined we could, throwing niceties out the window and being willing to be annoying so our child can be served, and that’s hard

Their therapies, hobbies, enrichment activities, and school supplements can get expensive and time-consuming, and that’s hard

The tears and screams and fears and obsessions – they’re hard to manage, and after a while, day in and day out, when there’s no stop, no break, no rest, it might break you. 

Related: Finding Community: Building a Support System Online and In-Person, You Cannot Do It Allgifted child might break you

Being the emotional punching bag or the emotional support for someone you love so dearly, it just might break you. 

Worrying and second-guessing that every parenting decision you’re making and form of discipline you’re using is wrong, it just might break you. 

Staying up all night with terrified kiddos who worry about plagues and the afterlife and just how we’ll ever clean up the oceans, then researching how best to help them and compare their quirks to disorders and worry yourself about missed diagnoses and unclear symptoms… it just might break you. 

Several years later that little girl of mine has proven herself to be exactly like her brother, just as I’d worried. She’s brilliant and hilarious and intense and exhausting. She’s everything he is, with a pinch extra, and to be honest, some days it breaks me. Not every day, not anymore. But there are definitely days when we’re both so exhausted from her deep emotions and incessant worries that we end up collapsed in bed, both of us wishing there were more answers and wondering why it has to be this way. 

I don’t want my daughter to be different, I only want her life to be easier. I don’t want to change her, I only wish to change myself, to make myself stronger, to make myself less breakable. 

For all I’ve lost in my supposed weakness, however, I wouldn’t want any of it back in exchange for what I’ve gained in my brokenness. For every night I’ve gone to bed broken, I’ve awoken the next morning a little softer where I needed to bend. For every meeting and appointment I’ve had to fight for, I’ve grown stronger as an advocate and parent. Everything that’s broken in me has gone into strengthening my gifted kid, and if there’s anything I’m here to do, it’s build my child into the strongest and best version of themselves they can be. Even if it breaks me. 

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Mislabeled Behavior And Undiagnosed Giftedness

“But… what’s wrong with him?”

I was sitting across from the counselor we’d been seeing every week for six months, desperation leaking from my eyes and filling the small room with a heaviness we both felt. On the walls were graduate degrees and charts that identified emotions with childrens’ faces, the bookshelves were brimming with diagnostic manuals and parenting helps and countless books about understanding difficult people. None of them helped.

“I don’t know.”

Mislabeled Behavior And Undiagnosed Giftedness

This was the response, the honest, earnest response I heard from a man who was professionally trained and licensed to be able to know. I wasn’t angry, I didn’t hold it against him, because I didn’t know, either. My own counseling degree was proving as helpful as his, and the bookmarks hanging out of my DSM like tassels were just more road signs to nowhere.

“It doesn’t make sense, kids with these issues normally have a diagnosis.”

Yet mine didn’t. At this point he was 6 years old and had undergone a few evaluations, ruling out autism and ADHD. Researching behavioral disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder only confused me further – he fit some of the criteria, but not enough for it to make sense. He was so angry, for seemingly no reason.

“I don’t know why he’s presenting these behavior issues. Statistically we see kids acting this way when they come from a chaotic home environment, but you guys are doing everything right.”

We’d tried everything. Elimination diets, essential oils, any and every parenting technique we stumbled across. We were firm, we were lenient. We gave him space and held him close. We tailored our parenting to birth order, to gender… I even looked up tips for parenting according to zodiac signs out of desperation.

Nothing helped.

Nothing gave us any insight into our boy, why he’d become increasingly angry, why it felt like we were losing him to outbursts, aggression, impulsivity. At this point we’d tried counseling for half a year and welcomed any label, truly any, so we could at least understand what was happening and have a plan for how to help. Yet after 6 months of weekly therapy, we saw no improvement and had no answers. None. Nothing. We were as clueless as we were when we’d begun and our boy still had no control over his anger or the words to give us an explanation for it.

Life at home was hard. Slammed doors, screams, crying siblings. We loved our boy and wanted to help him, but we didn’t know how. His brother and sister walked on eggshells, not knowing when or why he’d fly into a rage. School was a nightmare. He argued with his teacher, hid in his locker or under tables, fought with other students. He was a disruption who was becoming a danger, and we were terrified.

Related: What is an Intense Child?

mislabeled behavior undiagnosed giftedness

Worse, we were utterly clueless as to how to help him.

I remember seeing the school’s phone number on my caller ID. I sighed, braced myself. I knew that number, knew it was about him, knew I wouldn’t have an explanation for whatever I was about to hear he’d done. I’m sure I already had tears brimming as I answered. The counselor, only having known him for 6 months, knew to start the call with the reassurance, “Everyone’s okay….” She’d dialed my number often enough to know how to preface what she was about to tell me, but she’d never made this call before.

“Some papers will be coming home today and I wanted to talk to you about them. We administered the WASI and I had to check the scores four times to be sure. His scores were in the 99th percentile, I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like he’s a genius.”

Not a sociopath. Not a menace. Not an enigma. A profoundly gifted little boy whose brain was light years ahead of his developmental abilities and who couldn’t marry the two.

He underwent further, more formal testing over the years, evaluating him for more possible disorders and taking more IQ tests. Each of the five (yes, five) times he’s been evaluated for autism the professional has been convinced going in he was on the spectrum, and each of the five (really, five) times they’ve shaken their heads at the fact that he is not. Psychologists (plural) have come out in the middle of evaluations to ask if they can “check” for other things – ODD again, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disoder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, autism again.

Each time he falls short.

He’s quirky, different, has a hair trigger, feels misunderstood, doesn’t relate to kids his own age and definitely does not like being treated like a kid. After all of the testing, all the possibilities, all the years of searching and reading and trying and crying, we were left with only one label – gifted.

Indpendence in kids his age looks like defiance. Boredom in kids his age can look like inattention. Anger in kids his age, it turns out, often isn’t actually about being angry. Giftedness, we learned, often comes with intense emotions, quirks, anxiety that manifests as anger, intelligence that can read as argumentative, and sensitivity to stimuli that can mimic processing disorders.

Related: Asynchronous Development in Gifted Children

mislabeled behavior undiagnosed giftedness

This was why we couldn’t get a diagnosis. This was why we couldn’t find a label that fit. His brain being so profoundly different from the majority of society meant he behaved differently from the majority of society, but his age being so much younger than the majority of society meant that he didn’t know how to handle it.

He looked like a duck, he often quacked like a duck, but try as we might we could not get him to swim like a duck… because he wasn’t a duck.

He wasn’t a bad kid and we weren’t bad parents.

He was a small boy struggling with something we never even knew to look for.

His abnormal behavior was an attempt at communicating his abnormal intelligence, and none of the professionals he saw up until then (and few after) were qualified to interpret it. It wasn’t until we spoke with the gifted specialist at his school, spoke with other parents of gifted kids, that we began to really understand that not only did giftedness explain everything we’d been experiencing with him, but the outbursts and arguments were common among other gifted kids.

We learned that while there are a number of twice-exceptional kids who struggle with both the weight of their giftedness and a comorbid disorder, there are also a LOT – a lot – of gifted kids who have been misdiagnosed or labeled incorrectly in an attempt to explain their baffling behavior. We found that as well-meaning or educated as a therapist or doctor may be, many professionals have not studied giftedness or how it affects children, let alone what it looks like. We were humbled to realize that as well as we knew our boy, we missed such a huge part of him.

Related: Parenting and Teaching a Twice-Exceptional Child

Giftedness doesn’t look like what you’d think and often looks like plenty of other things, so it is vital that we, the parents and caretakers of gifted children, advocate for them. Their behavior is telling us something their words can’t, and we have to be as loud as they are when it comes to getting them what they need.

While teachers or friends or well-meaning relatives are suggesting this label or that, we have to stay firm, loud, and educated. We have to speak up and ask – sometimes over and over again – for another opinion, another test, another possibility other than the ill-fitting diagnosis we’ve just been handed. We can’t allow all quacks to be dismissed as ducks.

More than anything, above all, we can’t fall into the trap of blaming ourselves for the aberrant behavior of our gifted, struggling, hurting kids.

They’re not angry because we’re bad parents, they’re frustrated and don’t realize it.

They don’t struggle with friendships because we’ve done something wrong, there are just very few people they can truly relate to.

They’re different from the other kids because, well, they’re different from the other kids.

Life hasn’t become a dream since we pinpointed the cause of our son’s anger and outbursts. Having a label, an explanation, didn’t magically transport us to the other side. He still struggles, still gets angry, still has bad days because his brain still works differently. Only now we know why. We know what his behavior is trying to tell us, know what will work and what won’t. We know he’s not lacking something from us and know he isn’t a rage monster. Just knowing doesn’t fix it, but it does help. We’re constantly learning together, with our son, about what he’s needing and what he’s feeling.

We’re working with a net now, have a foundation, we’re not flying blind… all the metaphors you can think of that give you hope that the long journey you’re embarking on isn’t a sightless wandering.

There’s nothing wrong with our son, he’s just gifted

More support is now available for your child, and for you!

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children with intensities and help you as you build social and emotional skills and resiliency. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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Engaging Your Anxious Child in Social Justice

You know by now how fiercely gifted children feel about justice.

“He got 9 chocolate chips in his cookie and I only got eight!” “She didn’t have to go to her room when she did that!” “Why do I have to clean this up when I didn’t play with it?” “It’s not fair!”

With chronically inflexible children, as gifted kids often are, justice is a hill they’re all too willing to go to battle on. While giftedness is not always a gift and the intensity is often a heavy burden to bear, gifted kids come with a passion that cannot be denied and that simply refuses to be silenced when they believe to be the victim of bias, inequity, intolerance, or tyranny – basically they get really worked up when something is perceived as unfair. It’s only natural that these gifted kids would find themselves becoming passionate about social justice issues. 

 social justice  

I often joke that I’m raising a tiny army of lawyers because my kids are so good at arguing their case and placing the burden of blame upon another party, ANY OTHER party. They have the passion, the vocabulary, and the stubbornness to form a coherent (and actually quite persuasive) argument on their own behalf.

Yet we still have to avoid most news stories, still have to prescreen books and movies, still have to guard their anxious and sensitive hearts against so much of what is happening in the world around them. These little litigators who are so ready to take their case before a judge are reduced to anxiety attacks and tears when faced with the injustice that is forced upon others.

Stories of animal cruelty, racial and religious bigotry, destitute families, brutish parents and caretakers, victims of disasters both natural and manmade, exploitation, pollution, division…. there is a lot for a young, intense worrier to worry about. These kids of ours who feel so intensely for themselves also experience intense empathy, even anxiety, for all the bad things happening to people around them. They can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tragedy and simply freeze up in fear and grief and the realization that they cannot stop or change it all.

It’s hard to witness as the parent of an anxious empath. We want to shield them from these waves of emotion that threaten to topple them. We want to keep our children happy, want to keep them from the inevitable disappointment of discovering that they cannot shoulder the world OR buy it a Coke. If they knew all that was wrong with the world they’d melt into a puddle of tears at the sheer volume of it all.

So let’s teach them to change it. 

Related: Let’s Talk About Emotional Overexcitability, Black History Month and Your Emotionally Intense Childsocial justice

Aside from the belief that we are doomed to repeat the history we do not learn, it is imperative that we introduce the concept of social justice to our passionate, intense, feeling children. Who better than they to latch onto a project, a person, a cause, a need, and stand firm until an acceptable change has taken place? If our children are going to venture outside their bubbles someday and be faced with the harsh realities of inequality and corruption, let’s equip them to elicit change. Let’s ready them to find solutions so that they aren’t paralyzed by the enormity of the problems. Let’s train our little lawyers to defend as aggressively as they prosecute, to turn their passion outward and come alongside those who stand alone. Let’s convince our children they can make a change now so that they aren’t reduced to worry when it all seems bigger than they are.

Caring about social justice empowers the anxious child rather than harms him because it offers a tool to help combat the overwhelming feelings of futility. When they know that something can be done it isn’t so scary anymore. When they know it’s okay to care and have an outlet for their feelings they aren’t so overpowered by them anymore. Engaging your child in social justice gives them a channel to direct their intense feelings, to perform emotional alchemy and turn anxiety and grief into determination and change.

Ask your child to tell you about a time they witnessed something that was unfair or felt like justice hadn’t been served. How did they feel? How do they think the victim felt? What did they do? What do they wish they could have done? You may need to help them out, offer up a few possible outcomes or solutions, actions that could have been taken or words that could have been spoken. This isn’t a lesson in regret, you’re simply beginning to show your child that there are options, that there are several different ways we can react to situations. You are introducing them to the concept of social justice, the idea that if something isn’t fair there is something that can be done about it.

Gifted kids, especially those who struggle with anxiety, can freeze when presented with options. They’re able to run through multiple scenarios in their minds and always worry that by picking one they’re saying “no” to another good choice. Help them hone in on what’s important, what would really bring peace to a situation. Sure, there are a lot of different ways you can stand up for your friend who was just passed over for a team because she speaks with a different accent, but what do you want the end result to look like? We can run through a hundred reactions to the man we just saw toss trash into the lake, but what do we want to accomplish? Help her to focus on the end goal to eliminate some of the more extreme possible courses of action, but also to constantly remind her that there is an end, there can be change, and that it takes focused work to get there.

Related: Help Your Intense Child Regulate Emotions Easily, Discussing Race with Your Emotionally Intense Kidssocial justice

As you listen to your child, take notes about what he’s passionate about. Whenever a news story particularly moves him or a situation he witnesses enrages him, make note. Listen to what he says and what he wants to change. As you both begin to refine what’s important to him, begin asking him casually what he’d like to see done about what upsets him. Start researching and looking for organizations that do work that aligns with his passions. Check out your library for books on social justice for kids. Read him stories about others who have fought for justice and won. Inspire him with biographies, documentaries, news stories, and as many real-life experiences like rallies and visits to nonprofit headquarters as you can. The buzz in the air of a room full of people intent on change is contagious, so be prepared. Show him what happens when people decide something isn’t fair and they want to do something about it.

Your child will need you to provide some railing to keep them in their lane, or at least still on the road as they take many different turns. An excited gifted child can quickly become an obsessed child, who can then become an overwhelmed child. Point out how many great activists saw change affected because of their work. Was Dr. King less effective because he didn’t march for the endangered turtles? Is Temple Grandin’s work subpar because she doesn’t also speak up for veteran’s issues? Of course not! Remind your child that they can care about many things while not doing all the things. Help to keep them grounded – frustration at not being able to do everything is a lot better than the fear of feeling like you have to.

Introducing your intense, anxious child to social justice can seem counter-intuitive. It may feel like inserting your child with so much passion and emotional intensity into a world of so much injustice is a recipe for meltdowns and fatigue. It probably seems like a kid who feels so deeply should be spared the realities that could affect them so profoundly. But really, when our kids are so smart, so intense, so passionate, and so emotional, how can we not?

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RLL #95: [Audioblog] When the World Overwhelms Your Anxious Child | How You Can Help

The truth is, anxious kids can get overwhelmed a lot.  While current events seem especially dire, there will always be things happening that are hard for our anxious children to understand or even remain calm about.  It’s our responsibility to give them the tools to manage anxiety and we can lend them support in the face of really big challenges like illness, national upheavel, or natural disasters.  In today’s episode, Colleen shares an audioblog  — an article by Jen Vail that first appeared on the site – with ideas on how to help your child when the world is overwhelming them.
RLL 95 When the World Overwhelms Your Anxious Child

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:




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If at First You Don’t Succeed, Quit | Gifted Kids and Grit

We love playing family games in my house. Board games, trivia games, acting games – there is no limit to the games we enjoy, and our packed game closet shows it. Since there are five of us it isn’t always equal enough to split into two teams, so most of the time it’s every man for himself. I’m not competitive so it doesn’t matter either way to me, my middle kiddo is passionately competitive so he enjoys the chance to beat everyone on his own, and my youngest usually loses interest and wanders off to dance. But my oldest, my most intensely perfectionist child, my people-pleasing, brilliant kid – he’s not a fan of individual gameplay. 

As long as he’s winning, he’s into the game. But once he slips behind the lead or proves to not be an instant expert at whatever we’re doing, he gives up. Well, maybe not gives up, because he doesn’t quit playing or stomp away muttering about unfair rules. He just stops trying to win, instead switching over to playing a character, the role of the kid who doesn’t care how well he does. He nonchalantly plays poorly, on purpose, and laughs at his misfortune. He goes from a competitor to a court jester and makes a huge show of making sure everyone knows he doesn’t care that he’s not winning. It’s not that he’s disrespectful, he doesn’t lack skill, it’s just that the kid has no grit. 


The concept – and importance – of grit has come into the spotlight in recent years, largely thanks to Angela Duckworth’s best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and PerseveranceFitting perfectly into the equally-popular concept of growth mindset, grit is the drive to persevere, to get back up after falling down, to show strength of character in the lack of success. Grit is how you bounce back and work at trying again. Grit has everything to do with effort and attitude, and nothing to do with natural ability, intelligence, or talent… which is why grit is such a struggle for so many gifted kids like my son. 

A lot comes easy to my gifted kids. Like others within the same standard deviations, they are able to learn quickly, master with little practice, and slide right through a lot of their classes without much effort. I didn’t even know that my kids were gifted for the first several years of their lives because each of them read so early that I thought it was normal. My oldest, especially, puts in little effort at school for the rows of A’s that he earns on his report cards. 

He is a natural math whiz, even working out slope formulas for fun when he was younger. His vast vocabulary and acute observations of the world make him an excellent creative writer. He even helped the students a few grades of him while taking an accelerated science class. The kid is just great at school and learning – and mastery – require almost no effort for him. He’s used to school being easy. So it comes as a shock when he’s faced with something – or someone – challenging. 

Related: Resiliency and Why Our Kids Need It, Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Childgrit

Gifted kids can struggle with grit for a number of reasons. Anxiety and perfectionism can be so overwhelming that the thought of trying and failing is scarier than sitting out completely. People-pleasing can instill a fear of disappointing others should they not perform as expected. Not being challenged hard or often enough can trick the child into thinking everything is easy, then when faced with a difficulty they don’t know what to do. Not enough practice responding to challenge, the false idea that suddenly struggling means they’re not as smart as they thought, thinking they’d rather be unbothered than embarrassed – there are plenty of roads gifted kids can take to arrive at the same conclusion. They lack grit. 

Ideally, we’d start from the beginning and teach our kids how to develop grit, but most parents end up having to amend our plans the more we get to know these little people, right? Truthfully, many of us are probably star-struck and in awe of how naturally talented our kids are. We see them pick up reading or coding with little effort and marvel at what they can do, with little thought to the idea that they need to also work at what doesn’t come easy. Grit is one of those character traits that is easy to forget about developing until you find yourself faced with a lack of it. 

Since we can’t go back in time and grit, by definition, takes hard work, we have to purposefully work with our kids to present struggles as opportunities. Habits have long been forming neuropathways in their brilliant brains. Reframing challenges takes time, work. Simply redefining what it means to struggle or not perform perfectly won’t be enough to form grit, it’s something you’ll have to remind them of, and model, over and over. And over again. Then some more. Like learning, grit is a lifelong development with no shortage of opportunities to practice. 

So how do you help your child develop grit? There’s not one answer, a single exercise, or a sole conversation that will direct your child away from perfectionism and towards determination. It’s important to remember that practicing grit takes grit. Shifting perspectives and reactions is similar to water over river stones – it takes time, but each trickle is having an effect. 

Related: Smart Kids Still Need Help, Helping Your Child Manage Perfectionismgrit

One of the simplest ways to remind your kids to practice grit is adding a small word to the end of their frustrations – yet. “I can’t do this!” Yet. “I’m no good at this!” Yet. Grit requires helping your kids dig themselves out of the trench they’ve resigned themselves to, helping them to see the greys in between black and white, between starting and perfecting. Rigid, perfectionistic thinking will have them believing that everything they attempt is either/or – either they’re great at it or not. Grit is found in the in-between, in what follows yet. While being careful not to dismiss their feelings of frustration, help them to adjust their vocabulary and thinking whenever they find themselves facing a challenge. 

Modeling grit is one of the most impactful ways to introduce determination, and if I’m being honest, I needed the practice myself. Having my perfectionist son by my side when I crack an egg and accidentally drop a bit of shell into the bowl is as much a learning opportunity for him as a practice in curbing my own perfectionist tendencies. Catching my breath when I’m overwhelmed by unclear driving instructions, pulling over, and problem-solving rather than exploding in frustration. Laughing when I sing the wrong words to a song or get a math problem horribly, horribly wrong, turning a stumble into an impromptu dance move – these are all seemingly small but incredibly impactful models of working with a problem. Not giving up, not ceasing to care, but embracing what it is and making it into something that works. 

Make a point to recognize when a character in a book or movie is choosing to persevere. Research famous mistakes that became wins. Watch blooper reels and footage of athletes practicing. One of the most impactful instances of grit I’ve ever encountered was at a museum exhibition of the iconic house of Dior, whereupon admiring original design sketches I was struck to see eraser marks and faded pencil lines. Designers at the top of their game in one of the most revered fashion houses still didn’t get it right the first time. Be intentional about making the process as important as the outcome, not simply making heroes of those who achieve greatness but considering also what it took to get there. This same son of mine has mentioned before that sometimes watching events like the Olympics or talent competitions can make him feel “dumb”, since he can’t do the same things. What a classic example of a kid who uses either/or thinking, right? So often humans celebrate the outcome with little thought to the journey, the stumbles, the scars, the setbacks. Emphasize all that happens between the starting line and the medal podium, remind them that while many things come easy, not everything is supposed to, and it is normal and healthy to have to work at it. 

There are, of course, resources to help you along the way, such as Angela’s book or one of our favorites, Big Life Journal. I remember a mom at one of Colleen’s speaking engagements sharing that her son grew enormously more flexible by watching videos of champion domino sequencers failing at lining up their dominos correctly. Accidental topples, incorrect spacing, it was all eye-opening to him to witness the mistakes that ultimately weren’t visible in the final (perfect) product. Start a project together or pick new hobbies that allow for a learning curve, something intimidating or foreign so that no one can fall back on already-acquired skills. Grit isn’t something that is shamed or shouted into a kid’s mind frame, it’s best soaked up when offered with encouragement, support, reality, and flexible language. When your kiddo wants to give up, rather than punishing or calling them a quitter, offer to help them through a step that is causing frustration. Help them to break down dreams and tasks into digestible steps when the finish line is so overwhelmingly far away. Remind and encourage your kids that their worth or intelligence isn’t changed by challenge, and celebrate baby steps often. 

History is filled with feats of heroism and accomplishment. We can name the first man to set on the moon, the Olympian with the most gold medals, the authors of successful series, and artists with works that continue to inspire through the centuries. We are familiar with the results, but rarely learn of the process. Gifted kids have been recognized from an early age for their abilities, the finish lines they seem to leap over in a single step. Not a lot is difficult for them, especially in the younger grades, so when they are suddenly faced with challenge or failure, they haven’t yet had to practice how that feels, let alone how to work through it. Grit is an incredibly important and rewarding trait to help them build, not just for their own strength as they persevere, but for what will come of it when they do. 

gifted kids


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The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children in building social emotional skills, including resiliency. In fact, we have an entire month dedicated to helping children strengthen their resilience and flexibility.

We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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Help! My Gifted Child Is Worried All The Time

One of my most salient memories of elementary school is, unfortunately, a dark one. 

In the summer before fifth grade, I learned from TV news that a girl who attended my school had been killed, along with the rest of her family, by her mentally ill father. It was sad and horrifying, although I did not know the girl very well and had never met her family. After the initial shock wore off, I was left with a lingering, nagging worry that persisted for almost a year.

Until then, it had never occurred to me that a parent could do something like that. I began to worry that maybe my dad would do the same thing, even though he had never shown any reason whatsoever to believe that could happen. It was a real concern for me off and on throughout my fifth grade year at my gifted magnet school. I know now that my gifted peers may have been harboring similar, ongoing worries and fears. 

Gifted Child Is Worried

More than thirty years later, I have two gifted children of my own. Intellectually, my boys are far beyond where I tested as a child. So too, are their worries. Maybe you can identify?

When the six year old begins to worry about war.

When the eight year old is convinced someone will come and take his dog.

When the twelve year old is deeply concerned about world events. 

As I have met more and more parents of gifted children, and have learned more about the gifted population, I now know that a gifted brain is often prone to worry. In fact, worry can be a common feature of what it means to be a gifted.  

 Common sense would suggest that gifted individuals might experience more worry just because of the way their brains work – being able to see more possible problems and more possible outcomes or solutions. – The Davidson Institute

If worry is a part of our children’s intellectual make-up, what, if anything, can we do to help help them with it?

Related: The Gift Of Giftedness

Gifted Child Is Worried


Is It Worry Or Anxiety?

Before I share strategies for helping a worried, gifted child, I want to address a common question associated with our children’s worries. 

Is it worry or is this something that should be classified as something more serious, like anxiety?

The line between the two is often blurred in our culture, but the truth is, there are differences between what we would clinically diagnose as anxiety and what is classically worry. Here are some of the general principles that apply in determining if something is worry or anxiety

Worry tends to be specific. 

While anxiety is a general and overall state, worry tends to be specific to a certain concern of circumstance. For example, my son worried off and on for more than a year about losing his dog. It was an incredibly specific concern and not an overall, generalized feeling of anxiety. 

Worry is a more temporary state and comes and goes.

When I struggled in fifth grade, I worried about my dad intermittently. It was temporary and did not permeate every interaction with him or persist throughout my days. It was a concern, but one that ebbed and flowed.  This is a classic tip to help distinguish the difference between the two. 

Worry triggers problem solving. 

When my oldest son was very young and worried about war, he began to read books about weaponry and battle plans. He learned as much as he could about different generals in The Revolutionary War, and even talked with me about what we should do to protect ourselves if we ever needed to live in a war torn area. 

Worry triggers problem solving measures, especially in gifted children. Anxiety does not, as it tends to paralyze the person experiencing it with an inability to react. 

Related: Navigating Social and Emotional Needs Of Gifted Kids 

Gifted Child Is Worried


My Gifted Child Is Worried All The Time

Now that we have identified what true worry is, let’s address what we can do to help our struggling children. 

Acknowledge the worry.

It is tempting, as a parent, to want to distract our children from their worry, or worse, ignore it and hope it goes away. While we don’t want to add to the worry with an excessive focus, we do need to acknowledge the worry itself and our child’s experience with it. For many kids, the ability to have a safe conversation about the worry is enough to help decrease it. Normalizing the reality that worries will come helps our children feel more comfortable and in control.

Learn about worry.

It can be incredibly useful for gifted children to learn about worry itself and how it is a part of their own existence. This helps them to not only develop coping skills, it also allows them to self-advocate. 

For example, when my son and I talked about how his intellect could be an element of his tendency to worry, he was better able to communicate his concerns to me and other trusted adults. It made worry less personal and something he could discuss as freely as his eyes being blue and his hair being blonde. It is simply part of his makeup.

We have compiled a comprehensive list of books to help children learn more about worry and develop confidence along the way. Click on the image below to see all of our favorite choices. 


Introduce coping skills and activities.

Because our children tend to be asynchronous in their development, their intellect often exceeds their emotional capabilities. No matter what the worry itself, this asynchrony can create an intensity in our kiddos’ days that can be difficult for them to manage on their own. Perhaps the very best way to help a worried, gifted child is to help them learn how to cope when worry rears its ugly head.

One of the best resources I’ve used for teaching this is Colleen’s Anxiety Tool Kit.  The Anxiety Toolkit is the result of years of talking with parents about the ways in which they help their kiddos manage their anxiety, research-based strategies, and her Colleen’s own experience in parenting children with anxiety. She created this card deck as a practical and immediate way to introduce coping activities and techniques into a child’s day. These cards make it easy to talk through various coping strategies with your child, and find the ones that work best for you.

Related: The Anxious Parent Of The Anxious Child – Your Anxiety Is Not Identical

If your gifted child is worried all the time, please know, you are not alone. It is a part of raising children with this type of intensity. The good news is, not only is it common, but there are plenty of options we can use to help. 

More support is now available for your child, and for you!

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children with intensities, like worry. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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Getting Back to Homeschool After a Mental Health Crisis

We love differently-wired kids around here. We’re used to quirks and differences, square pegs and outliers. We understand that our little babies can deal with some very big things and we do everything we can to empathize and advocate for them. Sometimes we make big decisions and battle through little progress, but we never, ever stop trying to help our kids, despite the journey often requiring us to take paths we never imagined with maps we don’t understand. 

Sometimes during the privilege and pain of raising such spectacularly different children, we encounter traumatic, unforeseen, upending events. When raising a differently-wired or twice-exceptional child, sometimes this means a mental health crisis. Whether it’s a bout with depression, an explosion of rage, or admission to inpatient care, these mental health emergencies have the power to halt everything. Once the crisis has passed, however, it can be difficult to re-enter life as it was before. You’re different. Your child is different. Suddenly everything feels more fragile than before, and you’re left feeling as though you’re walking on eggshells trying to get back to “normal“. You may feel isolated and unprepared, and in a way you are, but this is not something you have to navigate blindly. 

   mental health

When faced with a mental health crisis, the focus is solely on survival. Doing the work that needs to get done, making the changes that need to be made, making the appointments, practicing the skills, and sometimes even taking the pills. Time outside of the wellness bubble can stand still or race forward, never matching up with your current feelings and experiences, leaving you feeling disconnected and living in an alternate reality. The time comes, though, when re-entry begins and you ease back into the speed of life around you. 

Homeschool studies are one of the areas of life that can easily be placed aside in the midst of a crisis, mental health or otherwise. The flexibility of homeschooling lends itself to the option to wait until later, catch up, slow down. When faced with inpatient care, health crises, numerous appointments, or intensive therapies, homeschool can – and probably should – wait. Eventually, though, you will find yourself and your child needing to pick back up with their learning or needing the comfort of routine. So how do you get back into your homeschool routine once your world has been turned upside down and reality has been irrevocably altered? 


First and foremost, focus on your home, not your homeschool. Remember that you are not doing school at home, and academic timelines are created by public schools to fit the majority of typical students. Your child does not have to finish Algebra by 9th grade, does not have to speak a second language by senior year, and does not have to graduate at 18. However much time off you need to take, take it without worry of getting off schedule. Focus on making your home feel safe before you worry about it being educational. 

Everyone in the family has just been through a traumatic experience, and everyone will need to cope in their own ways. Check in on siblings and spend intentional time with them. Talk openly with your struggling child about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking. Remove any potential dangers in the home, including mental and emotional ones – some anxious kids struggle with seeing the time on clocks, some depressed children need to avoid certain movies or books. Focus first on what makes home comfortable and safe so that everyone has a place to heal. 

Related: Homeschooling Because of Mental Illness, I Just Want My Son Back | What it Feels Like When Your Child is in Crisismental health

Depending on the length of the mental health crisis and the specific diagnosis being treated, your re-entry into homeschool, specifically, will need to be tailored to fit your child’s needs. If anxiety is an issue, activities like strewing can easily become overwhelming, situations that require a child to make a decision from several options. Crafts may prove to be frustrating, combining sensory irritations and the feeling of powerlessness that can accompany finished products not resembling the inspiration behind them. 

For children battling depression, focus on your kiddo’s natural strengths, subjects or games that aren’t enormously challenging and will guarantee them success. Incorporate activities that encourage discussion and introspection, things like art, writing, anything that allows for the expression of emotions without a grade being assigned. 

If dissociating, a fugue state, or another extreme break from reality has taken place, routine will be of the utmost importance. Whether it’s creating a solid schedule, incorporating favorites into the day, a bedtime ritual, or even a specific meal, find ways to keep your child grounded at home, provide an anchor that can always be expected and depended upon. Be mindful of the stories you read together, making sure they aren’t so wildly fantastical that they trigger your child. 

If you have other children, keep their needs and comfort in mind, as well. They likely have felt neglected during the crisis you’ve all just come through. They may have had to stay with loved ones during treatment, walk on eggshells during meltdowns, or generally give up more of their time and more of your attention. Take them out to one-on-one dinners, to the movies, spend an extra 30 minutes in their room after bedtime just listening and chatting. Praise and hug them as often as you can. 

In all of this, don’t forget to give yourself some time to heal, as well. 

Related: Forget the Box | Embracing Your Child’s Otherness, Safe Place Fatigue mental health

When everyone is well and stable enough to begin formal lessons, start with only a handful of subjects or activities, even just one if you need to. Cuddle up together and read, out loud. Share stories. Play easy games. Watch reruns of America’s Funniest Videos or Mark Rober YouTube videos. Get back into the habit and flow of gathering together to enjoy something. Add in subjects one at a time, waiting as many weeks or months as you need. Remember, graduation dates are an arbitrary deadline that your child doesn’t need to focus on as much as they do their mental health. 

It may take months or years to get back to your regular homeschool routine, or you may never return to what you previously did. Needing to schedule various appointments means making days flexible, moving co-ops or subjects around. Your former schedule may have been too overloaded, or not structured enough. It would also be incredibly beneficial to find ways to incorporate mental health learning into your homeschool, working through social stories or improving emotional intelligence together. Your homeschool may never be the same again, and that’s okay. Because the point isn’t to get back to life as normal, it’s to adjust your life to become the most supportive version of normal that is needed. 

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