Avoiding stress for our children is not realistic. Some children will have more difficulty with it than others.
We use a lot of visuals and communication tools during day to day care. When the unexpected happens it is not always possible to be prepared with a visual or have time to prepare one. It helps to think about how your child might react to it.
During a very cold spell last winter our furnace was out for two days. We still had electricity and were able to put heaters in locations that would not be as likely to upset him and use the oven when he was otherwise occupied. This was a more manageable situation.
The next week a tree fell on my husband’s pickup bringing the power line down with it. While we were waiting for the power company to arrive I instructed support staff to give Billy Ray some of his as needed medication for agitation because it was clear once they turned the power off we were going to have agitation big time.
Billy Ray does not understand why the VCR doesn’t work when the power is off. Flashlights are kind of fun but that VCR or his boombox better be available on demand or we have issues.
When I was talking to someone about Billy Ray’s reaction, she said “oh I’m sure he just goes with the flow”. NO!!! A tree coming down and losing electricity is stressful on any family but when your child doesn’t understand what is happening to his world all of a sudden it can multiply that stress many times over. He is confused by the change in circumstances and picks up on the stress even if he doesn’t understand. He can become totally out of control and agitated it if we don’t deal with it quickly.
An important skill to cultivate is anticipating reactions, communicating what is going on to the child and adapt as much as possible. We knew he was going to be bothered by service people in and out and the noise involved so we prepared with extra medication and by having him listen to his walkman (battery operated) which toned down the noise at least. Additionally, we took him outside to show him the tree and try to help him understand as best he could. Later we took him out for an early dinner to get him out of the situation for a while.
We still got some agitation by nearly seven hours without electricity but we were able to reduce it because we have learned to know what will trigger it.
The ability to think ahead to how your child may react to stressors becomes second nature after a while. When you have a little more warning than we got with the tree coming down you can do things that don’t require medication to deal with the stress. Planning for situations helps your child adjust.
In our former home, we had a visual about the power going off and how we had to have cords running to a generator. He could only watch television in the living room next to the pellet stove. The circumstances in our current home are different so that visual no longer applies. We didn’t feel we would have the power outages here. We didn’t anticipate the tree falling on a power line. A visual about what happens when the electricity goes out would have been a helpful tool.
Obviously you cannot anticipate every potential; however, anticipating stress to the degree possible makes a big difference for your child.