Thursday, February 10, 2011

Psych Graduation

The Handy Family has Left the (Psych) building!

We graduated! We've been seeing a (student) psychologist since about August 2010, specifically about Elena's nighttime issues (which aren't a problem now, by the way). We have come a long, long way.

Here's the recap.

Sometime between Elena starting to talk (2.5 years) and 4 years of age, she started freaking out at bedtime. I don't know what caused it--but it didn't take long before it was hours of straight-up screaming before bedtime, and an average of 2 hours screaming during the night. IT. WAS. AWFUL. Jason and I fought about what was going on--he thought it was due to brain damage, and may need medication; he wanted a sleep specialist. I thought it was a parenting problem--but we didn't know what we were doing wrong, and didn't know how to fix it. E's pediatrician (and other main docs) agreed with me. I didn't want to medicate Elena. After one last very very bad night, where just about all of us were crying, losing our minds, I called professionals the next day. Eight of them, hoping just one would call me back.

Two did. I chose the UVA school of education, where we'd be seeing a student psychologist and be observed by an invisible team via camera. I chose them for two reasons--one, they were cheap; two, they were close to work. We saw them weekly, or once every two weeks. Sometimes it was all of us; sometimes it was just a parent+Elena, and then sometimes just me.

We saw results, literally, after one month. I couldn't believe it. We had spent close to two years dreading every nightfall.

What took me so long? I mean, I accept--and seek--a LOT of help raising my kids. I guess a lot of that help revolved around things I wasn't trained for--like physical therapy, modern medicine, sign language, nursing, orthoses, assistive devices, etc. But for some reason, getting help with "the basics of parenting"--putting your child to bed--took forever. I felt like I was admitting I was a failure.

Well, in case my experience can help any of you, here's what I've learned. Keep in mind that during this nighttime troublefest/rehabilitation, Elena had 2 rounds of Botox, three surgeries (eyes, SDR, and PERCS), countless hours of therapy, public school, and birth of a sibling. In no particular order, here is what helped us:

1. If you have a family problem, try to make a family solution. Have a Family Meeting, where you all address the problem, and everyone has input to create a Family Plan. You stick to the plan, and refer to it often.

2. Elena's a smart girl; I need to ask her opinion on family matters.

3. Elena is a big sister and I should treat her like one. I was trying to include her in family activities, but in doing so, I wasn't making special "Elena time". We have "Big Girl Time" after Vivian goes to bed; it makes E feel special, and differentiates the two kids.

4. Having a third party (psychologist) really took the pressure off us parents. It made us all listen to someone else; if E had a problem with the plan, it was with the plan or the psychologist, NOT ME.

5. We used the Ferber Method. We tried this before, and failed miserably. Here's what we did--starting this regimen during the middle of the night wake-ups (this was all part of our family plan):
--if E wakes up, we walk in and ask what's going on. If she's not sick/needing to use the bathroom/(insert good reason for being up here), we tell her our comfort phrase "I love you. I know you can do this, I know you can go back to sleep." LEAVE. Don't tell them you'll be back.
--wait 3 minutes. If she's crying, repeat.
--wait 5 minutes. If she's crying, repeat.
--wait 10 minutes. If she's crying, repeat.
--repeat every 10 minutes until she's asleep.

Some nights, E would crawl out of bed repeatedly (she can't get back in). I'd calmly carry her back to bed, and say the phrase, and keep going.

Literally, this never took more than 40 minutes. After dealing with screaming/tantrums literally for hours EVERY NIGHT for two years, 40 minutes was NOTHING. It didn't take long until the night wakings stopped; then we tackled the actual going to bed part in the same way.

Today, I put her in bed, tuck her in, say goodnight and leave. I get ready for bed myself, and by the time I come back to read her a book, she's asleep.

I am really proud of us. Elena is proud of herself, and of me. Karen and UVA Curry School--I can't thank you enough.


GingerB said...

Awesome results. You guys rock!

caryanne said...

That is awesome! And I just love the new header...what an awesome photo of E!!!