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Self-care for moms of kids with special needs looks different than it does for those with a more typical family. Christie Thomas, children’s author and creator of fabulous tools for families, shares about uncommon self-care for the mom of an anxious child.
I pulled tight the knot of my shoelace with a satisfying snap. My jogging clothes were on and a pair of headphones were tucked in my pocket.
After a day of sitting in front of my computer, I planned to drive my boys from school to piano lessons, then have nearly a whole hour to enjoy the outdoors. My heart lightened at the thought.
Sounds like self-care, right? I thought so, too.
So when my eldest climbed into the van, angry and emotional, my heart sank. His emotions grew as I drove, and it was clear that he needed some time with me before his lesson. But I did not want to give up my exercise time. I barely heard his complaints as my mind played tug-of-war with itself.
I thought he was over this anxiety stuff.
Why is it coming up again?
I should go for a walk with him.
But what about my jog? That’s important, isn’t it?
He’d be ok if I just let him sit on the couch there, right?
Being his mom has brought its share of challenges, especially when it comes to the way he deals with his anxieties. When he’s worried, he can be very emotional and explosive.
It seemed like a reasonable choice to let him calm down a bit while I went for a jog and his brother had his lesson, but I worried that if I tried to let him calm down on his own, he would explode on his piano teacher.
As I pulled the van into the piano teacher’s driveway, the responsible side of me won the day. My 9 year old son tucked his hand into mine and we walked around the neighbourhood for 20 minutes.
This Was Not Self-Care (maybe)
I was not practicing self-care as my Facebook feed would encourage me to. My worldly wisdom said, “go for that jog. Then you’ll feel better and be ready to deal with his issues.”
But 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 reminds us that “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (NIV)
Human advice would tell me that I couldn’t properly care for him if I was in a grouchy state myself. It’s easy to take the world’s advice, because my natural bent is to turn inward and become selfish. I covet my time alone and find it easy to place its value above all other values.
The type of self-care that draws away from life to rest does have its place. But the human notion of self-care is flawed at its core. A depleted and drained “self” cannot properly care for anyone well, including self.
It only causes me to become more selfish and miserly of my self-time.
What I actually need to do when I am depleted and drained is drink from the Fount That Never Runs Dry. When I ask God for his strength to help me through each moment, he is faithful to fill me up and give me what I need to be the mom my boys need.
Do This For Self-Care Instead
As a mom with a child that is very prone to anxiety, it’s easy to blame myself for his stresses and worries.
– I wonder if I did a poor job helping him when he was younger.
– I worry that I’m a bad mom.
– I feel that my child’s behaviour is a reflection of myself.
I needed to use the Biblical technique of taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Just in case you think only Christians do this, it’s surprisingly similar to a therapy technique called “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy”. (reference)
2 Corinthians 10:5 says “we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Practically, this means that we need to examine our thoughts and determine if they are truths or lies. Are my thoughts the sort of thoughts that God has toward me, and toward my child? If not, I need some truths that I can hold onto instead.
This is what I was doing with my son that day, but in reality we both needed to assess our negative thoughts and replace them with good ones. This is especially important when my child’s anxiety causes tantrums and defiance.
I need to practice not getting riled up or blaming myself for his actions. I also need to focus on the truth in each situation so that I don’t project my own insecurities and fears onto my children.
The Truths That Replace The Lies
One the days when your child’s issues are overwhelming and you need more care than your self can dredge up, read these 5 scripture passages.
I encourage you to pray through them, lifting up your situation to God alongside the promises he has given. Through these truths, God will reveal his care for you, and fill you with strength to continue.
Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John 15:5-8, NIV: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Philippians 4:6-8m NIV: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:13, NIV: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When I focus on the strength God gives, I can receive rejuvenation and care from God even in the midst of an exhausting conversation with my son.
Yes, I still will need times to pull away and be alone, but when I find my rest in him, I won’t feel such a desperate need to find physical rest. It is possible to find internal peace even when the world (and my child) is going off the rails around me.
A Tool For Your Anxious Child
Some kinds of childhood anxiety occur naturally. They ebb and flow as our children go through various stages. But some children have a personality of anxiousness, and this can be extra hard to deal with as a parent.
My book, Quinn’s Promise Rock, was written to help younger children deal with the stress of separation. It gives children truths and tools to help combat separation anxiety.
The Best Kind Of Self-Care
The best kind of self-care occurs when I entrust myself into God’s care. When I let him fill up my cup, I can find supernatural strength to continue even in the most draining situations.
That day, as we walked hand-in-hand and talked about his struggles, both of our attitudes shifted. I moved from resentment toward my son to appreciation and deeper love, and he moved from highly stressed to smiling and joking.
I even had time for a jog afterward. Even thought it was cut short, I ran like a deer because my heart was at peace.