As a believer in Christ, a homeschool mama, and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I can attest to how important our mental health is for ushering in a peaceful environment for our children to grow and learn.
Our presence is an environment, and if we are struggling in our own emotional life, it will eventually spill out on to our children.
Remember that all mamas struggle with homeschooling at one time or another, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or unmotivated.
Sometimes we may just need a few hours alone, a good coffee, a work-out, or some time with the Lord or in community. However, when basic self care is not alleviating the tension we feel, it can be important to seek out more tailored healing methods.
My deepest desire is to encourage and equip you with specific resources that will hopefully lead you on the right path towards healing and renewal.
To begin, one of the most important things you can do as a mama is set aside some time to take inventory of your mental health.
- If you find yourself being triggered by something your kids are doing, become a curious observer and ask yourself why.
- Make a mental note of how your body feels when certain emotions arise.
- If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other somatic expressions, take notes surrounding the circumstance, the thoughts you have, the frequency it is occurring, or any other helpful clues. All of these clues will better help you discern what direction and kind of help you might need to begin your healing journey.
In this post I want to address 3 very common issues I see that often go misdiagnosed in both mamas and children.
Many of us have faced trauma in our lives. Whether it stems from our childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, trauma is something that needs to be resolved if we are going to break free.
It is easy to believe that “trauma” is only reserved for big catastrophes like war, rape or violence (which we often called “big T trauma”), but remember, trauma can also be any experience that was distressing or disturbing in which your brain was not able to adaptively process.
Did a teacher humiliate you in the second grade? Have hurtful words from your parents or close friend negatively impacted your growth? Maybe you had a traumatic birth and you are still not able to talk about it? (We might classify these as “little t traumas”, but they are trauma nonetheless and need to be dealt with).
If you recognize there are parts of your past that are affecting your present circumstances, it is important to seek professional help.
My biggest encouragement would be find an EMDR therapist. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a therapeutic modality that allows our mind and body to work together to reprocess trauma in a more adaptive way. In my experience as a therapist who has both used EMDR with my clients, and has had EMDR done on myself with my own therapist, it is an incredible tool for healing.
EMDR is often able to accomplish in months what might take years with traditional talk therapy.
Practical Tip- To find an EMDR therapist search for practitioners in your area who are trained in EMDR.
Resources- One of the best books I’ve ever read on trauma is called “Getting Past Your Past” by Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR. As someone who has experience significant trauma, I cried tears of hope when I finished the book.
Highly Sensitive Person/Child
One diagnoses that is often missed for both adults and children is that of being a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) or Highly Sensitive Child (HSC).
While it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM, it is a very potent trait in 20% of the population. As a highly sensitive homeschool mama myself, learning how to effectively manage my overwhelm has been crucial in maintaining both sanity and peace in our household. When we discovered one of our children was highly sensitive, understanding what our HSC needed from us in moments of overwhelm and emotional dysregulation was a HUGE win for the atmosphere of our household. Instead of emotional outburst that built in intensity and lasted on end, we adaptively learned how a calm and neutral presence could diffuse the situation.
In your mental health inventory, if you are finding you are getting overwhelmed and easily overstimulated, or your child is exhibiting these behaviors, this could be a beneficial avenue to explore.
The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron
This revolutionary book can help you identify if your child is highly sensitive. It was the book I never knew I needed, and it brought deeper health to our family.
HSC Coaching: If you find your child is a HSC, and you are needing more immediate and practical assistance than a book can offer, consider Megan Thompson Coaching. I have watched a family with highly sensitive children transform from the help of Megan’s coaching. An extremely valuable resource you can find online.
The Peaceful Press homeschool resources help you create a peaceful home atmosphere while leaving margin for emotional health. Check out our elementary parent guides here.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Lastly, I wanted to touch on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is commonly misdiagnosed. On average it takes an OCD sufferer 17 years to get a proper diagnosis. Suffering from OCD is truly miserable. The fears are very real, and sadly traditional therapy can often make OCD worse.
While the general population might perceive OCD to be a disorder only relegated to those who are afraid of germs or those who compulsively check locks, OCD actually has many avenues that often look like every day fears.
Do you find yourself obsessing over certain relationships in your life? Ruminating if everything is “ok” between you and another person, or asking yourself if you did something wrong? Or maybe you feel like you married the wrong person and find yourself constantly going over if you made the right choice? It is possible you might suffer with Relational OCD.
Do you ever obsess about whether you are doing the “right thing”? Do you wrestle with guilt if you perceive you made the “wrong decision” or hurt someone’s feelings? Does your child feel the need to confess all their “wrongdoings” to you? If so, you may be dealing with Moral Scrupulosity.
Do you or your child ever struggle with a fear of eternity and thinking about what happens after death? Does it scare you or your child to think about eternal matters? You may be dealing with Existential OCD.
These are just a few of the many types of OCD I see within my practice.
OCD is an anxiety disorder, so begin by gauging if you or your child are experiencing anxiety. If yes, ask yourself what you do to alleviate that anxiety. A person struggling with OCD will reach for a compulsion to try to alleviate anxiety (which can range from more obvious compulsions such as obsessively washing hands if fearful of germs, or more difficult to identify compulsions such as obsessively ruminating over a fear)
Practical Tip: If you think you may have OCD it is very important to reach out to a therapist that specializes in OCD. The gold standard modality for OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and it is a powerful therapy to help you break free. If you aren’t sure, you can always schedule an appointment with an OCD therapist who can work to gauge if ERP is right for you.
Resources: I would highly recommend OCD Specialists at www.ocdspecialists.com as well as Nathalie Rutherford from Mind on Fire and Madeline Moerch from Westside OCD & Anxiety Center.
Choosing to seek help can be one of the most powerful things you do for your heart and your homeschool! You don’t have to suffer alone. You can homeschool with peace. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
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