Surviving School Holidays with PTSD
For any parent school holidays can be tough, for parents with PTSD/CPTSD it can add on yet another dimension of stresses and strains. Learn tips on how to get through them while also looking after yourself.
This is how I feel today! I love my kids but yes it can be tough having them on school holidays; juggling quality time with them while also trying to work, getting all the mundane household chores done and then also trying to look after myself.
For any other parents out there with mental health conditions, how do you try and look after yourself when you have your children during school holidays?
This is what I did that seemed to work better for me this time;
* Breathe and try and keep your cool. When the kids are hyper and running havoc around the house I can get triggered* and find myself quickly losing my cool. Loud noises can be triggering for a lot of people with PTSD/CPTSD, especially screaming and shouting. Deep slow breathing and grounding techniques helped me stay calm and deal with it (most of the time). I only lost my temper on a couple of occasions over the past fortnight, a big win for me!
* Think before you speak - I try to count to five before reacting/responding to something that the kids are doing or saying that I know I need to deal with. This helps me from saying something I don't really want to say, and later regretting it, and it also allows me a little more time to think through the outcomes of anything I may say.
* Plan a mixture of things to do. I mainly work this around the weather to be honest. If it's dry we'll head out to a park, go out on the bicycles, go for a walk near the sea, go out for a picnic, or play in the garden. Basically anything to get out of the house for a while that’s doesn’t cost a lot of money. If it's wet I try to do a variety of indoor things from baking, playing music, arts and craft or simply playing role play games the children have asked me to join in with.
* If you have family or friends that you can call on arrange play dates, also ask somebody to mind the kids for a few hours so you can have a rest, get in some self-care time or spend those precious moments with your partner. (I'm not great at this element, asking for help is not my strong point but I'm learning.. .).
* Don’t forget about another valuable resource; your kids’ friends’ parents! If you have their contact details arrange play dates for the kids with them. It may not be peace and quiet but the kids will play together and you can have a nice cuppa while chatting to other adults probably facing the same holiday conundrums as you. This may provide some welcome relief to you all.
* I appreciate this one may be difficult to achieve, but if you can get a minder for a few hours also consider scheduling in extra appointments with your therapist, or at least keeping to your regular meetings if you are attending one. As well as being welcomed respite from your kids it will provide a safe space for you to chat about any anxieties, fears or stresses that may be escalating while you have your kids on a full-time basis.
* My next go-to is at times when I am either exhausted from PTSD symptoms not letting up or I'm still recovering from a particularly bad night with nightmares and insomnia a PJ day or movie afternoon is the answer! Nowt wrong with a little laziness, cuddles and popcorn on the sofa. (Just don’t make it a daily habit).
Failing all of the above I must admit TV and iPad time for the kids, plus copious amounts of coffee and chocolate for me have also been known to be consumed!
At times I do feel guilty that I'm not doing enough with my children because I am feeling so tired or triggered* but that's ok, we’re human! My children are also at the ages (8 and 5) where it's good to either play together or have some self-directed playtime by themselves.
Lose the guilt people!!!!
So, there you go, my quick guide to surviving school holidays. I'm sure you will have many more tips, please do comment below. I'll post this article again at the beginning of the summer holidays and add in any useful tips’ you guys have as a reminder and a bit of a survival guide for those sunny weeks ahead (yes, I did say sunny, I’m being hopeful!).
* Triggers are anything that remind someone (consciously or subconsciously) of previous trauma. When a person is reminded of the trauma, their body acts as if the event is happening, returning to fight or flight mode. During a traumatic event, the brain often ingrains sensory stimuli into memory. Even when a person encounters the same stimuli in another context, they associate the triggers with the trauma. To be triggered is to have an intense emotional or physical reaction, such as terror, fear, a panic attack or to dissociate after encountering a trigger.