It's no secret that Princess struggles to work through emotions in safe and healthy ways. Over the years it's seemed like we've tried everything to help her. The good. The bad. The in between.
About a year ago Princess was at her worst. It was scary for everyone. Doctors and therapists were involved on a regular basis.
We were taking Princess to therapy sessions weekly, and e-mailing therapists more often than that because of issues arising at home. This continued for a year, and still Princess regressed. My husband and I were absolutely miserable and extremely concerned.
In September we decided to take a break from therapy and just work on being a family with everyone functioning through day to day tasks. This is when we discovered the one sure way to help your child work through emotions.
Though Princess had regressed while receiving therapy for a year, all of us had learned important skills and strategies during sessions. The approach to working through emotions wasn't working, but the ideas behind the approach were valid. Princess still needed to learn how to work through emotions safely and effectively.
We were all so exhausted from the year's worth of crazy chaos. Whatever route we took to helping Princess next needed to be simple. The process had to be benefit everyone involved. It also needed to have a built-in reinforcement to encourage progress even when she fights it.
I made an agreement with Princess. If she could function through daily tasks, we would not question her about feelings. However if she couldn't function, we'd go for a walk, just her and I. She would be required to talk about her feelings. We wouldn't stop walking until she was finished and we had a plan to make things better.
We had observed over the past few months that Princess was most successful working through emotions right before bed when she was tired. She didn't have the energy and stamina to put up a fight.
We also knew that Princess was fully capable of walking 8+ miles. We had walked as a family last Summer and Fall in preparation for our trip to Disney World with an overall goal of walking 10 miles successfully. Princess had no troubles in the park because of our preparations.
To ensure Princess stays hydrated on our walks, we always bring along water bottles and take breaks when needed.
Our walks are now known as the "Walk n' Talk."
Our first walk was six miles long. She avoided talking about her feelings for the first two miles. But, she was being safe as we walked. This was something I hadn't seen before.
I had told her ahead of time that she was responsible for her own safety.
- She was required to keep up with me, walking side by side, where I could see her.
- She was responsible for remaining on the sidewalk or walking trail.
- She was in charge of keeping her body safe while walking.
- There would be no physical contact between us while on the Walk n' Talk.
Princess was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other, keeping up with me, and being vigilant about her surroundings that she didn't have time to engage in dangerous behaviors. Knowing what it would mean if we needed to call the doctor, she did her very best to follow the plan.
Miles three and four were rough. Princess was fighting so hard to keep her emotions to herself. When she does this she becomes angry and tends to lash out with words. At times she cries. When at home or in therapy, she screams.
But on our walk, she could only tense up so much. She was focused on walking and breathing. Princess still cried and lashed out, but it was nothing like what she does at home. The best part about the scenario was that I had been walking and breathing too, which helped me remain calm. I was able to speak in soothing tones, repeating words of comfort and encouragement.
If we passed neighbors as we walked, and they seemed concerned about Princess who was crying or yelling, I was able to explain that she was having a hard day and we were going for a walk to work through emotions. It was a simple explanation that was 100% true. Princess knew if she tried to cause a scene I would share further details about her behaviors, which is something she hates.
The Power of Words
Miles five and six were mind blowing. Princess was so tired. She couldn't hold her emotions back any longer. Her words poured out like a rainstorm. I've never heard her talk so much. And when she was finished, she let me help her. We talked about every emotion and every scenario.
When we returned home, Princess asked for a hug. In case you didn't know, Princess never asks for hugs.
The second walk was another six miles. The third was eight miles. Lately the walks are becoming shorter and shorter. Just this week, we only walked two miles and she was finished with her process. Princess is becoming a pro at it.
We have never been in a better place than we are right now. Princess is working through emotions more effectively than she's ever done before.
We have walked in sun, wind, rain, and cold. For the first time in a long time, I'm losing weight, instead of gaining weight from stress related to worry about Princess.
- She's exercising.
- She's learning how to breathe correctly.
- She's eating better.
- The dangerous behaviors have stopped.
- Her sleeping has improved significantly.
- She's staying safe.
We love the Walk n' Talk. It has been the one sure way we've been able to help Princes work through emotions.
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