My Caregiver Mantra
Many people have mantras to help them meditate but recently, I’ve created mantras to help calm me during challenging caregiver moments.
The Cambridge Dictionary provides these two meanings for the word mantra:
- (especially in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound that is believed to have a special spiritual power
- a word or phrase that is often repeated and that expresses something that people believe in
In the past, I used two primary mantras to help me weather the storm of bad behaviour - “this will pass” and “I love you”.
At the beginning of January, I read an article that explained what happens in the brain with a child with autism to cause him/her to have a meltdown. It detailed the chemical imbalance and sensory overload which causes a child to act in a way that is out of his/her control. The article highlighted that people with autism have brains that are more sensitive and less resilient.
Science. Wow - gotta love how science has improved our understanding of how the brain works for kids with cognitive disabilities. I’m not saying that I ever blamed Summer for her behaviour, but sometimes I did feel as I was being played. I would feel frustrated and in some instances, need to walk away to cool off.
Even now, it can be challenging to have her playing and being happy and then all of a sudden she’s throwing things and kicking the wall screaming.
I also find it difficult to understand how she can be defiant in the morning while getting ready for school - refuse to get dressed, brush her teeth and put on her jacket and boots - when she loves school! All of her friends are at school and she adores her teacher and educational assistants. She wakes up on Saturdays and cries that she wants to go to school and then on Mondays, she fights the morning routine (which was going great two months prior).
Now, given this article, and how it outlined the uncontrolled behaviours of the brain, I recently changed my mantra to “it’s not her fault”.
It has helped me a lot. Those four words have opened my heart to more compassion, more patience and a better understanding. Thus making me a better caregiver and mother.
For example when Summer woke up last week at 3:20 a.m., she went into the bathroom and turned on the water in the bathtub; and then started screaming when I turned it off. For some reason, she wanted a bubble bath. For real!! It took 45 minutes to calm her down and get her back to bed and fall asleep.
Through it all, I remained calm as a cucumber as I repeated “it’s not her fault, it’s not her fault, it’s not her fault” during those 45 minutes.
It was the soothing mantra that I needed.
Thank you mantra. Do you have a similar ritual that you do?
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I am grateful that I get to spend this time with her and her brother. I will honour this time of a more relaxed schedule.
Whichever route a family chooses, what matters is knowing when to ask for help and how to get the right help to care for any family member that needs an additional helping hand.