I'm happy to report that our school has really stepped up quite admirably in response to Ike's most recent struggles. I'm sad, of course, that he's having all these struggles in the first place. It's heartbreaking to watch your happiest, bubbliest child suddenly close up and fold into himself, unable to look out at the world without a lens of suspicion and anxiety.
We're on it, though, and so is our school. One of (several) services Ike now receives is a "stress reduction and mindfulness" small group that meets once a week and is run by the school counseling department.
(All the third graders were asked to rank and rate their stress levels. Anyone who rated themselves as REALLY STRESSED THE FUCK OUT was invited to join the group. Turns out Ike has plenty of company there.)
At the most recent meeting, they were asked to draw where they physically feel stress, and to describe what it felt like. This was Ike's:
(I asked him if I could share all of this, by the way, and he said yes. He also gets to clear any photos I post, but usually makes his selection by deciding which one will "get all the likes on Facebook." Oh, no.)
Anyway, let me annotate and explain:
1) "That's the scar on my knee from when I fell down when I was two. I still feel it sometimes."
2) "I get pain in my side there a lot. One time it was so bad Dad had to carry me to the car."
3) "That's this." - shows me the faintest sliver of a scab from a paper cut
4) "That's my lungs. When I get stressed they feel tight and burn-y."
5) "My brain. It just hurts really bad at school and I can't pay attention and there's too much going on."
(Yes, Ike was very recently evaluated for ADHD, along with many, many other things. Depression and social anxiety came back highly elevated, while multiple ADHD scales did not. So. I don't know? We're still keeping an eye on it, as it clearly runs gallops in the family?)
He's very preoccupied with what other kids think of him, and unfortunately tends to assume that they're always thinking something negative, despite all evidence to the contrary. (He has lots of friends! More friends that I have, honestly! Our doorbell rings almost constantly with "Can Ike come out and play?" requests!) When something good or fun happens, he manages to always and immediately find something negative to fixate on instead.
Again, we're on it, but it's not exactly the easiest thing to just "fix."
Two small things that seem to be helping: This book, A Little Spot of Confidence, combined with one of us dutifully marking the back of his hand with a real-life "confidence spot" in orange marker after we finish reading it.
He also created a "positivity jar," and every day we write down one good thing that happened to him, or one happy memory he made. On Fridays, we dump it out and re-read all of them, with none the usual "yeah, but thennnn...." caveats he tends to add.
I wish there was more, I wish I could just...insert Kenan Thompson yelling FIX IT!! on SNL... FIX IT! But small things are what we have right now, and hopefully, they'll start to add up.
"Make sure you put RIBS!!! in all capital letters, okay?"
SURE THING, KIDDO. ALL CAPS IS MAH SIGNATURE COLOR.