Tag Archive | socialization

Socializing After Circling the Wagons

As always I am writing purely from my personal experience… but the first thing we did when Ken realized he was returning to suicidal thoughts and deep clinical and chemical depression was to “circle the wagons”… I am not sure if everyone is familiar with this saying so I will of course link a definition Circle the Wagons. Wiktionary seems to have a pretty clear definition.

Anyway, by circle the wagons I mean we really did stop the world and focus inward. This was crucial as we were literally working to ensure that Ken was out of danger from himself, his thoughts and any urges that he could have in the future. I am very grateful to my in-laws as they were in the thick if it right away due to proximity.

We had to reassess how we dealt with the public as a whole. How to do you hold a lighthearted conversation with a near stranger, close friend, acquaintance when your entire being is focused on the well being of one person? With the additional complication of not releasing to the greater world how bad and how dire things had gotten? This was not like he was diagnosed with cancer and now we were having a public battle with a disease. In order to get Ken the help he needed at the speed and comfort level he required we had to close our mouths and sometimes the door to those outside our immediate circle.

Really it became second nature for a while. We needed to deal with medication levels, government programs, therapy and psychiatry appointments. We had to familiarize 5 children with the situation in a way that they could comprehend and in a way that did not pressure them to take on any miss placed guilt, confusion or fear. It was a battle we had to fight quickly and quietly at first. There was no way that at that point in our journey to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that I could blog like this, share like this. And boy did I want to.

Circling the wagons can be something that is comforting. We are home, safe and sound, no pressure from the outside… no people saying – but you don’t LOOK sick… or you can’t be THAT ill or I would have known (how would you have known when HE didn’t know? when his own wife didn’t know as she slept next to him night after night?)… no unanswerable questions, no slipping out of privileged information.

So we cut back on out meet and greets, worked out workable dialogues and explanations and focused our energy on what was crucial – reintegration of Ken into our family in a healthy manner AND a focus on getting Ken started on a path that was not self destructive and frightening.

Circling the wagons was swift and easy really, it is the “un” circling that has been the trick. Our reintegration into society (as trite as that sounds) was slow and painstaking. We had to push out of that comfort zone and remember that it is ok to share. My first job was to figure out the limit to what information we were willing to share. Did we want people to know how sick he had been? Do we let in the world on our process? Do we meet new people and just act like all is well?

Well the answer is … you try. And it was scary and hard and at times felt impossible. Having to explain that we couldn’t just get together because Ken had multiple appointments. That we have to cut back on everything because he is on medical leave and we simply do not have resources. That his health was so bad due to depression induced neglect that yes he needs naps and rest right now. These all were things we had to face, extend out and realize that maybe, just maybe everyone else would understand just a little. And if they didn’t – well maybe their place wasn’t in that part of our journey quite yet.

Meeting new people (something which I was very fearful about initially) has taken on a pattern. Depending on the venue I am very up front with Ken’s hearing issue. There is no point in beating around the bush – the man can’t process what you are saying if it is too noisy. He isn’t ignoring you he is… Ken. And that is ok. No one has laughed, no one has seemed upset or disbelieving. In fact, people are interested in knowing more!

I have become quick to mention, when someone asks WHY we have stayed where we are in the state, that mental health resources in Anoka county are AMAZING (cuz they ARE) and that Ken has depression so we stay where we can get resources to ensure he is healthy. You know what? No one has seemed all too disbelieving or unreasonable about that either!!!

BUT it is hard. There are days when I am peopled out… I carry the brunt of interaction in public due to Ken’s hearing issue AND being the buffer when he hits threshold, then add in 5 active children and my own shyness. Because even if I can type up a storm and in my own house be a chatty Kathy, throw me in a new situation in an unfamiliar location and BANG I really do want to sit back, crochet, and take it all in.

There are days when I worry the kids will say something that will come across wrong (of course I think many parents worry about that who are not dealing with an illness or something that they wish to divulge in their own limited fashion… kids are just too darn honest). That I will be shown up as a bad mom, a difficult wife, a lacking in something person. Insecurities run abundant when you are dealing with something so life changing and dependent on you playing your part.

SO what can be done? Well… for myself I find that my internal dialogue has to change. Ken’s illness is a starting point for a new life for us. One full of healthy walks, therapeutic talks, and a family that is now stronger than it has ever been. I have to release the fear that the kids will over share. They are kids and everyone knows that. I am not the only one with 12 yr olds who think they are grown adults, I may be in the minority with FIVE minions, but that is ok.

I am constantly seeking a balance, socializing with the necessary privacy, sharing with a reasonable stopping point, newness with a touch of familiarity. And it is all good. There may be people who cannot understand our family, but somehow I think that is more homeschooling/large family/random Canadian weirdness than Ken and his illness. Besides, how can I truly be an advocate for mental illness support if I don’t step out there, loosen up our wagons and let the reality go free? The grass may not be greener on my side but it certainly is wild and interesting.

As always, for those who are fighting their way through it… be aware, if you lock down some day do open back up. We are here waiting for you when you do. And those in support… remember, being let into that circle of support is such a gift. It is proof that you are an amazing person who is a positive impact on their health and their future. GO YOU!!! And anytime anyone needs a shoulder.. well we are here!

Once again. If you are interested in any of my depression and my family series do use my search engine. The term depression should bring up most. I hope to set up a better link series in the near future. And if you have an idea or topic to share. I would love that!IMG_20160722_145258


Socialization and the Non-Traditional Peer Group

I am sure that each and every homeschooling parent and even some public school parents have had to defend, explain or deal with the concept of the appropriate amount of “socialization”. What I have noticed is that more and more children are pulled out of public schools due to bullying and anxiety, issues with crowds, with not fitting in… issues with their PEERS.

This brought me to the point where I felt the need to examine my OWN peer group. Who do I hang out with on a regular basis (or did as right now I am rebuilding a social life after all)… are they all my own age? Are we together 5 days a week? Now I know that does not equate the experiences a child has but at the same time I wonder… who are our peers?

If a child/teen/etc feels anxiety in their own age group who could be their peers? Their support? Well, who makes them happy? Could a peer group not be a combination of ages, genders and circumstances? Who do you want around yourself and your children? Who makes you happy, feel safe, makes you become the best person you can be? These are all more important questions, in my mind, than are they in your grade and your age.

Another mom on my local Egroup had a great post that she is allowing me to share portions of regarding her hunt to find friends for her kids. Thank you Amy for the permission to share these bits from your email! I know that for many people it is not so much growing up homeschooling as we have with the kids but pulling them out and starting anew… anyway…

…For many kids when their friend’s life and schedule change, they don’t transition with him/her. Making and keeping good friends is an on-going challenge for us and I’m sure for lots of other homeschooling families. A few years ago, my daughter and I made a Venn diagram of friends who were safe, fun, and available and realized that we had zero friends who met all three criterion. Yikes! This realization shaped our decisions about which communities to join and where to invest our energies and led us to changing churches, joining a homeschool co-op, starting new hobbies, and now several years later to a significant reorganizing of priorities in time, money, and effort. We are always on the look-out for ways to cultivate relationships which nourish us…

…Are there any ages or situations in which she feels more comfortable? Does she like babies or seniors or mentally-challenged people? Does she like to garden or train dogs or play board games? Maybe rather than looking for traditional “peers” maybe she’d like to make friends with people of diverse ages and interests. My 6 year-old invited all teenagers to his birthday party because “they don’t make a fuss.” My 11 year-old daughter loves to square dance and partners with a variety of people, including a number of grampas who delight in her pre-teen enthusiasm. Maybe a coffee and tea date with another homeschool mom and her daughter would be a nice start. Or maybe she loves to run so she could look for a jogging partner. Or maybe connecting with a mentor.

Brainstorm with your daughter about her interests and passions and think outside the box. Sometimes befriending people in a different season of life brings a fresh perspective rather than everyone being in exactly the same place, struggling with exactly the same challenges. Including kids in all the interesting bits of life with all the happy, fun, well-adjusted people is one of the joys of homeschooling.

Being a homeschooling mom can be quite daunting as we shoulder so much responsibility for the ebb and flow of our kids’ daily lives. I encourage you both to lean into change, knowing that finding good friends is partly luck and partly hard work and won’t be rushed. I tell my kids that you won’t catch a fish every time you go fishing but that you for sure won’t catch a fish if you don’t put your hook in. There is a mystery and serendipity to friendship that can’t be forced.

What your daughter learns from you about respecting herself and her limits, about working with herself rather than against herself, about the process of being friendly and making good friends, about disappointment and choosing and releasing and walking on- all of that is priceless for her future happiness. Each of us has to learn to tolerate the consequences of being ourselves and coaching our kids through that process is so valuable.

What I take away from Amy’s email is a rather amazing concept… instead of forcing friendships with an age group lets create a social network of peers that include that age group and beyond. Lets surround our family with mentors, with people that we know are a ¬†good influence… lets focus less on quantity and more on quality.

There is an excellent blog entry on the site Schoolhouse Review Crew that deals with levels of socialization. You can find that entry: Socialization and Homeschool: Finding a Good Balance right HERE. The main point I took away from that entry is that kids require different levels of socializing. Some are happy with one dear friend and some need many. Just like any of us, our needs differ! So we need to fulfill the needs of our children not the needs of society’s opinion.