Hi everyone :)
I have been separated since Jan. 10th this year, and former spouse left on Feb. 4th. It's March 10th today. :) I have five children, four boys: 9, 8, 7, 5, and one girl, 2.5 yrs old.
Alright, so my five children have gone through a bunch of emotions and behaviours during the time since their father left. At first they had anxiety issues because they/we used to 'walk on eggshells' and never knew what would set off a daddy-tantrum. After about a week of that never happening (because he was gone), they began to relax and started to just spend hours relaxed in imaginative play with one another. It was wonderful to see them doing that again. For a long time, their father worked during the days and oftentimes evenings and nights and slept during the day, so there were long periods of most days when they had that freedom. In the four months before he left, he was home all the time, and it was very stressful for all of us.
Anyway, this past week has brought new issues to my attention, and I am wondering if anyone else has seen this or if there is something to be addressed, or just waited out. It is so extreme that I am not sure if I should be getting right on it before habits are formed, or if I should just endure it until it settles. Anyone btdt and could share would be very much appreciated.
They are awake around 7am, and go to bed at 8pm, and stay up until around 10ish- the younger ones slightly earlier, the older ones later. Sleep has always been an issue, and I believe it is tied to stress, so I am working this out on a day-by-day basis and seeing improvements in their sleep already. During the day (we unschool), they have become so unruly, so loud and jumpy/fidgety and completely unhinged, that I feel like I'm in a very noisy factory all day. They literally cannot stop yelling instead of talking, yell-talk over one another for hours upon hours, and basically, it's like they have so much energy that they are constantly on overload and their volume and output is off the charts. These are children who've been home since birth and have had excellent focus, attention spans and self-direction as appropriate for their maturity levels which tend to be rather high in general; they have had a lot of freedom and power of decision at each stage of their abilities when they are with me, and this has been hindered when their father was home, so they have lived a sort of double life until now. They have also always been high-energy with lots of stamina, but again, this is like that x100. I feel like I'm going to lose my mind, lol, and I'm a very relaxed mama in general.
So, I am guessing that they are now experiencing an excess of energy that they don't yet know how to effectively use because they previously expended this energy coping with stress and the instability of the emotional and mental landscape when their father was here. Now that he's not, our life has become very predictable and stable, and so, they are bursting- BURSTING!!!- with energy. Even my very quiet (ha!), introverted nine yr old is yelling at the table- not in anger, just in volume.
I should add that their attitudes are generally very positive, they are happy to be here with me and that their father has gone (except the 2 yr old- she doesn't express anything like that, but her brothers express relief and gladness, and I just listen and offer support without ever blaming their father or anything negative like that; I don't want that kind of attitude in my life or home at all, and not from myself either), so this is not "acting out" in the sense that it is usually understood. I will say that along with this mass-energy explosion has been back-talking and some rudeness that is really not usual, and I am not sure how to deal with that either, because I hear them parroting their father's words and attitudes toward me, as if to make up for the missing stress- to normalise things in the moment, it seems. So far, I just tell them that we can have peaceful conversations without that, and when I say that to them, usually they realise that it's true and they try again, or just stop with the rudeness and carry on with our conversation.
I know that they may need assistance learning what strategies to employ for themselves for channeling all this new-found energy, and also that they may find kinked up anger or other pain in the process of experiencing all of this coming up. I am not sure what exactly to do other than to find practical outlets (lots of physical activity, meditation... we have daily practices such as these already though, and they don't seem to be enough like they used to be). Otherwise, I am just wondering if this is common among families where a major stress has been removed from the daily experience of children. I am going to need a break from it just to have some quiet and space! By 10pm, I am not much able to find ways of refreshing myself for the next day, so I'm waking up exhausted, these last few days, which is not good or usual for me since I've been solo.
Oh, and I've been on the peaceful, naturally-based mothering journey since ds1 was a young toddler- so about 8 years. My children are not schooled in any way- just natural learners. So, I am with my children now 100% of the time, and this is obviously not ideal (I do recognise the need for a break, and have some healthy possibilities for that in the near future- imagine I met a nearby naturally-mothering, unschooling mum- she has for 21 yrs- already! And she offered to watch my children for a few hours whenever I need/want- must pend more time together first, of course); we had just moved across the country 6 months ago, so my community involvement and support is somewhat limited for now- though it's already reliable for me, amazingly- it's a great little town where people know what it's like to need one another, so people here offer and follow-through too. I love it here.
Thanks so much for any positive opinions or advice about the energetic-overload behaviours, or your experiences, mamas! :)
Wild Woooman & Mummie to my 4 boys (9, 8, 7, 5) and baby girl (2).
Could it have something to do with the season?? Don't know where you're located but my own kids get a little extra loud and hyper when they've been inside too much during the cold seasons, and we're in Los Angeles, so they aren't even all that cooped up =) If your kids are used to having to be very quiet in the house but now feel some more freedom, perhaps they're playing with that boundary. Maybe some extra outdoor time??
I'm freakishly sensitive to noise so I send mine to another room or outside when it's too much for me or we go take an outing somewhere. We also homeschool but they have 2 full days of class each week and spend one afternoon with my parents (plus some weekend & evening time with their dad) so I get a break from the noise on a regular basis and my quiet time really helps me to handle the noisy times =)
Robin~ single, work-at-home momma to my WonderBoys
YoungMan (6/00) & LittleBoy (6/04)
From a physiological standpoint, their adrenals are on overdrive. The adrenals control our fight-or-flight response, releasing cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress. They don't have the stress, as you say- so this behavior, as you surmised, is in response to the change in circumstances.
My kids did a similar thing. We ended up quitting homeschooling because of it- I didn't have a support system that encouraged homeschooling. My counselor at the time was anti-homeschooling, and encouraged me to quit it- which was a mistake- but there is no going back now as my job situation has changed. My husband, from the sounds of your post, was more abusive than yours, so my kids were even more off the wall.
Anyway- try putting them to bed earlier- 7pm maybe- before their adrenal energy takes over. Enforce lights out at 7:30. When we are tired, but want or need to stay up, the body stimulates the adrenal glands. Remember what you felt like pulling an all-nighter in college? That is adrenal energy. If it were me, I would give them supplements. Magnesium is the calming mineral. My kids take a liquid one made by Bluebonnet. Natural Calm is another good brand- but the lemonade is really tart- I am anti-sugar but had to add some to it. And no, you cannot get enough from food. Mag. deficiency is known to affect hearing, and can cause loud talking. Later on it can cause sensitivity to noise.
Vitamin C and salt support the adrenal glands. We can get more of those from foods, but with our food system, many of the vitamins are degraded in long shipping. My kids often drink Emergen-C drink packets (early in the day- they are energizing). We don't supplement vit. C all the time, just when it seems necessary. Red peppers are really high in vitamin C, so is citrus peel. I am planting as many red peppers in the garden this year as I can fit in there!
I have also been known to give my kids 5-htp if things get really crazy, a metabolite of tryptophan as it is converted to serotonin. It is made from griffonia beans. You can look up foods high in tryptophan- I like nutritiondata.com for this- and then make a bedtime snack that is high in tryptophan and carbs. Carbs make you sleepy.
If you can, make sure they get outdoor exercise as early in the day as possible, to regulate the melatonin cycle.
I think what you are experiencing is normal, but it will take a long time for their bodies to learn that they are not required to be on hyper-alert any more.
I don't have a lot of advice to add, but just wanted to share that my DD went through something similar when her dad left us last October. He worked (at home) at night and slept during the days, so she wasn't used to having him around a whole lot. But there was the whole walking on eggshells thing and just never knowing what sort of mood he would be in. The first week after he moved out, she would walk into his old room and just yell. Not angry yelling, just yelling to be loud. It was like she just had to release some of the pent up energy. Now that she has had a few months without the constant stress in the house (and my constant stress) she seems to be settling down to a more normal level.