Ages and Stages- Explaining Misophonia to your child – Part 2
As a parent, it is your job to do your best for your children. A mom is expected to hold in her fears and put on a brave face for everyone. Moms cannot get sick but when they do, it doesn’t matter. We must be the soldiers that carry on, making sure everyone is dressed and fed and ready to go. All the while, we are dying inside.
What happens when you cannot be your best, no matter how hard you try? It is ok not to be okay. Accept that you are no one expects you to be perfect. Taking some of that stress off will help tremendously.
If you suffer from Misophonia, you already know what a challenge it can be to explain your condition. People do not understand it, some may even make fun of it and go out of their way to trigger you for their own pleasure. Why even bother explaining it to your kids, right? Wrong!
First of all, not everyone has the same mentality. Secondly, despite being the loud little monsters running around wreaking havoc on your life, children do have a very understanding and sympathetic side. A child’s brain is also like a sponge, take advantage of that fact. Not only will you help yourself, but you will also raise your child to be more sensitive of other’s needs. Train them while they are young, mom!
(Obviously, I am writing this from a mother’s perspective but it certainly applies to daddies too!)
How do you explain Misophonia to your children?
When you are trying to explain Misophonia to a child, you should put it in terms that they can understand. Depending on what kind of triggers that you have, you can customize your explanation. Hopefully by this time you have had some conversations in which you have prepped your child for situations they may encounter in the classroom. School-aged children tend to pick up bad habits from other children to be “accepted.” Sadly, this will often involve teasing or bullying other children because of their differences.
At this age, children have a better understanding of things that are going on in the world. They are school aged so chances are they have encountered some form of sensory disorder through their peers. It is very important at this age that your child understands the severity of Misophonia as it will translate to other areas such as a child with OCD or autism.
Taking advantage of opportunities when you are out and about to educate your child on why some children/people are different is key. Some simple things to teach your child would be:
– Do not stare at someone, just because he or she looks different. They did not choose the way they look and sometimes, they cannot help the way that they act.
– Do not judge people by the way that they look. Chances are that the person with the craziest smile is probably the nicest person that you will ever meet.
Be respectful. If someone asks you to stop chewing gum, or chew with your mouth closed, be polite and try to comply, there is probably a reason they are asking.
How do these examples apply in Misophonia? By taking these opportunities to show your child that little things like using an inside voice can make such an impact on others. Pretty soon, when you catch your husband chomping on a handful of chips and you l hear your sweet little Katie saying, “Daddy, don’t do that, it hurts mommy’s ears.” It will all be worth it.
When my children were in the 6-10 age group, we did not know that Misophonia had a name. My children were raised to chew with their mouths closed and not talk with food in their mouths. They knew that they could snack on crunch foods as long as it was in another room. There was no question that these triggers drove me insane but we did not know why. Since that was the way that they were raised, in our case it was never an issue. But what if your child was not raised the same way? How do we get them to understand?
Kids want to play, run and have fun. Unfortunately, these activities tend to come with screaming and repetitiveness. You don’t want to stifle your child’s right to be a kid. How do you get them to quiet down? Hopefully, your child will be respectful enough to have a simple conversation. Sit down with them, explain that there are certain sounds that “trigger” you. Please do not use words like “bother” or “annoy” as they can possibly do more harm than good in the explanation. Being triggered is very different than being annoyed. A conversation can go something like this…
Katie, mommy has a problem with her ears, when I hear certain sounds, they are called trigger sounds and they can cause me to get very angry and crabby and I cannot control those feelings. For example, do you remember the other day when you were digging through your legos and I started to cry and ran to my room slamming the door? Well, I started to cry because I was so triggered by that sound, I needed it to stop. I had to get away from that sound. I still want you to play and have fun, how do you think we can have lego time without triggering mom? Engage your child to help find some solutions, including them in the problem-solving aspect will show better results than saying, “you can’t play with your legos!” If after awhile Katie has not come up with it, you can pop in with, “Hey! I have a great idea! Why don’t you close your bedroom door when you are playing with Legos?” Children of all ages have the tendency to want to protect mom. Allowing them to feel they are contributing to the compromise will make it more effective. I think if you dictate the rule that your child may have the urge to resist and possibly use the opportunity to retaliate if they are being punished for a bad deed.
You may need to remind Katie that she needs to use an inside voice. When kids are playing, they can get a little too excited and start to scream. “Please, Katie, remember we need use our inside voice.”
I cannot stress this enough, make sure your child knows THEY are not the problem, it is the SOUND that triggers you, NOT your child. If an adult takes it personally, a child is about a thousand times more likely to feel like it is them. It is up to you as their parent to help them understand this is YOUR condition and you have no control over what triggers you. It is NOT THEIR FAULT!
Another thing to explain is that sometimes, mom needs a “time-out”. This is actually a very critical piece of the puzzle. If you are triggered, you need time to decompress or the reaction will escalate. Katie, sometimes when I am triggered, I just need a few minutes to myself. What do you think would be a good way for me to have a time-out? Again, allowing your child to participate in the conversation will allow them to feel as they are helping. Who knows? Maybe they can come up with a solution that can help you relax. If your child does not know that you are triggered, your behavior and actions can be interpreted as “mom is mad at me”. Just be honest with them. You are not shielding them from anything, you are preparing them for the real world. Do you really want your child believing that you hate them because they did something so petty as biting a fork?
There are so many mindful activities that can help relax you. Why not invite your child to join you? It can make some great bonding time with you while allowing you some time to just relax. Stick with simple activities that do not involve a lot of noise. What do you and your child like to do? Again, finding mindfulness activities that do not involve your triggers. Maybe go for a bike ride together? Can you play a board game or do a puzzle together? Maybe legos do not trigger you, why not start a lego project together?
These days parents tend to shield their children from some realities. It is a personal parenting decision, I am not trying to tell you how to parent. However, with a condition like Misophonia, I honestly believe that hiding it from your children could cause harm than good.