Ages and Stages- Explaining Misophonia to your Child Part 1
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, you will raise your child to be more sensitive to 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?
Newborns and Infants
While you certainly cannot explain anything at this age, you should be aware that your child can sense your anxiety and tension and will react accordingly. When my children were babies, if they cried and I held them, I was not triggered. I have no explanation, just the theory that holding and comforting them provided a soothing feeling for both of us. Mothers have that natural urge to rock back and forth. While this can be visual triggers (to see others do it) I find rocking back and forth to be somewhat soothing. However, holding your sweet child may provide some comfort during your trigger times.
Ah, the terrible toddler phase, which is always fun. Children learn to push those buttons and giggle with excitement as they drive you crazy. This is actually a very critical time in their development. This is the time to teach your child how to eat nicely, chew with their mouth closed, do not smack their mouth. Children want to please their parents. This behavior should be rewarded! “Look at how you are eating so politely!” Yes, you are teaching your child manners, but you are also going above and beyond to instil the principle of consideration for others.
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. At this age, less is more so try to keep it simple.
Mommy has a really bad boo-boo in her ears. Certain noises really hurry mommy’s ears and she really needs to just have some quiet time.
These are the fun years where that dreaded question comes into play over and over. WHY? Instead of a generic “because I said so”, explain it to them. Let’s look at a scenario involving mealtime since many sufferers are affected by mouth sounds.
Mommy: Katie, it hurts mommy’s ears when you chew with your mouth open. You do not want
to hurt mommy, do you? Let’s try to chew like a big girl with our mouth closed. (Mommy takes a bite of food and demonstrates). Do you think you can try that, sweetie?
Katie: Why, mommy?
Mommy: Mommy has a boo boo and when she hears certain sounds, it really hurts me. Do you think you can be a big girl and help mommy? If we can chew quietly with our mouth closed, it will make my boo boo feel a little better.
Katie: Ok, mommy. Like this? (she chews quietly with her mouth closed)
Mommy: Yes! Good job! That is great, Katie, I am so proud of you for not hurting mommy’s ears.
A child is going to want to help, they want to please you, it is instinctive. Like anything, this behavior will embed in their system and they can turn into your advocate.
It is important to continue to reinforce these concepts. I am not saying that you should make Misophonia a burden on your child, not at all. Misophonia is your condition, but it is also a family matter. Just take these trigger opportunities and turn them into a positive teaching moment for your toddler. You are not asking them just to be considerate of JUST you, in the end, it will teach them to be considerate of others too.
Sometimes you may need to use a reward system, okay we will call it what it is, bribery. Kids love stickers, make a sticker chart and when your child shows her good table manners, she gets a sticker. After so many stickers, offer a small reward, maybe an ice cream cone or something special.
Anyone who has gone through the toddler phase can tell you that there is nothing worse than some of these children shows. As if they are not triggery enough, your child may want to watch that same episode over and over. How do you handle that situation? I swear if I have to watch Caillou one more time…
You know what, Katie, there are some sounds that really hurt my boo boo when you watch Caillou. Mommy will let you watch your show but we must keep the volume down so it does not hurt my ears so much. Do you think you can do that?
Of course, there are also everyday situations where we can find triggers. One day you are out shopping, and your child starts bouncing a ball, then she sees another child holding his hands over his ears and screaming. You can explain that maybe that little boy has a boo-boo in his ears too and there is a noise that is making it hurt really bad. Offer a resolution. Why don’t we bounce the ball when we get home instead? You don’t want to make that little boy cry, do you?
My favorite tool is the TIMEOUT. Not for the child, for myself! If things get so overwhelming just explain it to your child. Katie, you know when you are acting very naughty and not listening, and mommy gives you a time out? A timeout gives you time to calm down so you can feel better. Sometimes, mommy needs a time out too.
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 boo-boo.” It will all be worth it.
Stay tuned for more.