How To Manage Flares as a PANS ParentFeb 01, 2021
One of the most difficult things we go through as PANS parents is watching our child go through a flare. When our kids are in a flare they can feel completely unreachable to us. As a parent who wants the best for our children, that's a tough pill to swallow.
What Can I Do?
When your child is in a flare, most likely your first reaction is to do just that...react. Flares can cause us to get frustrated, angry, scared, and sad. Your reaction may be to yell, cry, or freeze altogether. In reality, the best thing you can do is get your emotions under control before attempting to help your child.
We've all heard the analogy of putting on your "oxygen mask" first in an airplane emergency before helping your child with his oxygen mask. For a PANS child who is flaring, this advice applies as well! You have to regulate (calm) your own emotions before you try to help your child regulate (calm). Today I have some suggestions for how you can do that.
How Can I Regulate My Emotions?
I wish I had learned these strategies earlier on in my own parenting with PANS journey. Once I began to implement ways to regulate my emotions, I quickly saw how it can change the entire outcome of a flare.
The goal here is to use tools to calm your nervous system when it is heightened, which in turn will help your PANS child's nervous system calm down. Here are several ways to accomplish this:
Breathwork is very powerful and is one of the quickest ways to slow your emotions. The next time you feel yourself getting worked up, try breathing in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and breathe out for 4 counts.
Try counting backwards from 30, or even reciting times tables to yourself. Counting helps get you into your thinking brain and out of your emotional brain.
Use your senses:
Tuning into our senses is an excellent way to calm the nervous system. Try smelling something soothing, tasting something appealing, or looking at something calming. For me, the smell of lavender, the taste of a peppermint tea, or looking at a beautiful beach scene evokes a sense of calm. Figure out what smells, tastes, or visuals appeal to you. Consider carrying a scent with you that reminds you of feeling peaceful in the form of a lotion, essential oil, or carry a photograph that makes you smile. Having something easily accessible will allow you to use it in any setting.
Be aware of your body:
Remember that when your PANS child is in a flare, they are in flight or fight mode. This means that they are actively scanning their environment for anything that their brain will interpret as danger. As parents, we know that there really isn't any current danger, but the inflammation from the flare makes their brain interpret cues in their environment as potentially dangerous. Certain things are more likely to trigger a danger signal in a PANS child's brain such as a loud voice, quick movements, or angry facial expressions. For this reason, when interacting with your child during a flare, do so very intentionally. Strive to use a low voice, a calm face, and slow movements.
It Takes Practice
Learning to regulate your emotions during flares does not come naturally, so be patient with yourself during the process. Gaining the ability to regulate (stay calm) during flares will not only help you immensely, but it will also help your PANS child.
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