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Child Adolescent Mood Anxiety Treatment

I stumbled across the information for our ACEs campaign when I was doing research on how to manage my daughter’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic started my little one was in kindergarten and she went from having several playdates a week to none. Furthermore, she experienced the additional fear of living with someone who was considered to be in the vulnerable population, myself, because of my Multiple Sclerosis. As the months progressed, Amelie developed a fear of being alone and in dark places. To make matters worse, she saw a few episodes of the cartoon Jurassic Park and developed a morbid fear of one of the characters, Indominus Rex. Her nightmares had me sleeping in her room, that is, if she wasn’t in mine.

In hindsight, it made perfect sense. She was scared of the unknown. At the moment, however, I couldn’t figure out how to help her and I wondered if my efforts were helping her or causing a bigger problem as I had nightlights in every bathroom and was considering motion detection lights because I was growing tired of having to accompany her everywhere. It was then that I decided to reach out for help and I was referred to the CAMAT Child Adolescent Mood Anxiety Treatment Program at The University of Miami. The program is a clinical research program dedicated to developing and testing state-of-the-art psychotherapy approaches for anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.It was a unique program in that the parents and children were participating simultaneously in different Zoom sessions. This was great and gave ample opportunities to discuss different approaches to many issues while the kids were doing their own activities. After several weeks of attending on Zoom, they were able to craft THE PERFECT solution to my daughter’s fears. This was of course on trial and error, but just like her momma, a good laugh can cure anything. To rid her of her nightmares, all we had to do was to create a new memory to replace the scary one. Could it really be that easy? I was doubtful but willing to give anything a try so I pulled out the colored pencils and glitter glue in an effort to transform her nightmare into a comedy. 

Initially, she didn’t want to even look at this picture on the computer screen but before you know it we started conceptualizing what we would do to the dinosaur and laughter started rolling in. She gave him a rainbow cape with glittery gold legs and I had given him a cutie mark on his butt with curly orange hair. 

It’s remarkable to think how quickly we were able to diffuse the situation given the right guidance. Honestly, I would have never thought of that solution and while it seems like a small accomplishment, that activity solved an issue that had only been getting worse over the course of 6 months. I’ve come to realize that while we may try to approach issues with the same techniques that have been passed down to us, perhaps it's not only more effective but even better to admit that we still have so much to learn and to accept help. 

Side note: the key to coming out of a traumatic experience on the positive side is to rewrite the narrative into a positive one. I just love that this one turned out to be comical too!

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