“Mommy, I don’t like that medicine – it’s mean to me. It makes me feel angry when I’m not really angry!”
That’s what my 6-year old son said to me on the last day of his first round of DEX (Dexamethason), a high-powered steroid that also happens to be really great at fighting leukemia.
If your child has been on DEX, then you are well aware of its effects on his or her emotions – the stellar meltdowns over seemingly small things, the quivering lips and curled up little fists shaking with anger, the darling pixie eyes glazed over with a foreign rage that goes as inexplicably as it comes.
When these ‘roid rages hit, you may feel overwhelmed and at a loss for how to handle your child. Do you discipline her? Do you ignore his behavior? Do you give in?
‘Roid Rages are difficult to deal with, and sometimes emotionally draining and painful. But, I want to encourage you. This time is temporary, and as hard as it is, try to remember that you and your child are on the road to recovery and healing! This too, shall pass, and, in time, DEX will be a distant memory. We just have to honor ourselves and our children by making the best of a hard situation.
So, after much real life trial and error, I’ve put together 5 ideas to try the next time your child is on DEX, and his emotions are trying to get the best of him (and you!)
1. Talk about DEX with your child. Explain that this medicine might make him feel upset, but that it is important to take it because it helps the leukemia go/stay away. Let him know that you will understand if he gets upset, and that you will help him. You’ll get through it together.
2. Plan ahead as much as possible to avoid overstimulation or changes in routines. Even under normal circumstances children tend to have trouble controlling themselves when overstimulated or if there are major changes to their routines. When you know your child is going to be on a course of DEX, try to keep life as simple and familiar as possible for them.
3. Designate a Cool Down place. It might be their bedroom with the curtains drawn, or a beanbag and blanket in the corner of the living room, but a safe, calming area for your child could be very helpful in keeping their ‘roid rage from escalating, and can help bring peace more quickly.
4. Let your child vent his anger in a safe and healthy way. You cannot reason your child out of a chemically induced rage. As long as they are safe, if they need to yell a little or throw a pillow, let them.
5. Take a breath, step back, and look at the big picture. Remember, a meltdown just lasts a few minutes, but healing lasts a lifetime. It’s true that this journey isn’t an easy one, but you’re not traveling it alone. And, in the end, all that really matters is that your child is well. This too shall pass.