Am I the only therapeutic parent who goes to a conference and wishes you could push the "fast forward" button to skip past the intro info (yes, I know how attachment happens and how it does not happen, etc., etc. - just tell me what to do when my kid jumps out a second story window!)?
So, anywho, I attended the Denise L. Best conference "Therapeutic Interventions for Traumatized Children." One of my favorite moms was there, L. Her mother was also there, and took such great care of me ... mainly because I'm a big doof head, and showed up with a dead cell phone, no charger, and lunch plans (pending our TEXTS!) with Amy.
Yeah, big loser. Thank the Lord someone ELSE'S mother was there to lend me hers, wipe my nose and pin a note to my shirt so I wouldn't do that again. :) She and her husband read my blog, so everyone say, "Hi, therapeutic grandparents!"
First, and foremost, you can order Denise's booklet, "Therapeutic Parenting for Traumatized Children." It will give you all the meat of her conference. Worth it. When you order it, tell her hello for me!
Okay, on to the good stuff.
Let me tell you her two soap box issues (meaning, they kept resurfacing over and over). First is the fact that the #1 trauma trigger for all of our children is yelling.
I can say that again, if I need to. :) And when you do yell at your kids, you fix it and redo it right away. You make it right.
The second thing was how our kids will repeat the behaviors which receive the most attention. Which does not mean I go running in, praising my daughter when she is sitting quietly and NOT creating chaos. However, it means I need to go and connect with her more and more in those moments.
Now, let me tell you the things which I needed most (all of which were reminders - and BOY, did I need them):
* Separate the "hurt part" from your child (in our house we call them the "big feelings"). "Seems like the big feelings really took over earlier. What will you do next time so that doesn't happen again?" Or something like, "Wow. What was up with all that? I think I have figured it out, but was wondering if you have."
* It's all in what you say and how you say it. Do not ask them if they did something. Do not ask them WHY they did something (... Christine, are you listening to yourself???). You know they did it. Just say, "What were you hoping would happen when _______________?"
* Our kids feel shame ... all. the. time. They feel shame after making poor choices. Then, the shame moves them into a mode where the behaviors begin to snowball, and they believe in the shame. They need us to help them out of that cycle. THEY CANNOT DO IT THEMSELVES.
* Denise used the term "miscue." It's basically this: their poor behavior is a miscue. You know how married couples will argue over something like the toilet seat being left up, and you hear people say, "It's never just about the toilet seat!"? THAT is what is going on with our kids. Their miscues are there to avoid dealing with what is really going on. WE CANNOT BUY INTO THE MISCUE. If we join them in the argument or the behavior escalation, we are actually helping them keep the truth and the real hurt all covered up. Here's a good tip: if you want to yell at your child and your big feelings are escalating, you are probably dealing with a miscue! :)
* Our children have a degree of brain damage. It can be changed. When they keep doing things over and over and over again it is not sadistic behavior. They just honestly believe that THIS time they'll be good enough to not get caught. We cannot do what we need to do as parents, if we cannot accept the fact that this is medical and physical. This point really got me in the gut, because I have kids who are attaching and healing. It was easier to accept this when I knew every single thing they did smelled of trauma. Now the disorder and the hints of normalcy are all jumbled together. IT IS REALLY HARD TO DO THIS.
* Denise said it takes the parents in her practice a full six months of therapeutic parent training before they feel like they really have a grip on what they're doing. I'm telling you this as an encouragement. My husband and I started therapeutic parenting from the first day our hurting kids came home. Yet, we had to DO it to really get GOOD at it. And that took months. And only then did the kids start to take steps forward (with plenty of regression and escalation). It takes ongoing therapeutic parenting to get them attaching and healing. IT TAKES TIME.
* One big thing for me was the reminder to let them repair their mess-ups and move on. We heard a whole lot about shame. I am the worst about inflicting more shame on my kids than necessary. I can put on my big-girl panties and confess. I do it for me. No doubt about it. It feels good. I'm paying them back for their behavior. My own impulsive reactions to their behaviors cause me to ... well, be a complete moron. It's not just me and it's not just kids of trauma. That is how our society works and it is how we deal with children at large. This week I am getting back in the habit of correcting quickly, giving them a redo or some ideas on how they can fix what was done, and WALKING AWAY!
* Denise refers to the symptoms of RAD as their "How to Survive" Manual. I LOVE THAT! I seriously need to tattoo that to my forehead.
* 75% of what we say to our children need to be questions (NOT "Why?" questions). Oh my COW, that's easier said than done. Again, this goes against how most people in our society parent and how we were parented. We have to change from our norm ... from our default.
* Check out L's post on the soft neurological tests she discussed. Have done these with all of my children. All five have problems somewhere. I knew this, but it was very fascinating to see it right in front of me. Am currently putting together our own daily program of neurological reorganization. Would love input from anyone who has done this. We do not have the money to get the kids evaluated, but they will all benefit from the exercises. So, we're just starting where we are, with the information I have.
* Put your hand up in front of your face ... just about three inches away. THAT is where our traumatized kids live. No big picture. No ability to look ahead and behave accordingly. They are completely reactive in the moment. Maybe they forgot about being corrected earlier in the day, but in one split second, they have a big feeling, remember that moment and - BOOM! - react. Then, they slide straight into shame. They need our help. They want our help, they just wish it wasn't so scary to accept it.
* Instead of answering their questions with "No," say, "Yes, when ..." or "Not right now."
* On the whole shame thing ... think of your very favorite food. Imagine having it fresh and right in front of you (a lot of it). Imagine eating it and savoring it and going just a bit too far - eating too much. Now, how do you feel? How long do you feel that regret afterward? Yet, for some of us, we will do it again. That is how our kids are with their behaviors. Their reactiveness brings quick euphoria, following by regret and shame. Yet, they have always relied only on themselves, so they must hide the shame and regret. They do that with ... fill-in-a-symptom-of-RAD.
* Parenting a traumatized child will bring out your stuff. Do you think you have unresolved issues? Parent one of these kids, and you'll find out. Want to be the kind of parent your child needs? Get busy working through that stuff, and know when to ask for help. (frick, I really hate this one!)
* My kids have been strong enough to tell me when I, or someone else in our lives, reminds them of a trauma. Sometimes they can't even tell WHAT reminds them, but I can help them identify that, yes, in fact, cold weather brings up really big feelings. Ask your kids if you ever remind them of a traumatic memory or a person? Could be you are not smiling to your eyes, and your face and body posture is triggering them.
Okay ... I'll stop there for today. Will pick back up Wednesday! Questions? You can always email me. christinemoers [at] hotmail [dot] com