Calo recently attended and was the Hero Sponsor for the All Together Now Conference in Lake Ozark, MO. This conference is a collaborative effort of the foster and adoptive support agencies across the state of Missouri to bring together service providers, foster and adoptive families, social workers, lawyers, and judges to promote an atmosphere of cooperative learning and to improve services to abused and neglected children and their families. There were over 300 attendees.Here are some great notes from the Heather Forbes keynote where she discussed how to understand and parent a traumatized child. As an aside, Heather Forbes will be the Key Note for the 2014 Healing Trauma, Creating Attachment Conference at Calo.Dont worry about diagnosisit is all trauma.
- Worry about childs anxiety and their ability to manage stress.
- In the end, stress is really what creates dysregulation. High sensitivity to stress says it all.
Here is a Challenge for you: Stop asking the question how do I get my child to change their behavior? And instead start asking the following two questions:
- First, what is driving my child's behavior? and
- Look at the behaviors from an emotional level. If you wonder what is driving your child's behaviors look for one of three things: stress, fear or them being overwhelmed.
- What is trauma? The experience of feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless. This is what creates the reactivity.
- Second, which is the hardest thing you will ever do, what can I do in this very moment to create a better improved relationship with my child? Yes, when your child is screaming at you and they are getting underneath your skin, pushing all of your buttons… ask yourself how am I going to improve the relationship?
Babies who get constant regulation from their mothers dont feel like they have to do it all by themselves.
- Our children believe they have to take over.
So why does your child control so much?
- Well, other people were supposed to have taken care of them and they didn't. So in order to survive the child then takes control and tells themselves I will never be hopeless and powerless again. I will never be vulnerable again. It is not safe.
- The problem is they dont have the capacity so they have meltdowns, get violent, etc.
So if you see resistance see it as either fear or know that the child is overwhelmed. The child is not regulated. So do something that regulates. Math is neocortex type stuff so if they are resisting homework it is likely they are in their mid brain. Help child do something active to get them regulated.Dysregulation needs to be seen through the lens of stress and being overwhelmed.
- Parents and therapistsgo to it, understand it, and experience it with the child.
- Remember, the frontal cortex is underdeveloped so they cant connect the dots and make sense of it.
Three basic parts of the brain:
- Neocortex: morals, ethic, cause and effect, logical. This is what separates humans from other beings.
- Next level primal level: limbic system (fear receptor- emotional not logical)
- Lowest level is reptilian brain: survival instincts: fight or flight. We don't think about this, we just do.
- Traumatized kids operate mostly in the limbic system and in extreme stress cases they are in the reptilian part of the brain. This is one of the reasons consequences don't make sense because the neocortex isn't even firing. For someone in the mid brain life happens within the next 15 seconds. Which is why you will be grounded for the next 2 weeks if you do that doesn't work.
- The child actually will start to experience even more fear because you are upset. Even if you dont say it, they can sense it. So they go even deeper into the mid and even reptilian brain.
Parenting therefore needs to fit the brain. And we need to recognize that we can only teach when a child is regulated and calm in their neocortex.Parenting therefore needs to be relational. You need to be Mr. Rogers + General Patton but know when to be who.
- To just be one is a huge mistake.
- PattonNo more snacks and get over it!
- Dont remove love, acceptance and tolerance and add fear by punishing, time out or consequences.
- Mr. RogersIt seems like you want more snacks and that must be hard for you.
- ComboI can see that not getting more snacks is really hard for you. I am sorry but I will not provide you with more snacks today. I am happy to explore this with you more in just a bit
For kids with a history of trauma, relational influence creates motivation, not rewards and incentives. It's through the relationship that we can influence our child. However you can't be in relationship when you are stressed out. The body constricts. So in those moments instead of focusing behavior management, focus on stress management.Rocking, singing and doing child things has been reported by parents and teens as the most connective once you can get past the funny part of it.