Being A Team: Working Things Out

Some of you have been reading my posts for many years, some of you are new.  If you are an old reader, thank you for reading!
If you are  new reader, Welcome!!!

I used to blog in a family blog setting with names and pictures, but the girls are older now, and there were a few creeps along the way, so we switched to this type of setting.   I miss the old format honestly, and it isn’t as easy to blog without as many pictures.
But, this is the way it is! 🙂

Today, I’d really like to share some things we have been learning regarding parenting an older child who is in the process of healing from past trauma.
All of our girls are older now, in their mid teen years.   What an amazing journey we have been on!
Our youngest daughter is now 14 1/2.  She began to reprocess much of what happened to her in the past at a new level.  She also is very aware that some of her learning issues are directly related to alcohol abuse used by her bio mother in the womb and out of the womb.
Some of her processing, has caused grief, coming out in anger.
She can be quite expressive.   And this level of expression has been something we had not experienced before.

We very quickly needed to set some boundaries with her so that she could understand that having big feelings is ok, but how you act upon them might be ok or not!
One thing I learned that was KEY… was not to take anything she was doing personally. It was just pure, raw emotion.
It is hard to remember this in the moment. It is something that is much easier done with a younger child.
But in our brains, an older child should “know better”.
Well, not all of them do.
I think sometimes they forget that we are human too. 🙂

Sweetie 4 does NOT want to be angry. She does NOT want to slam doors or say hurtful things. I can see it in her face when she has failed and she gets so full of shame.  And I love this good quality in her.
It took a few months of experimentation in this area and I think we are really onto something I want to share with you. 🙂

Things to avoid:

1.  We can escalate in trying to do good.
That means, sometimes when they can’t think because of the pain…it is probably not the best time to offer a snack or suggest a tool. 🙂

2.  If you get caught off guard.  do NOT react, even if you have to remove yourself.
Trauma isn’t logical.  It doesn’t make sense, so saying “I don’t understand! What are you trying to tell me?” or “What are you doing?”
doesn’t help.  🙂

3.  Do not offer suggestions or too many choices.
When a child is in the middle of reacting to trauma or fear,
they can’t think.

4. Do Avoid reading negative blogs or negative posts that do not
help.  Honest is different than negative.

Things that DO WORK….

1.  Have a prepared plan.  Go over that plan when your child is regulated.  Make sure they know that this is for their benefit and you have no desire for them to be punished.

Our  notebook has served well.  Sweetie has called her brother and sister in law a few times with it to clear her head.  They tell her the same things we tell her, but that third party confirmation seems to really help her.

2.  Make sure that when your child is calm, you are encouraging. They are working HARD to stay calm.  It is not the norm and they can get tired.
“You are doing awesome!”  “Keep up the good work!”
and even, “Is it hard for you?” “I’m sorry it is so hard!”
This is WHEN they are doing well.

3.  If they have melted down….
Use humor to diffuse, but not right away….wait until they are calm but not out of the woods.
Example:  “Wow! That black cat  (fire cracker) turned into a nuclear explosion!”
“Let’s try not to go nuclear!”
Tell them you know they don’t like what happened.
Tell them, you are proud of what ever tool they used to calm themselves.
Tell them they are going to be ok.
Tell them you are ok too.

When a child melts down, shame takes over and sadness at failure.
They need to know you are on their side.
We often tell her, “You are on our team!” or “We are on your side!”

4.  Encourage them to write down those fears when calm and work through them together with you.
Ask questions when they are calm. How best can I help you when you are upset?  (that can change from time to time)
It might be just sitting there silent or just saying, “Honey, it’s going to be ok.”

5.  Make sure cause effect makes sense.  Sweetie 4 spent an afternoon repairing a chair with her daddy. He did not lord it over her or use the time to berate or correct.  They just spent happy daddy daughter time together repairing something she broke.

If it could not be repaired, she would have payed for it from her savings account.

Taking that time to put something together or go and purchase something allows the cause/effect to set in well, even for kids who do not relate to consequences.
A natural consequence is much different from a punitive consequence.

6. Always have open arms of love.
ALWAYS.  But test the waters before trying to hug or snuggle.
I usually trying to hold a hand. If the hand is willing she is ready.
If she pulls it away or has a clenched fist that doesn’t relax, she isn’t ready.  And I wait.
Typically now, she comes to me.

7.  If you need to leave, say for school or an appt. and they are dysregulated.  Do not ask too many questions.
Have that plan already in place:
A. If you haven’t eaten, and can’t decide and we need to leave, mom will make : 1. PBJ  2. Toast and jam
for you to take with you.
B. If you cannot decide what to wear:
There is a prepared outfit previously agreed upon that will be the choice to put on.

Having these steps in place is very helpful towards calming.

8. Surround yourself with those who will love  pray for your family.
Read from those who offer encouragement and hope!

9. Trust the Lord!  He’s got this!

10.  KNOW that all things work for our good!  In every dark cloud                there is  a silver lining. 🙂

Regarding Natural Consequences:

Sweetie experienced this a couple of times over the last few months.

She had to use her money to repair something she broke, and to replace a telephone.
She was wanting to get an Ipod, but now doesn’t have the funds for it.
She didn’t get upset when she realized her money was having to go to some things she had broken.  She realized if she wants to have nice things, she has to take care of her home.
Yesterday, she went into her room to regulate and shut her door very carefully. 🙂

She was dysregulated in a store and I don’t do dysregulation in stores.  She has always known this, and has seen me leave a store with our 3 year old grandson if he was uncooperative.

It was a silly thing she was upset about.  Or seemingly.  She wasn’t really upset about the “thing”, it was something totally different, but was coming out in demanding gum.
I don’t buy gum with horrid aspertame in it, so I told her we would get some at the health store.
She got upset.  So, we walked to the front of the store and handed our basket to a clerk asking her to put a note on it and save it for when we were able to come back.  (I did this same thing when she was 11 and first home)

She remembered.
“Are you going to take me home?”
“Yes.  When you are ready, we can go back and apologize like before and then we’ll finish our shopping.”

“Mom, last time I apologized, I was a kid. I can’t do that!”
“Why? You were able to act out?”
“MOM!!!!” “Will I ever be able to go to a store again?”

“Of course! After you apologize.”
And then I let it go.
This is a rule that has been in place in our family for 35 years.
She knows the rule, it isn’t new.

She took the time to get calm and think about it.
About an hour went by and she said, “Ok mom. I’m ready!”

On the way there she said, “Are you trying to humiliate me?”
I told her “Absolutely NOT!”
“I’m trying to help you gain integrity and take responsibility!”
“Kids who act out in stores are a dime a dozen.  But kids who go into stores and take responsibility for wrong actions are unheard of.
You left that store with people thinking that you were being naughty.  If you don’t apologize, when you go back in, the clerk will have an opinion that isn’t good.”
“BUT… after you apologize, that same clerk will see you as the brave girl who apologized for her actions and will look up to the integrity you showed!”

“You doing better will make others want to do better!”

She walked into that store, head held high, found the clerk and gave a very good, clear and concise apology.
The clerk was stunned.
As we were leaving, I looked back and she was smiling and gave me a thumbs up. 🙂

When we were walking out, Sweetie 4 couldn’t stop smiling.
“Mom, I feel so happy!”  “I can’t stop grinning!”
“Is it ok for me to be proud of myself?”
“I thought I would be embarrassed, but I’m not. I’m happy!”

I’m proud of you too!

And we high fived…. headed to the health food store and bought the gum, with the added bonus of it being 25% off! 🙂

We were buying school uniforms.  She hates the idea of uniforms.  She tried them on and then started crying. Poor kid.  I really do understand.
She couldn’t make up her mind and at the 3rd store of Uniforms, after trying on and (they fit her beautifully) she was going to reject getting them.
While she was getting dressed, I gathered them up and went and purchased them. I needed to make this decision for her because she couldn’t herself.
It was done. She has to wear them and delaying will do no good.
She got into the car and by the time we got home she was fine. She just needed me to make that decision for her.
She actually wore the pants today, willingly. 🙂

Since the gum  incident, things have progressively gotten much better and she is managing herself so much better. She can see that there are better choices to make and that processing sadness, loss, and trauma do not have to cause upheavel.  Instead, they can produce some really great artwork!   Or, you can do a really great work out
One of the benefits of being a teen, is that cleaning something or arranging something isn’t seen as “work”, like it is for little kids who do not care about their room. 🙂

I will be writing more on this topic soon.
To sum things up…. PREPARE: Have a goal!
PLAN: know what you are going to do and do it.
PURSUE relationship!
And don’t forget to smile!

If you would like to know about Essential Oils….. contact me.  We are using them.

3 Responses to Being A Team: Working Things Out

  1. It is interesting that you mentioned artwork. Art is an especially effective way for people who experienced past trauma, particularly if it is mostly back in their implicit memory, to move the trauma forward so they can connect it to explicit memory. Those connections in and of themselves help with healing. If you talk to them openly and curiously about their picture you can help them make those connections, and create more understanding and connection between the two of you as well.

    I’ve also found (taking the idea from Catholic Church penances, I suppose) that natural consequences can’t always be commensurate with the “sin” so to speak. If a child melts down and totally ruins an event, or breaks a cherished antique irreparably or something else that can’t be “made right”, a token repair can do a great deal to heal the wound of the experience. And, I’ve gone on to explain the religious parallel – we can’t “make up” for our sins, often, but God wants to know that we are sorry and the only way we can truly express it is through action. Words can be too easy.

    The uniform incident reminded me of a similar one with my sweetie. It made no sense whatsoever, because she dresses very simply and modestly by choice. She really didn’t understand her upset herself. Once I’d mastered my irritation and gone back to my skill set (in this case curiosity), we were able to get to the truth of the matter. In her mind a uniform means “goodness” and she felt that by wearing one she was going to be acting a lie, and would be “found out” as the “bad” girl she sadly believes she is.

  2. fourmilefarm says:

    Love your blog!
    I found it sometime this summer (2014) when we were in the middle of hosting a 14 yr old orphan from Eastern Europe.
    But, I forgot to bookmark it and lost it soon after.
    I’ve been so upset for months… Recently I did search after search until I finally found it again. The key word that helped the most was “Sweetie”. 🙂
    We hosted the same child for four weeks this winter and have started adoption paperwork.
    This post has been he MOST helpful to me!! Thanks SO much!!
    He turns fifteen soon, and we still aren’t allowed by his country to tell him we’ve started the paperwork. But, hopefully soon.

    • ChristieM says:

      So happy you are reading!!! 🙂
      I have been quiet all month.. There is a lot going on with extended family, parents aging etc. I’m getting ready to start writing again. 🙂

Comments warmly welcomed!


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