On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In It

Are you IN it?

When I taught Physical Science (my favorite - yes, i actually do LOVE teaching eighth graders)one of my favorite lessons was about mixtures, solutions and suspensions. I enjoyed bringing every day household items from home to demonstrate the differences. Making science come to life with ordinary objects is the way I teach.

Applying science to abstract life concepts is the way I process my emotions and experiences. Despite the fact that science is ever changing as humanity continually uncovers the mysteries that govern our world from the cosmic to the microscopic, science can be trusted. There is methodology, proofs, data collection, analysis, continued study, hypotheses, theories and eventually, laws. The road to discovering new medications for bipolar disorder is the same road to discovering new moons. There's room for error which provides opportunity to learn but science is a constant that can be relied upon. The constancy of science is crucial to my ability to trust: to trust the earth upon which I stand, the air I breathe, the rising of the sun and ultimately, humanity.

Trusting the fallacy of humanity is not an easy undertaking. It begins with first accepting that I am fallible. Then it progresses to acknowledging that humanity's fallibility does not necessarily deem utter soul corruption. Without trust, the universe has nothing. The Earth's gravitational force "trusts" that the moon will not careen into the surface and destroy our planet. The planets in our solar system "trust" that the nuclear explosions on the surface of the sun will continue to provide radiant energy. Likewise, Oxygen "trusts" that the single electron in two Hydrogen molecules will create a polar molecule in which all eight electrons are shared to make the most unique and stable molecule in the universe; a molecule upon which life earns a foundation. Science, therefore, proves that trust is essential for good things to happen.

How then do we approach a RAD child? How do we teach trust a mind that has incorrect imprinting that suggests at the most basic level of needs that humanity and this world can NOT be trusted? How do we salvage what is lost before we find ourselves dodging the bullets of one more utterly corrupted soul? And what then, shall we do if the mind itself is organically diseased from the start?

As with anyone, you begin with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. The first step is physical needs. For many RAD children or children with trauma and abuse histories, they never get past this level. They remain in daily mental torment that their physical needs will not be met, such is the erroneous imprinting in their brains.

The second step is safety. It is easy to assume that once a child is adopted into a loving, nurturing home that they are inherently "safe" but if a child hasn't accepted the first level of their needs, regardless of how safe you make their living environment, they can not progress to this level.

Levels three through five are goals to strive for but for many, never achievable. But then, how many functioning adults without abuse and trauma histories actually achieve that level? Do YOU? Take some time to process it for yourself. Are you having a hard time with your RAD child? Could it be because you haven't achieved your own self-awareness? There's always a place to start in therapeutically parenting our children and as much as we don't want to admit it, that starting place is always us, the parents. So are you IN it?

1. Are you and your child a mixture?
A mixture is a something that is made up of two more more substances that are mixed together, but not chemically combined.

in this relationship, you and your child may be cohabitating and blending but you can still separate one from the other with ease.

2. Are the two of you a suspension?
when two un-mixable substances are in a container together, usually one a liquid and the other a solid

in this relationship, you and your child can come together with aggressive mixing or agitation but left alone, you both separate.

3. Are you a solution?
a homogeneous mixture of one or more solutes dissolved in a solvent

In this relationship, there is no separation, the two of you make something entirely new together with it's own properties. In this relationship, you are IN it! Sugar, koolaid powder and water individually are nothing fancy in and of themselves but stir them altogether and VOILA!

What does being "IN IT" look like from a therapeutic parenting point of view? Here's the last 24 hours of events that became the inception of this post:

Sissy's emotions were spinning her into a whirlwind. She was smart mouthing, hollering, screaming, hoarding food, provoking, false illnesses and all the wonderful RADilicious behaviors I'm used to seeing. It started yesterday afternoon and continued on through this morning. My initial instinct was to smart mouth, holler, scream, provoke and overeat right back. Instead, I called an "I'm not talking to you" truce. Once she settled down I was able to think FOR her. what is going on? what does she need? What is happening in her head that she can't process on her own? In what way do I need to be IN her head to help her?" As soon as I had a moment's peace to be IN her, to blend into a solution with her instead of insisting on being a mixture or a suspension with my own physical properties, I saw it.

Without saying a word, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote at the top: "Things Mom Knows are Bothering You." Then I listed four things I thought were eating at her. I slid the paper across to her and said, "Check the ones that are true, add any that I forgot"

She circled two and said, "That's it mom. I don't have any others." She slid the paper back to me.

"OK.  I made a crisis call to your therapist and she said you needed a consequence for your behaviors yesterday. That consequence will be to journal about these two things after homework today."


"Hug time?"

"Yeah." I hugged her, she cried a little and it was over. ALL of it. All the RAD behaviors stopped, including the mysterious sore throat.

IN it. Be IN it. Be in it with your own needs so you can be in it with your child's needs. Make a solution with your child in which together, you trust one another to make something new and wonderful TOGETHER. Step by step, your child will achieve her own hierarchy of needs but you have to be committed to be IN IT, every day.

Now go make some koolaid and trust the universe to catch you when you fall.


Cyndi said...

This makes sense, now I need to figure out to make it work with a kid who functions at the level of a four year old on her best days.

Integrity Singer said...

@ Cyndi - Sissy functions emotionally at age five but she can assign age 12 language to her emotions. She just processes them at age 5. So I talk to her like she's 12 but deal with the fall out like she's 5. Does that make sense?

Acceptance with Joy said...

Thanks. Gonna try this. I called a
"No talking truce" yesterday, too and then worked towards figuring out the real trouble.

writing won't work for the missy, but it just might be the ticket for her twin bro.

Barb G said...

Yes, yes, yes! Celebrating this with you. How HUGE it is. Praying for your strength and wisdom, for Sissy to continue with this progress. (((hug)))

Ranger said...

"In this relationship, you and your child can come together with aggressive mixing or agitation but left alone, you both separate".

Wow. Beautifully put. This is going on my bookmarked list of 'things to keep remembering'.

Kerrie said...

I am definitely having trouble not being a vinaigrette right now.