Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Connected Child Conference
The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis is the one book that is a must read when adopting a child. Any child. If you read it before you adopt it will benefit you. If you read it after you adopt, it will benefit you in a completely different way. I said to the girls I was with at the conference, that so much of what was being said is just common sense, yet we seem to continually need to be reminded of the simplest things. You see... every thing changes once a traumatized child is in your home and our human emotions just get in the way.
So here are a few points that I came away with...
1. You have to be willing to pay the cost.
Very few people are going to understand what you are dealing with. They don't understand why you need to make your world so much smaller. Why you won't come to their house for supper. Why you won't go to church. Why you won't let them hold or even touch your child. But we need to give 100% to our children who have come from hard places. They need 100% of our time to heal. They need 5X more attention then our healthily attached biological children do. It takes three years of mentoring and working and loving on a child for them to begin to mature. These children need to go back to the beginning, like learning to walk or talk after a physical trauma. Their emotional age is much younger than their actual age. We need to understand that they cannot give back what they were never given.
2. God's Love is a balance of structure and nurture.
As our's should also be to our children. Playful interaction will correct a behaviour in a traumatized child in about 12 tries. Harsh interaction will correct a behaviour in about 400 tries. Use time-in's, not time-outs (where the child is near you and can see you at all times). Bring the child close to you when discussing a behaviour. Come to an immediate resolution (a child will learn much faster when you praise or correct them within 3 seconds). Problem solve together (this gives them some control). Focus on the child's preciousness (this can be difficult when all you want to do is pull out your hair and scream!).
Action Based. Making a child re-do a negative action or re-do something negative they say.
Be direct. Be close and maintain eye contact. Plant your feet. Lower your voice. Show the child that you will not be going anywhere until the conflict is resolved.
Deep healing is relational and comes by building trust and feeling safe.
If you share the power it doesn't mean you are giving up power. You have authority by giving choices and sharing power. This seems to go against everything we were raised with. That the parent is the one in control and that the child should obey, often out of fear. This doesn't work with a traumatized child. And apparently, those from a German background have the highest rate of avoidant parenting.
Something I often say to my children is "use your words". This is something that Dr. Purvis says all the time. You also need to prove that their voice matters. Encourage them to express their feelings. When a child's needs aren't met, they lose their voice. We need to learn to excavate the "ugly" to get through to the preciousness.
Zoe is very good at expressing her feelings. We ALWAYS know what she is feeling. Lilah NEVER expresses her feelings. Silas is starting to express his feelings more and more.
3. Self Regulation.
Children will find a way to get the brain chemicals that they need without even knowing they are doing it. Examples: cutting, over eating, craving carbs, touching, chewing, etc.
Chewing gum releases serotonin. Zoe constantly asks for gum... so I have now started letting them chew gum when they ask.
Massage and loving touch releases serotonin. Touch is the most basic need ever. But for a child who has rarely been touched or has been subjected to harmful touch, it can take time. Competent holdings can build trust and build a "bridge" to the child. This would include doing activities such as colouring or playing games.
Walking releases serotonin. If you go on a walk with a child, they are more likely to open up to you and verbalize their feelings.
You can empower your child by keeping them hydrated. By feeding them every two hours (and for a child with food issues -- you feed them when they ask). Giving a protein snack before bed. Doing sensory activities every two hours. Feeding them nutrient rich foods and giving them LOTS of healthy touch, playing, laughing, hugging, etc.
Even kids without sensory issues benefit from sensory bins. They are developmentally beneficial for those who missed out on touch. I am going to do another post on Sensory Processing Disorder. This was something that struck me the hardest while at this conference.
4. Respond ALL THE TIME.
Give value to their voice and respond kindly... even when everything inside of you wants to scream.
Say, "Listen to your heart. What is it telling you?"
Say, "Are you asking? Or are you telling?" I think I have said this 100 times since coming home.
Always say sorry and admit your mistakes.
Be a repairing parent.