Oh, to be a well from which our children and young people can drink! I read this article from The Teenage Whisperer about groups - fabulous and timely, with my thoughts focused on my seminar planning, on the importance in understanding the 1. In the article she talks about understanding the young people we are working with, so that they then can in turn flourish - we act as the well, the resource, from which they can drink. I loved the analogy.
The power of a leader or a teacher or support worker to make or break inclusion for a young person or a child - will they feel happy and safe and secure to stay and to join in or will they shut down in fear and flight mode and withdraw or will they go into fight mode and kick off? We, as parents, teachers, children and youth workers, support workers have the power to be that catalyst for change - to make the difference to the successful inclusion for the more vulnerable members of our groups. The power to make the difference between included or exclusion, to belong or to be lost. I encourage us all as parents, leaders, teachers to continue to listen, to gain insight by looking for the clues, to go with the hunches that can then help bring a child or a young person on the fringe, gather them in, along with all our skills and tools to include and support them so they can then lower their heightened anxiety, the flight or fight desire lessened and allow safety and belonging and team and family to take hold. Knowing welcome, acceptance and love is the foundation for the opportunity for a child or a young person to begin to grow and flourish. It's the "I get you", "I will listen, I am here", "I believe in you, I will give you a chance."
Many times, with PJ, I find myself saying audibly to her in her moments of distress: "It's OK, I am right here" It is usually followed by a hug and then, once calm we deal with the saying sorry for the hitting and the picking of the thrown toys. We then talk about what had led to this moment - perhaps that I had asked her to do something that she didn't want to do. In the early months, when PJ first came to me and still at key times now like change in routine or new situations, she becomes so quickly distressed, the rage, the heightened anxiety, flight and fear and fight had taken such a strong hold on her - there was no point in giving a warning or talking about a consequence at that point - If one was given, she would simply fail and have a consequence, which would just be unfair and there would be little value in doing it. If she was at school or in a children's club and they moved her name down for example as part of their "behaviour system", she would be oblivious. Her name could be moved down several times, yellow cards or red cards could be shown of given and she would probably throw them back, screaming. A warning of a consequence at this moment would be fruitless. she could be asked to leave your fabulous children's club or youth programme and threatened with not being able to come back the next week and these would be just empty threats. You may carry them out, of course, but she ain't hearing you. She is on the edge of a deep, dark chasm and needs a lifeline. On the brink, I gather her in. Often into my arms, in those moments. I hope, that by understanding her, by recognising that "in that moment" she is unable to de-escalate, she lacks the skills to calm herself down, she ain't hearing me talk to her, she is focused entirely on fight - she is hitting and kicking and throwing. I sometimes distance myself, very briefly, so I don't get hit again, make sure she is safe and stay close by and start the calming process. I hold and soothe, reassure, comfort until the meltdown subsides.
She is not abandoned, she is not alone, I am right there and will be there with her gently leading and calming her through this.
I want more of it.
I want others, those working with my child to understand.
She wants and needs and desperately yearns to be understood.
It's just that the heart cry often comes out as opting out, disengaging, refusing, challenging, pushing away.