Monday, 15 July 2013

Time Out and Time In

I am soooo looking forward to going on the Safe Base training soon. The Safe Base Training Programme will be for 4 days for me to attend - I have been using some of the Thera-Play games and activities since I first met PJ during our Introductions and a few have become firm favourites - and have to confess we have stuck with some of them and life keeps going relentlessly at times, so confess that I have not caught my breath enough to venture into many new activities.
Our attachment is growing and I have also really struggled at times and am wanting some more input to build on our attachment and help with managing behaviours and emotions when things seem to escalate really quickly.
I am convinced that the timing of the training days couldn't come at a better time for us - I am mostly struggling with control issues - we go to play a game or do playdough together and I get a no, no, no, not like that or you can't have that or not that way... you get the idea. I am left alone, bereft and frustrated to try and find a way in, to connect with and for PJ to become engaged with me and to stay engaged.  We have worked hard and played hard and we have some fruit but the desire to control still rears it's ugly head.
I am also really struggling with the meltdowns - the 0-60 seconds in a millisecond ones that sometimes I know what the trigger is and sometimes I am unaware of what has caused it but here it is, large as life, the fear monster blasts in and makes his loud and triumphant entry to centre stage.
I have been reading more on the brain development, flight and fright brain, emotional development and particularly developmental trauma disorder and am gradually increasing my knowledge base alongside my knowledge and understanding of PJ - she is now less like slippery soap for me - I can now usually anticipate what might be triggers for her - it is a learning process.
Sometimes I have gone Raaaaahh and had to leave the room for a brief moment in time to go for a wee or to count to ten and breath slowly to calm myself down and stop shaking before I return to try once again to intervene and soothe and to calm and restore balance to our lives.
The hitting and kicking is the hardest for me - the instant fight and flight mode - the arms and legs flail, she cries and screams and isn't hearing me at this point.
Time out strategies have been suggested by some friends, well meaning, along with the suggestion of giving her more consequences - which the more |I learn she will be unable to process for her development age. Time out had been used by her previous foster carers - but, whilst it does seem to break the cycle - I am not convinced that it is the best strategy and I hate doing it too. I want to get close and to soothe and to tell her that I love her and make it right - but when she physically instantly and instinctively hits and kicks - it really hurts.
Sometimes I have yelled NO - we don't hit in our family and said stop it to try and break the cycle  - but a couple of months ago she started answering back - and repeating what I said with a no you stop it. - It really wound me up - I panicked - thinking - she is 4 - what will it be like when she is 14 - I had better nip it in the bud - we quickly got into a head to head - like 2 stags with their antlers interlocked - and after a few seconds of discourse - neither of us were backing down.
I got more and more infuriated and she just seemed to continue shouting and hitting and kicking if I went near.
After a week or so, I began to realise that she just simply didn't get it - she wasn't being rude or argumentative - but for her, emotionally - she was not 4 going on 14 but actually 18 months - the no was almost as instinctive and reactive as the hitting was a reflex for her.
I decided to begin to use as few words as possible - this really helped prevent the head to head - and helped keep me calm - she wasn't bothered, it seemed, by the words being said - but it would became easier to deal with if I remained calm.
At this point I had still put her in her room, after several attempts to give a short distance - ie - just put her down on the ground in the nearest available space - and try and stay close by - and then gradually had to distance more and more until we reached the familiar previously used strategy of being put in her bedroom - just a few seconds - or sometimes I go back downstairs - and then back upstairs - at least I remain calm - but I still don't like doing time out.
At my recent CAMHS appointment they suggested that time out wasn't great as it creates a distance - out of sight out of mind - and feeds the I am unlovable, especially after I have just yelled NO and Stop It ! but they didn't really give me any other strategies - yet - other than distraction - make it a game - or put cushions around her to make her safe.
Distraction and diffusing the situation into a game works really well when she is mildly hitting and kicking - but she ain't hearing me at all when she has gone 0-60 seconds in less than a second....
I have yet to try the cushions around her - presumably along with telling her that I am wanting to keep her safe - and with the aim of getting back time in with her asap....
I have tried to get back to time in as soon as she is calm and we have simply just carried on from where we left off - eg - if the toys all got thrown just before the meltdown then we have picked up the toys after she is calm and then just carried on with what we should have gone on to do.
I am really hoping that SafeBase will help too.
Does anyone else have these issues and does anyone else have any tips?


  1. Tantrums have been a feature of my life too. I found that NB could cope with a short time out in his cot or bedroom (although I don't like it as a measure really), but it doesn't work for OB at all. OB spent 20 minutes hitting me on the leg yesterday, screaming and shouting "No Mummy! No Mummy!" There's no way to get through to him when he's like that - no words help - so I just let him flail it out until he's spent and then we try to talk about it afterwards. Of course, he's only two so doesn't do so much damage! If he's still doing that in a couple of years then I know I'll have a big problem on my hands. And it only happens, maybe once a week or less. NB was totally different. He'd have massive meltdowns several times a day during which he'd bang his head and hurt himself in other ways. He wasn't distractable at all and couldn't be spoken to. At first I did cot time, but in the end, once I'd learned the signs of when a meltdown was coming on, I started jumping in at the first wail and removing him to the end of the hall (within sight of me and the playroom) and saying firmly that there would be no more toys or playing until the crying stopped. As he was a very compliant child, he did actually try to obey, and stayed where I put him. As soon as I saw any sign that he was trying to gain some self-control, I would be straight out there with cuddles and hugs. No reason why any of this should work for you and PJ though! They're all so different aren't they?!

  2. It is hard to know how to and what is best and also to try and anticipate when it is about to be a massive meltdown from nowhere. Trying to read, to attune and to learn and get some tools - or at least some armour!


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