I wrote a few weeks ago about my battle of emotions and wills and my understanding vs what everyone else does in parenting and what is expected and what works.
This is kind of my further thoughts and processing being poured out on the page, in a kind of part 2 post. Part 1 is here .
So, here are my continuing ramblings and continued understanding. Bear with me, I am on a learning curve, here.
My dilemma with Time Out as a strategy when we are in meltdown mode in our house is whether it really is the best strategy to use?
It clearly is effective for lots of normal children and parents and is readily promoted on TV and parenting courses - I have even seen Time Out chairs and Time Out steps being advertised!
here's the thing: is it best for me and for my adopted child? At my recent CAMHS appointment they had suggested that Time Out might not be the best strategy as it is just that - time out - and that the separation might not be best for a child who needs attachment. I certainly don't wish to do further damage and I do not wish to do something just because but I do not wish to raise a spoilt child or one who doesn't learn right from wrong.
So, what is some more of the theory and what do I do?
PJ had come from a history of neglect and abuse and hadn't had the needed stimulus and attachment that a Mum would usually give in the early years, so her primal brain, her brain stem is on high alert, probably constantly. Her default button is set to fight flight and fear mode. Therefore the mid brain, the bits which control her self regulating parts of her brain are not yet developed. She is wired for self survival and when something startles her she goes off like a bottle of pop. Also, because of the lack of stimulus and soothing from a calm parent in those early years, she has yet to develop the parts of her brain to reason, understand cause and effect, the front brain. Therefore, when she goes into complete meltdown mode, her default, she goes off like a bottle of pop and she ain't hearing me if I say anything. There is no point telling her if you do or don't do this then, or telling her to stop... she is not able to reason - cause and affect isn't there, consequences have no impression and using words at her - or shouting, as has at times happened, doesn't work - in fact - it just makes it worse.
She seems to push me further and further away - until I end up leaving her alone.
Here is the pattern we have been in:
We start with the meltdown and I try the nearest available space.
She hits or kicks or throws form the crumpled heap I have just put her in.
I try the nearest step available - eg - stairs or patio step.
She continues to hit or kick or throw objects at me.
We go upstairs and she hits and kicks on the way.
I out her in the bedroom behind her stair gate and she continues.
I try and stay in the room but she shuffles on the floor to me and throws toys at me.
I leave, retreating, as she lobs toys at me from down the stairs.
Her emotions are high, her pain and shame is high and I have been raging, at times.
Then comes the breakthrough moment. A few seconds of distance, usually, by the time I have been to the loo or gone down stairs, all is calm and we hug and say sorry and carry on from where we left off.
It ain't pretty.
I don't like doing it.
I have been desperate to change things and to find some good, safe, workable, effective therapeutic solutions and to increase my understanding more.
The principle behind time out is this: to create separation between child and parent and therefore pain in the separation brings an association for the child with the action of what they have done and the response with the time out - the reasoning, the cause and effect - is developed for the child to then learn not to do the action in the first place, thus creating happy child and happy parent and the need for a time out step is no more. Happy Days!
So, for an adopted child with developmental trauma disorder - they have experienced past trauma and pain of separation in the past from their parent through lack of care and their needs not being met. They have experienced being startled and they weren't soothed by their parent and reassured that everything would be OK.
Added to this, their brain hasn't developed sufficiently yet, to understand reason and cause and effect and consequence.
Separation + pain + cause and effect = Time Out.
If this is so, why would I do this?
PJ doesn't need separation from me, she needs attachment.
PJ doesn't yet understand cause and effect, so why would I try and reason with her?
PJ feels pain of separation and feels shame and her emotions go off the scale in default fear flight fight response.
I am having Time Out from Time Out and instead I am going to have lots of Time In.
I am aiming to get in there as soon as I can with a hug, to calm and soothe.
If I need to distance myself to keep myself or her safe, then I will but I am going to stay as close as I can with the aim of calming and soothing her - I am aiming to re-wire her default button, I am being that regulator switch for her - just like she should have had in those early years - as with a tiny newborn, she is too young emotionally for controlled crying, so I won't leave her.
At night, when she cries for me, I go back to her. I don't leave her to cry.
I sit close by when I put her on a time out - my aim is to remove her from the situation - not to remove me from the situation.
CAMHS suggested I use cushions around her when she is arms and legs flailing and Adoption support from my Adoption Agency suggested using a bean bag as this might help to ground her - I guess the same principle of using a baby blanket for a tiny baby - to create safety.
It definitely helps if I stay calm.
It means I then stay in control.
If I am calm and therefore in control it helps me not try and win but to help her become secure and safe.
If I get in there quick and remain calm and stay with her it usually calms things much quicker.
If I think toddler, it also helps, as emotionally she is still 18 months - 2 years and not 4.
I am still battling with the hitting and kicking scenario as this is the hardest as she hurts. Any advice out there?
My battle in my head is the old voices ingrained in my core being of upbringing of children doing as they are told, or about winning because you are the grown up, thoughts on discipline.....
It is interesting to learn that discipline comes from the word disciple. which means to teach, to follow.
It doesn't mean to punish.
This bring me much more freedom with this fresh understanding.
I am giving myself permission to think and behave differently.
for me, time out is now having time out.
We are going for time in.
PJ and I are about to go and choose together a bean bag and we will see if it helps with a little grounding and sensory awareness....