If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Play, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy

The following represents a list of general principles that are characteristic of Dan Hughes'treatment and parenting model.

 Touch, eye contact, soft voices need to be used to communicate safety, acceptance, curiosity, play and empathy. We must let our children to become used to us. Our speaker told us a story of how a toddler would just scream if he didn't want to do something and he would scream until his foster carer moved away. It was decided that this could not continue, so the carer purchased some earplugs and when her toddler started to scream she sat as close as she could without him entering a complete melt down, as he calmed she would move a little closer until eventually she was sitting next to him and he fell asleep, completely exhausted in her arms. They continued this for days but it eventually worked. He realised that he was safe and could accept being held.

Play, laugh have fun. No matter what happens play as much as you can. Play and laughter is a global way to teach safety. Think about how we teach our toddlers. Whilst playing building bricks your little one picks up a brick and throws it. We tell them not to do it and carry on  playing.  This is consequence followed by an immediate repair. The toddler may be upset to be admonished but we will coo "it's ok, don't throw the bricks, let's build a big tower" this is what all children in care need regardless of their age. If your adopted/foster child kicks off don't ban the football treat with Dad later. On the way back from the football excursion dad has the perfect opportunity to talk about what happened and help your child say sorry.

Ensure our children succeed. If they can't make it around the supermarket without a tantrum in the biscuit aisle, try internet shopping for a while. Then agree to go shopping together but just try one aisle, if everything is going ok try another. At the first sign of trouble pay and leave. Be sure to say well done for managing however many aisles. Communicate the whole time. Build on your successes. Our children have got to learn how to behave, they need to grow up being able to live in the real world.

Remember these children behave the way they do because they don't feel safe, they are full of rage that they don't understand and can't control. Accept that these are symptoms of their history and help them to understand that too. That way they can learn to deal with how they feel and the behaviours will improve and stop. For example if a child can't cope with saying goodbye, because it reminds them of past pain, grief and loss. Pre-empt it. "I know it's really hard to say goodbye and leave but I will help you with it. Shall I say goodbye for you?" 

Often adopted children don't think that they need to be parented, after all adults have always let them down before. Use sentences like "I wonder why" be curious. "Ah I understand you don't like it when I, because" be empathetic.

Be positive, find something to be positive about, especially the little steps because they lead to giant leaps. "Well done for not lashing out at your brother, I am really glad that you didn't hit him" If we are calm, our children learn calm. Even if we lose our tempers and get angry, that's fine so long as we return to calm relatively quickly. If our children see that anger is acceptable in some situations but it never spirals out of control they can learn to be the same

Talk about your child's history, they need to make sense of it. They need to understand the reality of their history to make sense of how they feel. This will lead to positive acceptance and a desire to move forward rather then an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. "I have ADHD or I am a problem child so that's why I do what I do." Is not acceptable. "You struggle because of your ADHD so we will need to help more with ways of being able to deal with situations that you find difficult."

Our children ARE doing the best they can, it's our role to help them move forward. It is their history that is the problem not them

Traumatised children will try to control their environment because that is the way to survive these behaviours decrease as they feel safe.  To feel safe they need patience, love, empathy and acceptance. Not anger, frustration or withdrawal of affection. Try not to shout or be drawn into a power struggle you will not win. Our adopted children have already been rejected enough, so the naughty step or being sent to their room isn't going to help either. 

Consequences need to match the behaviour. If a child kicks the dog banning the TV or rugby practice isn't going to work. Helping to bath the dog, walk the dog and feed the dog is a much better way to teach respect for animals.

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