Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Adding Empowerment into the Healing Cycle

Disclaimer: Please know that I am not a parenting expert, nor do I ever want to give the impression that I am.

We are a mere 18 months into parenting our RAD/PTSD child. Miles, while incredibly challenging to us, falls toward the milder end of the Attachment-challenged spectrum.

Additionally, Miles is only 6 years old. Most of his emotional skills fall below his age skills.

Age, trauma experience, temperament, etc. make every child and situation unique. I fully recognize that much of what we use with Miles, if applied to other children, would likely be the equivalent of using a Picture Pages approach on a Harvard Law School Exam.

So while I share some of our parenting techniques/ concepts that we learn in therapy on my blog, I am by no mean advocating these techniques/concepts as a way for everyone to heal every child.

Yesterday, we added another process into Miles' healing cycle.

As previously mentioned, Miles has been resorting to unsafe behaviors as a way to create situations in which Mommy then envelopes him in safety, as a means to cement those feelings.

We have been working on a Safety dialogue for over 6 months now. Slowly, it is working it's way into Miles' psyche. Sometimes, he needs a LOT of reassurance. And (while it may slowly drive me batty, lol), it's okay that he needs a lot of reassurance.

Miles didn't live with us until he was nearly 5. I didn't get to feed him a bottle every time he was a baby and he was hungry. I didn't get to change his wet diapers. Or rock him to sleep. Or treat his earaches. I didn't get to engage in all of those wonderful, beautiful cycles that mothers use to lovingly care for their newborns.

But, I am here now.
I can reassure him that he is safe.
However many times he needs that reassurance, I can give that to him.
That can be our cycle.
I can find love and beauty in that cycle (no matter how crazy it is.)
(Do you see how I am using a rote monologue on myself now? ;) But reframing it in this context really, truly helps.)

While knowing that he is Safe is slowly taking root inside Miles' spirit, we now have another step to make in this journey to Healing.

Lately, Miles has resorted to employing "Sneaky Behavioral Devices" as a way of expressing himself. (A completely inadequate and frustratingly exhausting means of expression.)

We need to empower Miles. Miles needs to know that he has a Powerful Voice which he can use to express his needs and wants. And, Miles needs to know that he has a Right to be Heard.

For every day of his short little life, Miles has felt that he has No Voice.

He feels Small and Powerless.

And news flash to his less-than-stealth mom (moi):
He can feel that way even when he feels safe.

That was a light bulb moment for me, yesterday, in therapy.

Just as we need him to intrinsically know that he is safe, we also need Miles to fully believe that:

Miles has a POWERFUL voice.

Miles can SOAR higher than anyone,
just like Baby Owl (from our puppet story.)

Miles can use his POWERFUL voice to let Mommy knows how he feels.

Miles can use his POWERFUL voice to let Mommy knows what he needs.

If Miles engages in sneaky behavior, I can ask Miles: "Please use your POWERFUL voice to let Mom know how you are feeling, or what you need."

If Miles engages in sneaky behavior and doesn't want to share his feelings or needs, I can have him practice using his POWERFUL voice. (Note: The practice here is neither punishment nor a form of discipline. If Miles is in a snit or in a low mood or unreachable, we hold off on practice until he is more approachable.)

Practice is a fun and safe activity for Mommy and Miles to share. Miles practices by saying:

"I can use my POWERFUL voice."
"I can use my POWERFUL voice when I need something."
I can use my POWERFUL voice when I want something."
"I can use my POWERFUL voice when I have a feeling to share."

Mommy says: "Miles! I hear your wonderful POWERFUL voice. I am here to LISTEN to your POWERFUL voice. How can I help you/What do you need?"

Mommy continues to affirm with Miles: "This is a SAFE house. Part of a SAFE house is that when we need something or have something to share, we can use our POWERFUL voice and people will LISTEN to your POWERFUL voice. Your POWERFUL voice is important."

Like our many other dialogues, I expect that our POWERFUL voice dialogue will take some time before we see its effects. But like the other dialogues, I do believe that we will see some changes.

Just the fact that here we are, adding yet another step in Miles' growth and healing, is amazing to me. This little guy has come SO far. Baby step, baby step, baby step= they all add up in time. And that, my friends, is some POWERFUL stuff, indeed.


Sawatzky family said...

I love reading your blog...I just never realll know what to say when you post on adoption..A. i live so far away and am not a part of your daily life as a friend, B. i have no clue about adoption or all that it entails, C. I have no idea of the challenges about attachement issues and all that those entail, but I just want to say that I am praying everyday for your family and its strength and unity. And you are an amazing mom :) I am giving thanks for the great support of friends that this adoption has brought to you when you needed them. :) I am blessed to know you!

Anonymous said...

I am always impressed by your ability to adapt to the challenges. I like the powerful voice concept, which in retrospect makes sense but was not obvious to me.

He is a smart boy and I never doubt for a moment that, because of your guidance and love, he has the best chance possible for becoming a wonderful adult. I just hope I can keep up with everything along the way!

Missing you much,
Mr. Mister

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Lisa said...

Loved this post! Loved the Powerful Voice. It put so much into perspective for me. Thank you!