I’m joining the theme this week from The Adoption Social where they are talking about and raising awareness of Child to Parent Violence #CPV. That means then, that we experience it here, in the SafeHouse.
How ironic is that? Here, in the home that we are striving so hard to ensure is “safe”, we are not safe. So whilst my children spend hours, days or minutes at a time wondering if the threats of their birth parents will ever come true, I spend hours to wondering if the violence, tantrums, rages, strops will happen today.
Don’t get me wrong, “It” doesn’t happen every day and I don’t spend all my time thinking about it, but I can see situations and circumstances that are likely to escalate the situation.
So why don’t I do something about it and stop it escalating?
What if I could stop it escalating?
Well, that would be bloody brilliant would it! What if I could remove all situations that would mean Biggey is able to stay calm and regulated and kind. Well, in order to do that I would have to remove her from society. Eeek, as I type that, it sounds draconian and old fashioned!!!
The fact is, as many other bloggers have mentioned this week, we do (mostly) understand what is going on. It’s where their feelings and emotions have built up, slowly or quickly to the point of explosion. Its a pressure cooker effect. In order to stop it escalating we would have to literally remove her from society, from school, from social events as these all raise her anxiety and raise her levels of adrenaline.
Sadly the world as it is now is fast paced and busy, with demands on all of us, not least our children. School is incredibly pressured and hard. School staff, particularly at secondary school are very much, “do as I say” and they are under pressure and put pressure on our children – on all children. So that pressure builds on a daily basis.
Biggey has never really felt safe and never really been heard, listened to or given attention until she came to live with us. The other sad fact is that she was placed with a sister who can talk for England (and Scotland / Wales / Ireland …..). For Littley, talking is her way of getting noticed and it’s hard to switch off from her. So it’s hard for Biggey to switch off from her too, or hard for Biggey in her anxious little world to get any semblance of peace and quiet that she needs to recover. We have to make sure there is space for Biggey and sometimes we don’t manage that.
The mixture of feelings she has is huge. She’s hypervigiliant. ALL. THE. TIME. A busy supermarket (actually even a quiet supermarket with only a few old people tottering around) is really stressful for Biggey and she cannot contain her feelings. She’s also knackered; from being hyper vigilant, from studying people, from trying to fit in, trying to be calm, trying to remember everything she’s supposed to remember. When any of us are tired we are less tolerant.
A bad day at school with lots of reprimands, sanctions or even just people saying “take some deep breaths” leaves her coming home in tears, sulks, moods and saying “I can’t even do that” “I’m so stupid” etc etc. So we are then creating more negative feelings.
In short, she really hasn’t a hope in hell of being able to manage to contain her intense feelings. It’s the fight response in Fight, Flight Freeze. Simple as that. Biggey does all three.
Does that make it OK?
It’s not OK that I am almost always wearing bruises.
It’s not OK that she has to feel this way.
It’s not OK that she is triggered so frequently and replays her early traumatic incidents as re-enactments in our home.
What to do?
We used to hold her (when she was little) just wrapping her up in our arms, holding tight and rocking and murmuring. It helped lots because as human beings we all need touch, we find it soothing. There has been experiments and scientific proof about that. For us, we know she could not tolerate to be touched, so that in itself sent signals to her that this was different to early experiences and it would help. Now, she’s 4 inches bigger than me! I can’t wrap her in my arms. On a good day, I have developed a random technique to get her sat on the floor where I can crouch and cuddle and rock. However, we absolutely do not speak! We murmur, we do ‘oohs’, a bit of ‘there there’. For her, the tiniest word is like a spark to a flame and can escalate everything all over again. We muddle through, what works one day doesn’t the next. What works when she was little can no longer be applied.
We’ve spend years as therapeutic parents keeping her close, staying beside and with her. We’ve had to spend years teaching her to go to her room with lots of soothing provision, cushions, food, music, colouring books. Sometimes she wrecks her rooms, sometimes not. We’ve done a huge amount of work reinforcing that her room is a safe place, with safe things around her, encouraging her to look at what reminds her she is safe. It has helped a little. It goes against therapeutic parenting but it does keep her safe and sometimes keeps us safe.
Our house shows sign of the wear and tear of living with traumatised children. We don’t even bother trying to pain over the cracks any more. SafeDad and I are also showing signs of wear and tear, yet we try and focus on keeping the SafeHouse together.
I’m linking this with #WASO on The Adoption Social @theadoptionsocial.