Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about the challenges that my children face due to their birth histories. They all have had some kind of exposure, whether it be, drugs, alcohol, trauma or a combination of these. They have all had a harder start to life.
Many of these things have had a neurological impact on the brain. We can not see where the damage is and visually these guys look pretty typical, but their brains do not function in a typical way.
Many times, I explain expectations to other people with the analogy, “You wouldn’t expect a person in a wheelchair to run down the street.” But, what if that person was sitting on the couch? What if you couldn’t see that they weren’t able to walk? We would have the expectation that this person had the capability to do that. This is exactly what happens with my guys, even I have moments where I forget and put an expectation on them that would be a challenge for them to fulfill.
Many of the “behaviours” that we see are side effects of their condition, uncontrollable and not a CHOICE. Their brains get stuck, overloaded, unable to process etc.
Currently, we are going through a tough time with the end of school and summer transition. At the moment, things need to be very simple and we are needing to help a lot more, even with the regular day to day tasks like hanging up a coat or putting their shoes away. Let’s not even go to what it looks like to try to get those year end assignments complete.
At the moment, we focus on one thing at a time. If we add on an extra task or expectation it’s just too much. This comes out in various ways. They may shut down, become argumentative, cry, get confused, scream and become angry. Many of these behaviours happen so quickly and at times seem unprovoked, which goes back to the brain and what it can handle in that moment.
We, as parents, can get caught up in the behaviour aspect of what this looks like. I have had moments when I’ve lost sight of this and took things personally, which ends up making no sense to the other person and prolongs or escalates the behaviour.
My little guy has asked me in the past, “Why are you giving me trouble for this, if I didn’t even WANT to do it?” and in all honesty, he’s right. If our children had the flu and were physically sick, but missed the toilet, we wouldn’t give them a consequence for that. We would help them and the clean things up and maybe even become more patient. When our children have been overwhelmed, it comes out in a negative way. They often say things very rudely, kick things, yell and slam doors. Once they are settled and are feeling more calm, most often they feel remorse and are very sorry for the way that they behaved. Giving a consequence to this behaviour doesn’t actually teach them anything, except what they already are feeling – which is not good enough.
That’s where we come in, and how we behave really impacts the situation (and this is REALLY hard, for me at least). I find that I have to practice coping strategies myself, little tricks to keep my mind from getting triggered. I keep a note that my little guy wrote to me in my purse, when these behaviours come up, I will often pull it out and read it. It helps me to keep things in perspective and remind myself that they are not CHOOSING this.