Any child has off days. Kids going through struggles of a family separation or divorce have more off days and need extra support. These TIPS for dealing with a traumatized/ emotionally dysregulated child are not difficult and can make huge difference to your child.
SO the next time your child is having a hard time, throwing a fit, crying or angry- try these. Remember, its about their need.
Who’s the most important person in this interaction? YOU. Keep yourself in check first- If you are feeling stressed or angry, your child will pick up on this and feed off of it. Mind your own triggers. Kids can become every good at pushing buttons so make sure yours are hidden. They might love a good fireworks show so make sure you are not that show. Watch for you triggers, get support use mirror breathing, remain calm. Do not push for information etc. Empathy first.
Use your brains- both yours and theirs. Remember what each hemisphere needs. Left brain logic only comes after right brain emotion and support. Feelings before solutions. - Merely asking a child to stop, or "calm down" will create barriers and resistance. They need to be “felt” and attuned to before they can partner in problems solving. Validate feelings, offer language ( one word) to help label feeling states, provide comfort (low lighting, fidget toys, soft blanket or music, a beloved toy or pet).. Create a comfort box for each child specifically before an event so it is available to them..
We all need to have a way to make meaning of our life story- Wrapping language around experience is vital for the brain to help us integrate and grow in our abilities to solve future problems and manage emotions. Let them tell their story without interjecting. Once their emotions are more settled, then it is time to calmly talk and listen leading to a problem solving moment
Teaching a feelings vocabulary is essential. Often our kids have no idea what is typical or normal;. They may have never been taught how to express emotions in any other way Teach your child that feelings go through us- like a wave in the ocean. While we cannot choose our feelings, we have the power to our reaction and action. Model and share feelings throughout the day.
Fix ruptures, they can be repaired – There is always hope. Kids need to know this even when they are dealing with difficult issues and have behaved poorly. They are not the sum of their behaviors. Teach kids how to apologize and make repair and then be sure to accept that repair and move forward. We all make mistakes and can move forward and we all need to make repairs. Make your own apologies as needed and explain to the child what is happening.
Provide consistency and promote flexibility. It’s good to have a structure. Most kids need it and some kids require it. Our kids seems to need from a very deep level or conversely they may work to recreate a chaos from their past. Structure then can be a gentle friend reminding them that safety can be found in an external world. This will help them integrate that into their own internal world. When deviations are made, make sure you are patient and supportive of the child’s need and past experiences. Some may need more time to process changes and surprises. Compliment it when a child can make a shift from the expected.
Choices give the child some sense of control in their lives. This does not mean they get to run the house but offer them simple choices. You are smarter than they are so be creative- either or questions, choices that you are comfortable with. Be wary of making ultimatums or no win situations as this will likely spiral them back into emotionality and need to regain control.
Re enactment- some children will subconsciously or even consiously reenact their story- (through drawings,play or behavior.). This looks different for each child but it is very common for children to attempt to make sense of their experiences that don’t make sense. These reactions can come and go and often we will not be aware of what triggers them. This includes behaviors we need to mitigate. Stay calm, interrupt for safety and offer comforting presence, items etc.
Get support and ideas. Don’t hesitate to call on others for advice- make sure they understand the concepts above.
(Thanks Tina Payne,-Bryson, Bruce Perry, Janina Fisher for the resources informing this list)