I wrote this for a fellow Trauma Mama whose children are reacting to school starting. Sorry about all the links!!
When my children acted out, which was always worse around Holidays, Starting or Ending School, Birthdays, and Other Traumaversaries,..., when I wasn't so frustrated at them I could scream, I pulled them in. I reminded myself that they were terrified. This was life or death to them, and they couldn't really handle change or added stress (this has gotten better as they healed). Even my bio kids reacted this way, just not to this extreme.
Why Do They Do That?
Some insight into why our kids act the way they do.
(Why Won't My Child Just Behave?)
(If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect You'll Leave)
(Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?)
How We Handled It
Calming/ Relaxation Techniques
I used Calming Techniques a LOT with my children.
My kids needed concrete tools to help them with anxiety. The Anxiety Scale is a tool we suggested to help the school and our daughter figure out how anxious she was (number scales were difficult for her) and what might help at each level.
I reminded myself that they were really so very much younger than they looked, and I was expecting a lot from them. I tried to change my parenting to better match their emotional age (Chapter 1: Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age).
Discipline vs Behavior
I also tried to remind myself that they were SCARED and punishment for something that was out of their control (Chap. 2 Discipline vs. Behavior Problems), was not just mean, it was pointless. What they needed was to feel safe and loved. That meant I couldn’t take away all fun stuff (even though I wanted to!!!)
Structure and Caring Support
Most of all, I gave them a LOT more structure and support (Structure and Caring Support). Our kids need a LOT of structure and support, especially when they are overwhelmed and Dysregulated (Handling Meltdowns).
We went back to line-of-sight supervision, time-ins instead of timeouts, removed as many overwhelming events as possible (not just avoiding throngs of hyper children in places like sporting events and the park, but also the grocery store and Sunday School). Yes, there were things I could do little about (school/ daycare), but I could talk to the teachers and minimize as much stress as possible.
When stress was high, my kids’ life was like being in the FAIR Club (our family discipline method ), but without actually being in the FAIR Club.
I tried to find calm, quiet, but still fun, things to do (Trapped in The House: Activities for Kids) so they wouldn't feel punished (taking a walk, letter parties … ). This wasn't about being in trouble or loss, they'd had enough of that; this was about making their life smaller. So they would feel SAFE.
I worked with the school to try to find ways to reduce my child's stress there. (Anxiety Scale and Crisis Plan)
At home, I did things like strip their room (Decluttering), because even with me helping them clean, it was overwhelming. So I did it when they weren't there, although I let them know ahead of time. I left nothing but a bed, a book/ quiet toy, and a stuffed animal, at one point I even had my daughter's dresser in my room, and she "checked out" her clothing by bringing me the dirty ones, THIS WAS NOT A PUNISHMENT.
Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting
I tried to find ways to help my children understand why they were parented differently and the benefits. For example, having a stripped room meant that now cleaning their room would be a lot easier! (Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting to Your Child)
A lot of time I screwed up. I lost my cool. I gave up (You Have Not Failed). I finally learned that I absolutely had to do a LOT of Self-Care! Caring for the Caregiver because this is HARD WORK. I couldn't put myself last anymore. I couldn't allow my emotional reserves to be drained completely dry. I had to put myself FIRST!
I forgave myself (which was really hard!), then I put on my big girl panties, tried to Find the Joy, apologized to my child for not helping them feel Safe, and started over.
Being a Therapeutic Parent SUCKS, but it does get better.