Sunday, June 19, 2011

Graduation, Summer and Transition ( part two)

Past, present and future are experienced all at once in an emotional intensity during  momentous times of transition and change.  For all of us, transition, large and small, can be felt in the heart , mind and body like a a ripple or an  ocean wave. For foster/ adopt children who have already experienced many losses, these times of transition can be  even more intense and confusing.  Saddness, can often be masked by irritability and anger and can evolve into acting out behaviors. 

The past - traces of  implicit memory (which are formed prior to age three and in times of trauma)  - those vital, distinctive sensory moments of our lives distilled into the present  can come crashing in like a tsunami with intense feeling.  And because these implicit memories are pre-verbal and sensory (unconscious memories) and fully charged with a great deal of emotion it is important to stay connected to the energy in the body at these moments and allow it to move through. It is not time to ask why or give explainations  or make cognitive sense of the experience, that is not how the brain works during these times. Initially, the best support you can give your child is to just  allow the feelings;  be present; acknowledge their presence and provide your own loving support and presence to let  the energy move through your child. Labeling the feeling maybe useful but not always. Holding your child can be useful but not always. Your physical presence however is very important and if possible some physical connection (touching a foot or hand or a brief touch can be all it takes sometimes)

As a parent, it is our job to help our children understand and move through the many confusing and intense feelings that occur during these times of transition.  However, feeling  the feelings are more important in the moment than trying to understand why this particular transition is causing so much upset.  If the feelings  are not acknowledged then often annoying attention getting behaviors become the expression of  these under-cover feelings and they can take on a life of their own.

There is a fine line between not making a big deal about it, but also acknowledging the importance of  feeling life in all its healthy intensity and managing the task of growing up. It is also important for children with a history of trauma, to learn to have some mastery over the 'sometimes'   intensity of their internal world.  At times of change and transition  your child may watch those movies that he watched as a young child or look through school year books or photographs, or not want to talk but be close with you.  No big deal, it is just part of managing the process of matuirng and changing. It is human nature to revert back to something cozy and familiar before moving on to the next  new and unfamiliar milestone in our developing life. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graduation, Summer and Transition ( part one)

I was reminded at my daughter's school graduation that summer and changing schools is a bitter-sweet experience for parents and children alike.  Leaving a school after six years is like leaving a family. There is a great joy and loss for both parent and child. Even more so, for a single parent, immigrant from England and an adopted daughter from China who have made their home in the United States in this community in Mill Valley California. I have been reflective since the 'send off'' of graduating 5th graders last week. My daughter and I,  are both displaced so to speak and have found home in a country other than our birth place- for me out of choice, for my daughter out of necessity.

At present, I am surprised  by a feeling of being  untethered from my moorings, as if in free fall.  It has made me reflect on how fortunate we are  in our home, as a family, to grow up in such a secure and caring community and  how entering a bigger school next year will be a whole new experience for both of us. By the Fall I know we will be ready for the excitement and adventure of being in a new school with a lot of our community walking along beside us towards the next developmental phase.  As a leaving parent, I want to express my gratitude to Edna Maguire Elementary school , that has been a home away from home for my daughter and myself,  for the last six years.  The  Principle and teachers and amazing community of parents have  helped 'grow up' my daughter and myself and infused my daughter with a sense of confidence and poise and 'worldly' knowledge.