Sunday, August 7, 2011

Parenting during stressful times

I went to my chiropractor with my daughter on Saturday and this wise healer adjusted my back and then advised my daughter to stop me watching or listening to any world news broadcasts!!! Of course, my daughter loved being in charge of this insight into the human condition!!! So my daughter has kindly been systematically reminding me of this wisdom, particularly when I slip up while travelling in the car together.
Stress, and that revved up feeling in the brain and body, is addictive, even though we may know it is harmful and depleting.  I have to say, listening to soothing music during the rush to work or school or just talking and laughing together has been way more satisfying and nurturing.  If only the prevention and relief of stress symptoms and reactions in our brain and body were always that simple and collaborative!! 
But, that collaboration and desire to be of help, is exactly what is needed when being a parent to a child who is experiencing stress and acting out behaviorally at home and school.  Stress reactions become accumulative, more deeply unconscious, and more intense, the longer they are left unattended. If you are a parent of a child who has unresolved trauma in their lives, such as foster/adopt children whom have been displaced due to traumatic circumstances, you will understand what it is like living daily with this unresolved traumatic stress. 
Stress is also contagious, so if you are already a parent tuned in emotionally to your child and care about their welfare, then you are also more likely to have a stress reaction to their stress and behavior. How to stop the vicious cycle of stress reactions and find an entry point to defuse the energy?  It is not always as easy as switching off the radio in the car, but it does take a determined effort, in the moment, on the part of the parent, to do something different and stop the escalation of intense feelings and the verbal or physical harm that can ensue.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting some tips that parents in my practice, including myself, have found helpful.
Tip one:
The best approach to helping your child with a stress/traumatic stress reaction is to be prepared ahead of time and practice!
Take a pro-active approach. Plan and practice. So that when the reaction occurs and the problem-solving part of the brain (neo-cortex) is not communicating with the reptilian part in the child’s brain, at least you have available a strategy together to address the fear and anger and unregulated behavior. Write it down, step by step. Have an agreement ahead of time. Use it like an ‘emergency exit’ out of emotional overwhelm.  (What would your ‘emotional emergency exit’ plan look like?)


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