I am attending a course this week on Therapeutic Parenting. Although I like to think I’m already a therapeutic parent, sometimes I lose sight of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ amongst the strains of caring for children with Developmental Trauma.
Day One focused on the ‘whys’.
It is quite simple really. Babies are not born with fully formed brains. They need loving eye contact, consistent care, the comfort of another, the presence of trustworthy adults who deliver in order to develop the parts of the brain which we take for granted. We were shown two brain scans; one of a Romanian child, who grew up in an orphanage, one of a child who grew up in a loving home. The differences in frontal lobe activity and development were astonishing. It brought home to me that what our children and their carers are struggling with is brain damage. Yet it is so much easier to judge their behaviour as naughty. Why won’t they just do what they are told? Stop answering back? Stop lying? Stop hurting others? Why are they so manipulative, controlling? Why won’t behaviour systems work? Why do they repeat behaviours over and over? The answer in the main is that they just can’t help it.
I spent some time sat in the garden with my son yesterday. I don’t know if he was in the mood to talk or whether I was open after a day of training, maybe a combination of both, but he recounted another troubled day at school.
‘I’m fed up with getting into trouble for things I don’t even know I’m doing,’ he said.
I empathised with his feelings of frustration.
‘If you could choose between me with Tourettes or me like I am, what would you choose?’
I paused to contemplate the struggles of living with Tourettes. ‘I’d choose you as you are.’
‘I wouldn’t, never, ever, ever. I would never choose to be like I am. Always in trouble, always the one who needs special this and that and even you have to learn how to look after me. If I had Tourettes people would know what that was and understand me. And I wouldn’t have all those scary images in my head. I just want to be normal like everyone else.’
He was emphatic. It was a rare moment of supreme honesty and it bowled me over. This is what it is like to grow up with Developmental Trauma.