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Look for their Voice!

January 30, 2016

When we believe that our words don’t matter, humans start to express their needs through behavior.  This is part of the universal experience of being human.   If asking for something will surely get me a ‘no’ then why wouldn’t I just take it (if I believed I needed it?).  Have you ever justified behavior by saying to yourself “asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission?”  Sure- if you believed that using your words wouldn’t help you get what you need.  I know we could spend hours debating what is a need vs. a want, particularly when your child is throwing a knock-down-drag-out tantrum at Wal-Mart because you aren’t buying them a new Barbie doll, but for the sake of argument, let’s just agree that sometimes our brain is confused about needs and wants.  Sometimes a want feels like a need.  Sometimes this is true even for us as adults.  It’s true a LOT (maybe most of the time) for our kids who have experienced trauma and loss because they are largely operating out of the part of the brain that does not distinguish needs from wants.

One of my primary areas of focus when I’m working with a family is helping parents give their children voice.  Voice to process their trauma.  Voice to ask for what they need.  Voice to express their internal experience.  Voice to reduce physical aggression, verbal aggression, manipulation, control….all of these behaviors are about not believing you have a voice.  Most kids have no idea that this is why they engage in those behaviors…that’s OK!  We can just help them.

finding voice

How do we get kids to start using their words?  Well, it’s not really a simple algorithm of ‘do this then that’ and the process will definitely go much more smoothly if you can use your intuition, but I get the need for a basic outline when you are trying out something new.

  1. Be able to be curious. What’s really going on?  Labeling behaviors with words like ‘just’ (he’s just trying to get attention, he’s just trying to make me mad, he’s just being defiant) or absolute words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ is our very first clue that we’ve lost our stance of curiosity.  ALL behaviors are expressing a need.    Seriously.  Every. Single. One.  The need might be “I need to feel more connected to you” or “I need help with my overwhelming feelings” but there is always a need.
  2. Check our egos at the door. Don’t take it personally!
  3. Help your child label what’s really underneath their behavior in non-punitive, non-shaming words.
  4. If possible, have you child actually use those words!
  5. Meet the need IMMEDIATELY. Say YES if at all possible.  In fact, before you ask them to use different words, guarantee that you will help them.  “Hey, I’m going to help you get milk.  I just need asking words.”  This is a far cry from “I’m not going to get you anything if you keep demanding it disrespectfully.”  You may ever start pouring the milk so that your child sees that their need is going to be met…they can risk being more respectful.  PROVE to your child that if they will consider swapping words for behaviors that it will be worth it to them.  Know that eventually you will be able to raise this bar and eventually say ‘no’ or ‘later’ more often.***

***Quick little disclaimer.  #5 doesn’t mean we use bribes to get our kid to stop behavior.  I’m not suggesting that you buy them the Barbie doll they are tantrumming over just to get the tantrum to be over.  But we stay present through the tantrum.  Stay with them through their feelings.  Avoid punishing and shaming.  “It’s so hard to hear no.”  “It’s so hard not get what you want.”  “When I say no, I wonder if you feel like it’s because I don’t love you?”  Then your child learns something else really awesome….that even when they are at their worst, you still love them and can stay with them.  And maybe just maybe there IS an appropriate time to buy the $9 Barbie Doll because your extremely dysregulated child has actually USED GOOD ASKING WORDS and you would pay $1987368 to reinforce for your child how amazing that is.  Remember.  Build the trust bank.  Once the trust bank isn’t constantly running dry your child will have more bandwidth for ‘no.’***

So, what on earth does that five-step algorithm even look like in real life?

At school your child plugs her ears and hollers nonsense words when it’s time to go to math group.  This is so inappropriate and disrespectful!  And probably embarrassing for you.  What if you approached this with a curious mind.  Clearly, your child doesn’t want to do math.  WHY?  And remember, no using the word ‘just’- like ‘He’s just lazy.’  Children- all people- really do want to do well.  They want people to like them.  Relationship is safer than discourse.  So why the theatrics about math?  With a little poking, prodding, and some good old fashion guessing, we land on the fact that math is really really hard.  It makes your child’s brain actually physically hurt.  They are overwhelmed, and then embarrassed because they can’t do the math their peers are doing.  Help your child find these words.  Write them in a letter to the teacher.  And make a deal with your teacher that if your child uses those words INSTEAD of putting his hands in his ears that the teacher will LISTEN and HELP.  And this doesn’t mean just acknowledging your child’s feelings and trudging forward with the math assignment.  This means “THANK YOU for using your words to tell me that the math is making your brain hurt.  Let’s brainstorm some ideas about what we should do when your brain starts to hurt.”  This may mean taking a break from math.  This may mean doing a headstand, blowing bubbles, or going back to math problems that are a bit simpler.  Because if you can get this child to understand that his VOICE MATTERS, you’ve just put $100000000000 in their trust bank.  And eventually, you will get them to push forward with the math that makes their brain hurts.  And if you DON’T get them to push forward, then you know that it is making their brain hurt too much and they can’t.

What about stonewalling?  When there are NO WORDS???  You ask your kiddo, in a kind and regulated way, if they want to pause their video games in five minutes or ten minutes so that they can clean their room.  No answer.  You get closer to your child, still regulated, and say “Hey buddy!  Did you hear my words?  Five or ten minutes more?”  No answer.  Now your blood is beginning to sizzle.  How can you get your child to use appropriate words when THERE ARE NO WORDS?  Stay curious.  What’s going on?  How come he is completely ignoring you?  This child doesn’t believe words are helpful.  Give him some words.  “Oh, you don’t want to clean your room.  Hey kiddo, I can see that!  I really though need some words so we can figure it out together.”  No answer. “Wow.  I’m hearing it loud and clear.  You don’t want to clean your room.  It feels like you are saying that without saying it.  Can you say it with words?  If I can get some words then I’m positive we can compromise on this and figure it out together.”  No answer.  Continue to resist the urge to rip the game system from the wall.  “Buddy, if I can get some words, we can find a compromise.  Maybe you need more than 10 minutes?  Maybe you need help with your room?”  Finally you get “I don’t wanna clean my room.”  “Oh that is awesome, thanks for letting me know.  Yeah, cleaning your room is no fun.  I’m open to a compromise.  Do you need more time on the video games or do you need help cleaning your room.”  “Both.”  “Oh OK, cool, I get it now.  How about 20 minutes and then we will work on your room together?”  “Yeah fine, whatever.”  “Awesome buddy thanks for your words so we could figure this out together. So in 20 minutes you will hit ‘pause’ on your game and we will head into your room together?”  Big sigh from kiddo.  “Yeah mom, fine.”  (Disrespectful words are better than no words.  Keep the faith.  Eventually you’ll be able to ask for respectful words.  For now, the bar is so low that any words are OK.  I promise we will keep raising the bar).  

20 minutes pass.  “Hey buddy, I made us a quick snack to power up for this epic room cleaning task.”  And then, you must find a way to make the room cleaning task something that isn’t dreadful, isn’t contentious.  Turn picking up dirty clothes into a game of dirty clothes basketball.  Put on his favorite music (that you hate).  Be willing to put in just as much work as he is, maybe even more, ALL because you know you’re making trust bank deposits.  Trust that his voice matters.  Trust that he can negotiate his needs if he uses his words.  Trust that y’all are on the same team.

What if your kid doesn’t stop the silence?  Never says a word and refuses any kind of compromise by simply remaining silent?  Well, the first place I would explore with curiosity is how entrenched my kid is in the belief that their words don’t matter.  If it’s so ingrained that I can’t get them to eventually engage in a dialogue that ends in me helping them clean their room, then I must look for opportunities outside the current situation to give my child voice and build up their trust bank. 

Overtime, you can slowly start to raise the bar.  Throwing books across the room (or at you) might become “I hate you!” (Ok, words are good.  When kids move from physical aggression to verbal aggression, we need to recognize this as forward progress and keep the faith that things will CONTINUE to move forward and we won’t be accepting verbal aggression for long).  Then it becomes “You are pissing me off!”  Then it might become “I am so mad at you!”  Ok ok, now we are getting somewhere.  And now, moms and dads, our task becomes truly being OK with it when our kids yell “I’m so mad at you!!!”  Feelings are OK!  Feelings expressed appropriately are OK!  And yelling when you’re mad, as long as it’s not filled with hateful or blaming words…but instead with words that reflect the child’s inner reality (“I am so mad!) is really OK!  But, I suppose that’s a whole other blog post :)

I could write 35 pages with examples.  Maybe one day I will!  But for sure, that’s a blog post that is WAY TOO LONG, so I’m going to bring this one to an end.

Give them voice.  You’ll be surprised at how you can apply this idea to just about every difficulty you are experiencing with you child.

Keep on keepin’ on, warrior moms and dads.  It’s worth it.

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Join us in Austin on April 29 & 30 for our 3rd annual retreat for struggling parents raising challenging children- EMPOWER, EMBRACE, EMERGE.

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life {Austin, TX}

December 5, 2015

Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center regularly offers a six hour parenting class for our clients as well as the community.  Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life will be held NEXT Saturday the 12th in our office at 1705 W. Koenig Lane in Austin, TX.  The class is capped at a maximum of eight participants and is held in a small-group setting to enhance your learning experience!

From my website:

Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life
Date: December 12, 2015
Time: 9am to 4:30pm
Location: 1705 W. Koenig Lane, Austin 78756
Cost: $100/person
Class is capped at 8 attendees to maximize your learning!
CLICK HERE to register

“Children do well when they can” ~Ross Greene 

…and it’s our job, as parents and helpers, to provide our kids with what they need, so that they can do well.  Trust Based Parenting is often called “Investment Parenting” by Dr. Karyn Purvis (creator of Trust Based Relational Intervention®).  “Pay now, or pay later”  ~Karyn Purvis, PhD. Heavy on connection and light on correction, this approach is based solidly on the science of child development and has an emphasis on HEALING children- not just compliance or obedience (although cooperation and respect are important values in TBRI®). 

This six-hour workshop is based on the core principles of Trust Based Relational Intervention®- Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting- as well as the Circle of Security®.  Robyn also brings in her training from some of the leading trauma experts, including Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Bruce Perry, as well as leading parenting experts, including Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Heather Forbes.  Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life will be heavy on examples, video clips, experiential activities, and discussion, with just enough theory to glue together the practical suggestions.

You can CLICK HERE to register!

Adoption Knowledge Affiliates Conference- Austin, TX

October 27, 2015

10534552_10153191330491009_4326541320922985410_nIf you are within driving distance to Austin, TX, you won’t want to miss the 23rd Annual Adoption Knowledge Affiliates conference: “Finding the WE Between YOU and ME” on November 13 and 14, 2015.

This year’s conference has a FANTASTIC line up, if I do say so myself (I happen to be serving as conference chair, for the fifth year in a row!!!).

The conference will kick-off with a keynote by Juliane Taylor Shore, LPC-S, LMFT-S, SEP, an Austin-based psychotherapist who has worked extensively with amazing mentors like Daniel Siegel, MD and Bonnie Badenoch, PhD.  Juliane is going to talk to us about how our nervous systems are shaped for relationships, and how to harness that power.  Saturday morning we have invited a long-time friend of AKA, Melanie Chung Sherman, LCSW, to continue this focus on relationships, as we look to find the WE within all our adoption relationships.

And of course there is a fantastic selection of workshops on both Friday and Saturday.  AKA is always so lucky to have wonderful experts in the field offer their gifts and passions with us.

This is truly one of my favorite weekends of the year.  AKA, with it’s focus on relationships and authenticity, brings together an amazing group of people and I just soak up the education and community.  If you make it, please say ‘hello’ to me!!!  I’ll be the one who looks tired, frazzled, and as if I’m having the time of my life- because I know I will be :)

For more information and to register: CLICK HERE.

See you then!

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

 

 

 

 

Boise, ID- Trust Based Parenting in Real Life!!!

September 12, 2015

Registration ends Thursday October 8!!  There has been an exciting response to this workshop and I’m thrilled to be presenting for parents, therapists, social workers, and case workers in Boise on October 10.  There are still a few spots remaining!!

boisetrustbasedparenting.eventbrite.com

“Children do well when they can” ~Ross Greene

…and It’s our job, as parents and helpers, to provide our kids with what they need, so that they can do well.  Trust Based Parenting is often called “Investment Parenting” by Dr. Karyn Purvis (creator of Trust Based Relational Intervention®).  “Pay now, or pay later”  ~Karyn Purvis, PhD. Heavy on connection and light on correction, this approach is based solidly on the science of child development and has an emphasis on HEALING children- not just compliance or obedience (although cooperation and respect are important values in TBRI®).

This six-hour workshop is based on the core principles of Trust Based Relational Intervention®- Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting- as well as the Circle of Security®.  Robyn also brings in her training from some of the leading trauma experts, including Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Bruce Perry, as well as leading parenting experts, including Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Heather Forbes.  Trust Based Pll bearenting…In Real Life will be heavy on examples, video clips, experiential activities, and discussion, with just enough theory to glue together the practical suggestions.

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in Austin, TX and the founder of Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.  She is a Trust Based Relational Intervention® Educator and Circle of Security Registered Parent Eductor.  Trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), and The ALERT Program®, Robyn integrates these modalities into an attachment based, neuroscience supported, and sensory sensitive healing environment for children and their families.  She is a frequent trainer for both parents and professionals, having spoken at conferences and workshops throughout the country.

Coffee, drinks, and snacks will be served throughout the day.  One hour will be provided for lunch on your own.

SOCIAL WORKERS: Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is licensed by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners to Provide CEUs in the State of Texas.  A Texas Social Work CEU for 6 hours is available for an additional fee (paid onsite) of $10.  Please check with your licenseing boarding to determine if they will accept a Texas Social Work CEU.

http://boisetrustbasedparenting.eventbrite.com

Stop Fixing. Be.

July 22, 2015

Fixing is for things that are broken.  Fixing happens when the fixer takes on the role of expert and does what the fixer knows needs to be done.  Fixing means something is wrong and we have to do something active to make it right.

People aren’t broken.  Children aren’t broken.  Your child isn’t broken.  You aren’t broken.

If we sit firmly in the belief that we are always moving toward greater integration, then we can sit firmly in the belief that people don’t need to be fixed.

What do people need?  Relationship.  Safety.  Invitations.

When I started to take this approach in the therapy room, I didn’t really DO anything different.  What was different was my way of being.

When I started working with a therapist who took this approach, she didn’t really do anything different.  What was different was her way of being.

Our brains are realllllly smart.  We can tell when another person has an agenda just by being in their presence.  Stephen Porges calls their ‘neuroception’ or perception that happens below the level of conscious awareness.  If I enter into the presence of another person- a very well-meaning person- who wants to help me be ‘fixed,’ my neuroception knows this.  I know that this person has an agenda.  I know that this person believes there is something wrong with me (because only things that are wrong need to be fixed).  I know that this person is operating from a sense of fear, because having an agenda flips on the amygdala, and now my neuroception says “this isn’t safe.”  And you know what doesn’t happen when we are with someone who has their amygdala switched on?  We don’t get ‘fixed.’

When we are in the presence of someone whose whole being is communicating, verbally and non-verbally, the truth that I am fine just the way that I am, then ironically the possibility of change begins to open up.  It is only when we begin to believe that truth about ourselves, that we are fine just the way we are, that the possibility of change begins to open up.  Our children can’t believe they are fine just the way they are if they know we are trying to fix them.

This doesn’t mean we stop helping, stop therapy, or release boundaries around behaviors that are hurting them or others.  It doesn’t necessarily mean we DO anything different at all.  But we may need to BE different.  Soothe our own fears, leave agendas behind, be with, and provide an invitation toward greater integration.

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Trauma is Contagious

June 25, 2015

***This article was originally posted on 04/21/2014***

Like the common cold, influenza, or measles, trauma can actually pass from person to person- airborne and invisible. You don’t have to be exposed to the original source in order to become infected with measles- you can catch it from being exposed to a person with measles. The same is true for trauma.  You don’t have to be exposed to the original trauma in order to feel and ‘catch’ it’s impact.  This isn’t news to you if you’ve been parenting a child with a history of trauma. Overtime, you have started to feel as traumatized as your child. You might think you’re imagining this or developing phantom symptoms. But you’re not- trauma is contagious.

iS TRAUMA CONTAGIOU

Remember from What’s Regulation Got to Do With It that our autonomic nervous system contains the proverbial brakes and accelerator of our body and emotions. Our sympathetic nervous system is the accelerator- amping us up by activating stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, increasing respiration, increasing heart rate – while the our parasympathetic nervous system is the breaks – slowing us down by releasing calming hormones and chemicals like GABA and serotonin, decreasing respiration, and decreasing heart rate. All day long our sympathetic nervous system gets activated and then our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to bring us back into balance.

When our nervous system is wide open, we are able to tolerate the fluctuations in our autonomic nervous system without difficulty. We can manage stress, deal with frustration and difficulty, and be available for relationship with our kids, spouses, and friends.

Enter one traumatized kiddo (or two, three, four, five etc…)

People who have experienced trauma have a closed and reactive nervous system. They have a harder time managing stress and frustration. Their overactive amygdala believes there is danger when there isn’t. It’s your child’s closed nervous system that can explain all their challenging behaviors.

The thing about nervous systems- is that we match each other.

Think of the last time you were stressed. And your child was stressed and acting out with whatever their acting out behavior of choice is. Your stressed body responds to their stress by doing what? Usually not becoming more calm. We keep upping the ante. Your child escalates, you escalate, your child escalates further, you escalate even MORE. (Don’t worry- this happens to all of me. Me too!).

Our nervous systems match each other. We match each other in the short term- like yesterday morning when you were late, and lunches weren’t packed, and homework wasn’t put away and all of the sudden everyone is yelling. And we also match each other in the long term. So the two years that you’ve been living with a traumatized, close nervous system who vaguely resembles your child? You’ve caught the trauma and now you are closed and reactive TOO.

When families are in crisis, when the child’s trauma is too out of control, when the behaviors have escalated….the first thing to do is to decrease the level of trauma in the parent’s system. This seems counterintuitive. This seems impossible. How on earth can we decrease the trauma in the parent when the child is spinning out of control?

It’s definitely really really really hard. And really really really unfair. To become calm and centered while a tornado is spinning around you? Hard. But not impossible. Not only is it not impossible but it’s imperative. Imagine you caught a life-threatening illness from your child. Can you help your child heal while you are critically ill? No. Does it seem counterintuitive to focus on your own health while your child is ill? Yes. But a sick momma can’t heal a sick baby (or teen).

Trauma Momma. Heal Thyself.

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Of Course…Of Course…Of Course

June 22, 2015

These two simple words might actually have the power to have a profound impact on your relationship with your kiddo.  Or at the very least, they may have the power to you feel calmer during those moments of absurdity that come with parenting a child of trauma.  Because you have already gotten REALLY good at understanding how trauma impacts your child’s brain (it is one of the trauma momma superpowers, after all!) then the words “Of Course” make perfect sense.

OF COURSE hearing the word “NO” sends your child into a Level 4 rage.

OF COURSE being asked to do a simple chore causes your child to completely shut down.

OF COURSE your child screams his head off because dinner is in four minutes, not RIGHT THIS SECOND.  (I mean, you are actually plating it and getting it on the table, but it’s just not fast enough).

OF COURSE your child sabotages his brother’s birthday party.  OF COURSE he sabotages his OWN birthday party.

OF COURSE your child longs to go back with the parents who hurt her in incomprehensible ways.

OF COURSE your child is climbing out of her car seat while you go flying down the highway.

The world is coherent.  We are always moving toward coherence.  Behaviors makes sense.  Always.  Even when it doesn’t make any sense, it makes sense that it doesn’t make any sense.

Of course.

of course

Try it now.  Think of the most absurd thing that’s happened in your house today.  Bring that picture to mind.  Say to yourself “Of course.”

The words “Of course” inherently bring order and coherence.  They instantly calm the amygdala…even if just a little.  They help you find that “proverbial pause” that is so important before you respond.  “Of course” helps you find compassion and understanding.  “Of course” brings coherence into your own body, which then allows you to approach your child with coherence instead of chaos.

I’m not saying this will solve all your problems and most certainly it will not stop your child raging in the moment.  Though you may find that the rage ends sooner because you’ve stopped pushing against it.

Want to know another secret?  You can try this with EVERYONE!!  OF COURSE your best friend was hurtful when she said that.  OF COURSE you felt hurt!  OF COURSE your spouse got defensive and stormed off.  OF COURSE your child’s teacher has no idea what to do with a traumatized student.

I had the extreme good fortune of spending four days with Kent Hoffman training to become a Circle of Security Parent Educator.  He suggested giving these two simple words- Of Course- to parents who are struggling to understand their child’s behaviors.  A colleague at my table leaned over and said “You use those words a lot when you are training parents.”  I thought for a moment- she’s right. A parent will raise their hand and either tell me some outrageous thing their child did, or they’ll ‘confess’ to me the way they reacted to that outrageous behavior.  I can hear myself in my head now….I say “Of course.  Of course they did that.  Of course you reacted that way.”  With complete understanding and compassion.  Without any judgment.  The other week I met with a mom who was lamenting some particularly bizarre thing her son was doing.  I caught myself saying “Of course he {insert bizarre behavior here}.”  Those words DO bring coherence into the room.  They take the edge off.  This momma breathed a heavy sigh, looked at me with heavy eyes, and leaned back into my couch.  Yes, of course.

{Side note…after I titled this blog entry, I spent the rest of the day hearing Cake’s version of Doris Day’s “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” in my head.  “Of course, of course, of course.”}

~

 

 

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

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