some thoughts about parenting

Most everyone agrees that we are responsible for the well-being of our family.  Very few people would allow their mom or dad, sister or brother, much less their children suffer if they had the wherewithal to help.

Our social system has developed over the millennium to expand our sense of family.  The idea that our family is all humankind is gaining some currency from a theoretical perspective.  Our task now is to raise children who can think well, most importantly, about their own family, but also about all people.  We can’t really parent our children & grandchildren well without taking into account the big picture.

Our children & grandchildren need to see us thinking about, loving, and acting in ways that pulls us toward a world in which children [and adults] are no longer hurt.

Some of us often feel pulled to blame the families that, for economic or other reasons, are not able to provide the resources, the health care, the education, the time that others are able to provide.  If we could instead, put our energy into insuring that every family has those resources, we’d go a long way to creating the world we want.

questions for the blogging nana? write margotbrinn@mac.com

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2 thoughts on “some thoughts about parenting

  1. Dear Bloggin Nanna,

    I have a 5 yr old foster daughter we are in the process of adopting. She has a history of neglect and abuse. She also recently lost her grandmother (her most recent care taker) to illness. She has many triggers like apple juice, certain toys, men, the corn maze, etc. One that comes up repeatedly at home is paint. She often asks to paint. On three seperate occations in the months that she has been with us, I have set up painting projects for her. In all three instances she has had an explosive tantrum. She may have experienced domestic abuse while she was painting a picture (a partial story she told).

    Yesterday, she was painting her pumpkin. She went along just fine with a light heart then about 10 min into her project she shifted from her detailed paint work to wide, wild strokes. This shift seems to come as she experiences a memory from her past. Her normal pattern starts there then quickly spins out to a manic place. This usually includes obvious messy behavior like dumping all off the paint bottles out onto herself or the table, smearing full hands and arms through the paint, then presenting the mess to me. When I address her she explodes! Runs, screams. She can become wild eyed and “not present” then explode or like yesterday, just tare off screaming and slamming doors. Once this beginns she eeks misery for hours. She pushes us away through rude, ‘naughty’ or disturbing behavior or she isolates in her room or under a blanket. She screams and refuses to be held or to engage. Hours later, only after all of this, she can cry and wish for her deceased Grandmother. Though this is discharge it is unproductive and unfocused. When I see this coming I become fearful myself as I know we are ‘in for it’ for the rest of the day.

    So my question is….
    How do I help her stop the pattern that leads to the isolation? When I see the trigger- what can I do to help her productively discharge her fear and grief? What is the bridge from trigger to discharge?

    Thanks for your time-
    Carrie in NY

    1. Hi Carrie,
      You’re doing so much that’s right–doing fun and creative things with her, understanding the source of her off-track behavior, and not blaming her, understanding and encouraging her to off-load those heavy feelings–that i feel confidant that she’ll be just fine.

      Even though it might feel like her screaming and shouting isn’t productive, she probably is doing important work. (As Patty Wipfler says [www.handinhandparenting.org], there’s no throwaway behavior in children. It all means something). The expressing these strong feelings comes out at your approach because she trusts you to stay while she does this work. It doesn’t actually matter whether you or she understand the source of her anger and fear, the healing will come as she cries, screams and shakes her way through it.

      But, since I’ve got you here, I’ll venture a few suggestions that you can try and see if they’re helpful. When she runs away, try to stay as close as you can, still respecting what feels to her a need to be alone. You can go to her closed door, and let her know you’re there and don’t want to leave her alone while she’s feeling so bad. You can pass little “notes” under the door of pictures of things she loves.

      The other action that children often find helpful is wrestling! The adult role is to take responsibility for not getting hurt, and to give enough resistance that the child can play hard but not so much that the child doesn’t win. Take the role of the incompetent fool; you keep trying to get her down, but you fall down instead. Do whatever seems to get her laughing. She may use some small bump as a way to work on deeper feelings. Then you just stay close and listen [which you are so good at, Carrie]. This activity seems to give children a the kind of closeness and reassurance that allows them to take on challenges.

      Don’t worry if you can only get to do these things some of the time. She’ll heal. And don’t worry about her behavior, you keep contradicting it, she’ll keep unloading the feelings.

      By the way, who are you unloading YOUR feelings with while you do this difficult work?

      Let me know if that helps and I’ll keep thinking too.

      the blogging nana.

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