Going through the journey of parenting is an adventure. It is full of joys, surprises, hardship, challenges, love, and loneliness. Embarking on the journey of parenting for some of us a planned event and a dream come true, others a surprising turn in life. Either path or, somewhere in between, we start to lay down dreams, wishes, hopes, goals, thoughts, and emotions of what our child will be like. And as luck would have it doesn’t always turn out that way.
Parenting can often feel like you are just surviving from moment to moment, day to day for every parent, caregiver, teacher, and therapist. Which brings us to the point that at Play Therapy i.n.c. we define parenting much as Dan Siegel does in the Whole Brain Child, that any person who is raising, supporting, fostering, educating, and nurturing children’ can define parenting (Siegel, 2011). When as parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists we feel like we are just surviving we question and doubt our dreams, wishes, and hopes leaving us drained, confused, frustrated, and making statements like ‘I just don’t know what to do?’. Parenting is no easy job and shaping the future society no small task. I often tell parents we have two options when parenting. One parent how we were parented; or choose to parent differently than how we were parented and neither choice is an easy one to make. When we choose to parent how we were parented we must reflect back on our own childhood evaluating our thoughts, feelings, lessons, and decide where we are today is generally a healthy place. When we choose to do something different we evaluate our thoughts, feelings, and lessons and decide we want to make a change but that does not give us a place to start or answers to what or how to change. “How our kids make sense of their young lives is not only about what happens to them but also about how their parents, teachers, and other caregivers respond” (Siegel, 2011).
As part of how as parents, teacher and caregivers respond we may find ourselves asking’ maybe I should get help?’ So how do you know when your child would benefit from therapeutic intervention? This is a difficult question to answer but we hope to give you some guidance so you can feel confident in your decision. First of all it is important to understand that as humans we are given a wonderful healing system called the nervous system. Our nervous system drives our body to speed up or slow down in response to what is happening around us (Dion, 2013). As life comes at us our nervous system is responding and at times we get stuck and do not return to a place of regulation. When we are regulated we can make good decisions, think clearly, make eye contact, notice our breath, and feel grounded or connected (Dion, 2012). When our nervous system speeds up and gets stuck in what is called hyper-arousal we see aggression, impulsivity, outbursts of anger , irritability, anxiety, insomnia, increase startle, and somatic complaints just to name a few (Dion, 2012). When our nervous system slows down and gets stuck it is called hypo-arousal and we see withdraw, isolation, tired, lethargic, lack of emotions, numbness, and flat affect (Dion, 2012). As humans we all have felt these states of hyper and hypo arousal and are able to return to regulated states which is normal and healthy. However, our nervous system can ‘get stuck’ in these states of hyper or hypo arousal for a variety of reasons here are some common ones: History of abuse or neglect, death in the family, loss of a caregiver, natural disaster, adoption, traumatic event, major life change like moving, divorce, or illness. Other times we can’t determine the cause of a change in behavior. Some questions you can ask yourself are: Has there been a history of one of the events previously listed? How often does the challenging behavior happen? Is it every day or a couple times a month? For how long does it last once it has started? A couple minutes or over an hour? How intense is the behavior? Meaning is your child aware and in control of their behavior?
When we spend more time surviving, questioning ourselves, and managing behaviors than we do thriving, being confident, and enjoying our relationships then it maybe in our best interest to seek help.
At Play Therapy i.n.c. we offer a free 20 minute phone consultation so if you are curious or wondering give us a call. Our passion is to help families live integrated, nurtured, and connected lives!