There is so much to say about the Empowered to Connect conference S and I attended this past weekend. There's obviously no way I can relate all that I learned there, but I want to write about what specifically impacted us and is helping us to better understand and help our children. (Yes, I said childREN. This is not only about our adopted son and his behaviors.)
Karyn Purvis was the main speaker at this conference, and we think she's awesome! She has such compassion for kids from "hard places," and has done so much work not only to help these kids, but to empower parents to be able to help their kids.
Karyn lists six risk factors for attachment problems and sensory processing disorder. Because the risk factors are the same, many children struggle with both problems.
- Stressful pregnancy
- Difficult birth and/or prematurity/NICU
- Early hospitalization
N, our adopted almost three-year-old, has four or five of these risk factors. One of our biological sons has two of these risk factors, the other has three. As we've walked this journey with N, we've realized more and more how much of what we've learned applies to our other kids also.
What hit me the hardest at this conference was realizing just how many of N's behaviors are rooted in fear.
Why does he immediately flip out if he hears the word no?
Why does he scream if another child is given the first snack?
Why does he feel such an intense need to be completely in control of every situation and of every person around him?
Why can't he let his brothers give Mom a hug without shoving himself in between us?
In a word--fear.
All of these situations immediately send him into "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" mode. While in this mode it's almost impossible for him to think rationally. He's operating on the understanding that if he doesn't get his way, he's going to die.
As Karyn said, "If a child is a control freak, it's because his world was so out of control he thought he would die."
I know this sounds a little dramatic, but it's true. N honestly doesn't have the ability to trust yet that it's okay to let Mom and Dad be in control. He will get enough love and attention, he will always get enough food, Mom still loves him even if she hugs his brother.
Remembering that his rages and controlling behaviors are fear-related has helped me get less frustrated. I'm better able to keep things in perspective, to have compassion. Though the rages are still very exhausting, I'm certainly handling it better!