We are so glad that you found Hand in Hand and that you are here. I, too am sorry that it’s hard, and I’m glad for you that you’ve started a Listening Partnership.
A Listening Partnership is going to be crucial for you. You and your little guy are both carrying stuff from his difficult birth. It’s going to be important for you to heal so that you can help him heal. In fact, you might consider working with an Instructor so that you are getting really experienced listening and support. Forgive me if this sounds like a sales pitch, but I am an adoptive Mom. My son had a very difficult prenatal experience and was then abandoned at birth. I started using the Hand in Hand Listening Tools when he was around 5 and our situation was similar to yours. We made some progress using the tools on our own, but then when I had a Consultation and then took the 6 week Starter Class, suddenly I had the support I needed to be able to help my son heal.
You might also consider our Parent Intensive. It is the Starter Class PLUS another 4 weeks of support, and it’s designed for parents like you, who are struggling with big, big stuff. We have a Scholarship program so that finances are not an issue. I’ll give you a few links and then give you some ideas that can help right now.
Parent Intensive http://shop.handinhandparenting.org/products/parents-intensive-class#oid=15_16
As I said, Listening Partnerships are going to be absolutely crucial. You are going to want to cry really hard about your son’s birth, how it affected you and how hard the last 6 years have been. Ask your partner to say very little – just hold the thought that you are good – so you can rant, rave, shake, sweat, tremble – those are all signs that you are releasing the hurt that’s been packed into your mind and heart for the last 6 years.
In terms of running away, it sounds like it would be good to run away from that particular Counselor. At this point, it would be good to surround yourself with ONLY supportive validating people: a Hand in Hand Instructor and/or a Therapist who understands TRAUMA. Both you and your son have been affected by trauma and clearly this counselor does not understand what trauma does to people or they would not have invalidated you. I am so sorry that happened. If you would like to see a Therapist who is trauma-informed and understands Hand in Hand let me know and we’ll see who we know.
It’s completely understandable that you and your son are having trouble connecting. You are both full of hurt and there is a sense that you are also the ‘cause’ of each other’s hurt – not on a conscious level. I know you love each other very much. But it’s almost as if – when you even look at each other, you are both reminded of that very very hard time. Again, it’s not conscious. It’s something that’s happening in both of your nervous systems.
So you want to start with YOU. Get as much listening time as you can. Let others pour in their warmth and caring, as you let the hurt pour out. When you had lots of good hard cries and you are in a place where you will not take his behavior personally, then you are ready to work on helping your son.
You have to heal yourself first so that you can see how hurt and isolated he is. There are several things to know about how trauma affects the brain. You can think of someone who is drowning. If you get too close to that person and try to ‘save’ them, it’s highly likely that – IN THEIR PANIC – they will pull you under. It will seem like they are attacking you. It is because they are so panicked. They think they are going to die. This is how your son feels ALL THE TIME. Every time you set a limit, his nervous system tells him that he is going to die!!!! So, he lashed out or he avoids Special Time all together because it’s just too scary and painful. If you understand this about how his brain/nervous system is working, it will be easier to 1) NOT take his behavior personally 2) Know the he is not in his right mind. He CANNOT THINK!!! (assuming you are getting lots of Listening Time) He is having an EMOTIONAL BAD DREAM – his nervous system is reliving that time when he almost did die.
When you have reached that point in your own healing where you can see underneath his behavior and see how scared and hurt he is, then you can start to reach for him. You will need to approach him much the way you would approach a wounded animal.
– Start beaming your warmth and love toward him – no matter what he is doing. If he’s eating, beam your love. If he’s playing with something else, beam your love. If you are driving him to school, beam your love. Think of this as ‘energetic’ Special Time. You want to practice adoring him and thinking well of him and shining your love in his direction
– After a few days of the beaming, try some ‘drop in’ spontaneous Special Time. It’s very important that you DON’T WANT ANYTHING from him when you do this. You sit in the same room where he’s playing, giving him some space and watch and enjoy. You can try inching closer. He may bristle if you get too close, and you can back off a bit, still beaming. Try not to take his behavior personally. Remember, if you got too close to a wounded animal, you would spook them.
– Next try some physical games. You try to get each other’s socks off or you have sock wars. The sock fight is listed in this list of games http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/02/20-playful-ways-to-heal-aggression/
– If you need to set any limit, do it playfully: dance a limit, sing a limit, whisper a limit, do a limit in slow motion or moving backwards. My favorite is to sing, no, no, no, no, no – going up the scale like an opera singer. It breaks the power struggle every time with my son.
A really important point that I want to make Chelsey, is that all of those slow movements toward your son are not just going to make everything hunky dory. The reason for taking it slow is for your own confidence. So that you don’t get blown out of the water as you are slowing rebuilding the safety between you. Ultimately, he is going to have to have some big emotional poops. Well, lots of good emotional pukes or poops in order to get all that hurt up and out. After you’ve done lots of Listening Time and you’ve gone slow, hopefully you will be in a place where it’s safe for you to listen and safe for him to show you how hard it is. Here’s one article that describes how it can look.
And a podcast with some more playful tools: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/lashes-out-recording/
If you are not able to take a class or work with an Instructor, I’d recommend that you buy the NO MORE HITTING self-guided video class. It will be yours to keep and you can keep watching and using it for your daily dose of support.
Patty tells the story of a Step Mom who, with her husband, got custody of his two boys (I’m guessing they were about 4 and 6) who had been neglected by the Mom. Because of the years of hurt they’d experienced, they were tough with foul language and aggression. Remember an aggressive kid is a scared kid. That aggression is a way of walling off and burying their fear. So for 3-4 months – the entire summer, the StepMom and her sister reached for these boys and loved them back into connection. The way they did it, was to be with the boys 24/7. Anytime the boys went off-track with foul language or aggression, the 2 women (they could tag-team) were right there to lovingly set a limit and come close and listen and snuggle and let the boys fight, fight, fight for their lives. The boys were powerless with their Mom, as your son was powerless during his birth. So these Warrior Mamas kept themselves and the boys safe while they listened and let them tantrum and flail and beat pillows and get all that early hurt up and out. Those boys are happy 20 somethings today. So, there is hope as long as you do your work first.
Now, here is how your husband can support you… This may be the last step. After you’ve done lots of your own work and you’ve gradually reconnected with your son. You are able to do some playing together. You’ve listened to his tantrums, kept everyone safe and you’ve both come out the other side. After all that, you can ask Dad to work on your son’s preferring Dad.
The most important thing – after you get Listening Time – is to look for the LAUGHTER, go for the giggles. I’m guessing it’s been a long time since it was light and fun in your home and everyone wants that.
We are soooo glad that you are here. I’m sorry you are in a tough spot. We want to support you. We believe you all can figure this out. Please let us know how it goes.
Peace & Smiles,
Parenting by Connection Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi